How to lose belly fat sustainably

But here are seven ways to lose weight in a healthy manner

How to lose belly fat fast
(Image credit: Fitbit)

Want to lose belly fat? There are some things you need to know. First up, directly targeting belly fat is largely impossible. However if you lose weight overall, you will lose belly fat too. And that can be useful for your health, and as an added bonus you will look better to most people. Perhaps that's a shallow way of looking at it, but there we are. 

These are our best tips on how to to lose belly fat fast – or at least as fast as you can while staying healthy. 

Important note here, everyone: Belly fat these days is often referred to as visceral fat because that sounds scarier. If you really need to shed visceral fat because it's endangering your life, that is an area where you should probably be seeking medical advice, if that is at all possible. But while this guide is more about slimming down a bit, or avoiding ballooning during lockdown, belly fat loss also has an element of visceral fat loss. 

Our lose belly fat tips aren't necessarily quick, and this is not about telling you how to get six pack abs – although we have plenty of guides to that, too. No, this is just a 'six pack' – do you see what we did, there? – of tips to getting a healthier life… and feeling comfortable with the girth of your mid-riff. We're not looking to fat shame anyone here or totally bro out, we're just offering advice. 

We've got some great tips, a few cheeky shortcuts and key strategies to lose belly fat quickly, healthily and sustainably. As we just said, there are no quick fixes here; we want you to develop habits that ensure you'll stay trim for good. We’ve also got the lowdown on the best exercises to lose belly fat, and all the gear you’ll need to get started although, of course, the most important 'gear' is the bit between your ears.

What's the best way to lose belly fat?

There's no hard-and-fast rule for slim-down success: the best way to lose belly fat is the way that works around your lifestyle. If you follow an unsustainable plan, you won't last: it's as simple as that. In this article we lay out six principles that are applicable to everyone, whether you're a total beginner starting your weight-loss journey or a seasoned pro who fell off the wagon over Christmas. 

These guiding lights will keep you on the straight and narrow, even during a lockdown situation. Don’t try to take on more than you can reasonably fit into one day. And, despite the name of this feature, don't fixate on 'belly fat'. It's important to reduce visceral fat, which does tend to lurk around the belly area, but that is best achieved by trying to slim down and tune up overall.

Here are six strategies to help you start losing weight. 

How to lose belly fat burn belly fat lose weight

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Eat well

The short answer to the question of how to lose belly fat is to burn more calories than you consume on a regular basis. In the fitness world, this is known as achieving a "calorie deficit".

If this sounds like a waking nightmare, there's a trick to it: what you need to do is ensure you’re eating the correct kind of food to make sure you feel full and sated, even when consuming fewer calories than you're burning off. 

Certain foods are "empty calories" while others release energy slowly, keeping you fuller for longer. This is a big danger, especially while you're at home, with all your food within easy reach. 

But before that, you'll need to find a good way to track your calories burned and calories taken in. The free MyFitnessPal app is one of the best ways to record your calorie intake, but to track your calories burned, you'll need a dedicated fitness tracker. If you already own a smartwatch, most will offer calorie tracking as standard, but for those yet to make the plunge, the Fitbit Versa 2 (opens in new tab) is the best activity tracker you can buy right now. Check out the deal below. 

Oh, and staying hydrated is crucial, as well…

2. Eat less

Intermittent fasting is becoming more and more popular. It involves significantly cutting calories or abstaining from food altogether for a portion of the day or week, and then cramming all your calories into a much shorter time window.

The best-known intermittent fasting plan is the 5:2 diet, where you eat as you normally would (although hopefully a bit healthier) for five days a week, then scoff no more than 600 calories two days a week. There are also variants of this diet where you consume almost no calories, two days per week. This is much more doable than it sounds, so long as you are in good general health, but it's not exactly fun.

However, for trainees who are serious but not that serious, there's the 16:8 diet. With this diet you have only 8 hours a day to fit all your meals in, but can only drink water (and maybe some black coffee, if you're feeling naughty) within a 16 hour fasting period outside of those 8 hours. Most choose to eat from 10am to 6pm, but as long as you stay within an eight hour window, you can start and finish at any time of the day. This is Hugh Jackman's strategy, so if you have ever wanted to be in Wolverine shape…

Why try fasting, though? Well, during the fasting period the body will run out of sugar to run on, and so will start eating up the body’s fat stores. The big negative is the adjustment period: if you're used to a big breakfast or an early dinner, a 16-hour fast feels tough at first, especially if you're exercising. You're going to get seriously cranky.

3. Love fried food too much? Get an air fryer

Air fryer

Dead set on having chips? An air fryer can deliver a lot of the delicious taste with less of the not-quite-so-delicious oil

(Image credit: Future)

If you eat fried food all the time, switching to an air fryer will definitely cause you to lose weight – unless buying one causes you to start eating loads of chocolate because you've reduced your fat intake. No, it doesn't taste as delicious as proper fried food – of course not – but it turns out meals with a good fried/roasted taste, but with up to 80% lower fat content.

If you don't eat fried food all the time but like to treat yourself now and then, switching to an air fryer could still help with you to lose weight. Even with a solid balanced diet and a good workout ethic, there will come a time when your willpower will falter and you'll want to fall back on your old favourites, like fried chicken, fish, chips and all the other foods you love normally dripping with grease. If you schedule in cheat days and do this in a controlled way, it's good to know you're cooking these foods in a way that still helps you hit your goals. 

Enter the air fryer. The best air fryers are revolutionary pieces of kit that use hot air combined with a teaspoon of oil (as opposed to the gallons of oil found in the deep-fat variety) to cook your crispy favourites. If kitchen space and budget is no object, you can cook a whole chicken in the Philips Airfryer XXL (opens in new tab), but if you're after something a little more economical, Pro Breeze Airfryer 1400W (opens in new tab) is lightweight, versatile and cheaper, perfect for portion control. It also seems to usually be sold out all the time at present, so perhaps everyone has already taken our advice, here.

This is just one way to have your (fried) cake and eat it too. Swapping high-calorie pints of ice cream to the low-calorie versions like Halo Top or Oppo, or switching out cholesterol-laden butter for a healthier olive spread, are other easy ways you can make relatively simple lifestyle choices and still keep weight off.

Try Nintendo Switch - especially Ring Fit Adventure 

Ring Fit Adventure

(Image credit: Nintendo)

No, this woman has not gone mad due to being cooped up indoors. She’s playing Ring Fit Adventure on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo has a proud history of helping people lose weight via its consoles, with Wii Fit being possibly the biggest selling fitness gadget ever made.

Ring Fit Adventure is more sophisticated but the basic idea remains the same: turning the act of burning Calories into a fun activity that you look forward to, rather than a chore that you dread. 

We tried a load of Nintendo Switch fitness games and, while they all had their merits, Ring Fit was clearly the best.

Read our Nintendo Switch Ring Fit Adventure review and comparison to other Switch games designed for calorie burning.

5. Try weight training – it's not as hard as you think

How to lose belly fat burn belly fat lose weight

Weight training is a great way to tip your muscle-fat ratio the right way

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are two main types of exercise: cardio training and weights, otherwise known as resistance training. Although cardio burns a lot of calories while you do it, weight training builds muscle which burns more than fat as you go about your day. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you'll burn even when not working out.

Resistance training may seem scary if you're doing it for the first time, especially in the gym when the area's dominated by serious lifters, but you don’t have to start adding big plates to the bar right now. There are plenty of ways to get started at home with smaller weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells and even medicine balls. 

We’re not going to list every single lifting exercise, so why not pick the body part you want to start toning up and check out some of our muscle-building how-tos. Once you've done that, grab one of the best dumbbell sets on the market. They're not just for arms: you can use a dumbbell to work your core, shoulders, and even your legs with combination movements. 

If everything for the home gym has sold out – which happens a lot lately – consider doing bodyweight exercises. If that idea makes you think of muscular men working out in prison, try our guide to the best bodyweight exercises for beginners and ease into it gently. Before you know it you'll be ready for the Navy SEAL workout. None of these require any specialist equipment.

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Electric Muscle Stimulation can help your muscles recover faster

(Image credit: PowerDot)

6. Try an abs belt (electric muscle stimulation) – no, really!

It may seem gimmicky when you unwrap your new six-pack vibrating belt, complete with a picture of Ronaldo on the box, but don't roll your eyes just yet. While you can't just sit there eating crisps and expect to get ripped, Electric Muscle Stimulators can help as part of a controlled dietary and exercise plan.   

EMS can cause the muscles to contract, essentially tensing and untensing rapidly. During downtime post-workout, you can continue to encourage muscle growth with EMS, while the right bit of kit can also encourage faster recovery, allowing you to get back in the gym all the quicker. According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, EMS stimulates the muscle in the same way as a massage, prepping it for the next go-round.

It's not a bona fide shortcut to a six-pack, but it can speed up the muscle-building process with regular use.

how to lose belly fat

(Image credit: Sixpad)

Our top choice is always SIXPAD as used by Cristiano Ronaldo (opens in new tab), a man who takes great pride in his body. Perhaps a little too much pride, the unkind or jealous might say. Amazon also sells all manner of abs belts by brands we have never heard of, for about £20. Needless to say we don’t recommend these. 

How to lose belly fat burn belly fat lose weight

Planks are a tough abs workout and a great end-of-workout finisher

(Image credit: Taco Fleur from Pixabay)

7. Mix high-intensity and low-intensity workouts

As well doing both muscle-building and cardio exercises, if you want to lose belly fat it’s also important to switch up the pace of your workout. 

Every time you workout, you should exercise using both steady state (working hard but not at max capacity, such as during brisk jog) and high intensity (going flat out, like sprinting) to torch your abdominal fat.

Steady state or aerobic exercises include cycling, running or uphill hiking. It’s a crucial part of losing belly fat because it burns through your fat stores. However, it also uses your sugar stores for energy first, so you need to do steady-state for long enough to use up all that sugar before it eats into your fat reserves.

High intensity workouts use mainly sugar for fuel, so they don't hit the fat right away, but it does help in building muscle, which will help you torch fat even on days you're not exercising. Explosive weight lifting, sprinting and HIIT-friendly exercises like mountain climbers are all great high-intensity exercises. 

A good fitness tracker will help you to gauge the intensity of your workout by monitoring your heart rate. For overall fitness trackers, check out the Fitbit Versa Lite (opens in new tab) above, but for a dedicated running watch, you can't beat the Garmin Forerunner 645, the best on the market right now.

• Find out more about heart rate zone training

The most important thing to bear in mind is this: losing weight takes time. You'll have setbacks and slip-ups, but if you stay committed to your goal, you'll be fitter and healthier in 2020, building up great habits for many years ahead. 

Need some help to get started? Check out all the latest deals on the kit you'll need to get fit. To start with, you'll need a killer playlist and a good set of workout headphones to listen to it on:

Matt works for our sister brand Fit&Well, covering all things relating to fitness and wellness. He came to as staff writer before moving on, and was previously on Men's Health, and slightly counterintuitively, a website devoted to the consumption of Scotch whiskey. In his free time, he could often be found with his nose in a book until he discovered the Kindle.