Losing an unwanted belly and adding muscle tone is something many people strive for. It’s not always an easy journey, but we spoke to a professional to provide you with just the right game plan to have in place. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM, a member of our Medical Expert Board and a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, provides us with some quick and effective ways to lose belly fat and build muscle so you can kill two birds with one stone.
If you’re going to dedicate time to reach your flat belly goal, it’s essential to spend that time doing all of the right things. Dr. Bohl shares with Eat This, Not That! some helpful tips and information. “There isn’t any way to target weight loss just to one specific area of the body—sometimes called ‘spot reduction.’ Instead, in order to lose belly fat, you have to lose weight overall—and belly fat will be among the weight lost,” he explains. Moral of the story? Shedding pounds all over your body is how you’ll melt belly fat, and losing weight doesn’t happen overnight.
Dr. Bohl adds, “In general, a healthy rate of weight loss is about one to two pounds per week. If you’re going any faster than this, it could mean your diet is too strict and you’re not giving your body the nutrients it needs. Muscle growth is even slower—usually about half a pound to two pounds per month. Additionally, it can be difficult to lose fat while building muscle at the same time, because the former requires eating a calorie deficit while the latter usually requires eating a calorie surplus.”
Now that you know some important facts, let’s get into Dr. Bohl’s helpful tips to lose belly fat and build muscle. Making a few lifestyle tweaks will be really helpful for both shrinking belly fat and sculpting a toned midsection. So without further ado, let’s get started!
You’ve likely heard about the wonderful powers of protein, but did you know that it can also support your weight loss efforts? Protein isn’t only for adding muscle to your frame. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating high-protein foods and drinking protein shakes could help you preserve lean muscle mass, decrease body fat, feel satiated, and shed excess weight. Of course, too much of anything is never a good thing, so make sure you don’t overdo it with the protein, because that can make it more challenging to meet your belly fat loss goals.
Dr. Bohl stresses the importance of protein consumption, explaining, “Evidence suggests that if you eat a very high protein diet (2.4 mg/kg of body weight per day), it may be possible to build muscle while eating a calorie deficit. In order to do this, focus on lean proteins like chicken, fish, and plant-based proteins.”
There’s a common misconception out there that working with free weights will make you appear too muscular or “bulky.” But in fact, strength training—aka lifting weights—can help you slim down and achieve an impressive muscle tone. That’s why resistance training is another key element to add to your routine if you want to lose weight.
“When you’re eating a calorie deficit, you lose some muscle in addition to fat—so weight lifting is the best way to minimize the amount of muscle you lose,” Dr, Bohl tells us. He specifically recommends circuit training, which will includes performing various kinds of exercises in one workout. You can also try a split routine. For the latter, you will concentrate on working specific parts of your body every day.
Belly fat loss (and overall weight loss, for that matter) is a healthy balance of lifting weights and aerobic exercise. A solid regimen of cardio is an extraordinary way to enhance your overall body composition. Whether you prefer to run, take brisk walks, swim, or bike, Dr. Bohl points out, “Cardio exercise is good for heart health and blood flow, but it’s also a fantastic calorie burner.”
This step can be a tough one, as Dr. Bohl tells us, “Having high stress and not getting enough sleep are both associated with weight gain. That’s why—as part of a plan to reshape your physique—taking the time to improve both of these things is one of the most important things you can do.”
So it’s time to establish just the right healthy habits to help you manage stress and get enough solid rest. For instance, meditation and yoga are excellent activities to weave into your routine each day or week to calm your mind. And as for healthy sleep, it’s recommended to snooze in a cool, dark room, avoid caffeinated beverages late in the day, power down your blue light devices long before bedtime, and make sure you’re sleeping on a comfortable mattress.
This tip sounds so simple, yet research that spans decades reveals that a whopping 90% of Americans follow poor eating habits. Only 10% consume the right amount of veggies and 12% get the right amount of fruit. Establishing good eating habits is crucial if you ever want to lose weight and belly fat in a healthy manner.
“There’s no way around it—weight loss is more about what you’re eating than about the amount of exercise you’re getting, and you need to make sure you’re overall consuming fewer calories than you’re burning,” Dr. Bohl stresses. Eating wisely can help you feel satisfied each day even while consuming less. Lean protein is so important, but your diet also requires veggies, fruits, and healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can be found in several foods, such as seeds, nuts, and avocados.