Looking for ways to lose belly fat and get fit? This is our six-pack of tips, cheats and strategies to help you shed the spare tyre. Although there's no magic bullet, there are ways to burn belly fat (or 'lose weight' as we used to call it) that are tried, trusted and true. That doesn't make them easy or quick, and this is not about telling you how to get six pack abs – although we have a few articles on that topic. No, this is just a six pack of tips to getting a healthier life… and feeling comfortable with the girth of your stomach.
We've got proven advice, a few cheeky shortcuts and key tips 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.
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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, whether you've got time to hit the gym every day or a shift worker looking to manage your schedule. 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.
- Got your playlist ready? Here are the best cheap workout headphones to buy
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.
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 Lite is the best activity tracker you can buy right now. Check out the deal below.
Oh, and staying hydrated is crucial, as well…
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Fitbit Versa 2 | was £199.99 | now £159 at Amazon
The Fitbit Versa 2 is getting regular price cuts for the new year and is currently £40 off at Amazon and various other fine online retailers. The Versa 2 features advanced cardio tracking as well as the usual steps and sleep stuff, and has Alexa built in. It's also unusually stylish for a Fitbit.View Deal
Fitbit Versa Lite | was £149.99 | now £124.95 at Amazon
The Fitbit Versa Lite is the best affordable fitness tracker or smartwatch you can buy. It tracks deep and light sleep, steps, distance and calories, but that is barely scraping the surface of its capabilities. Via Fitbit's excellently presented app and sprawling ecosystem, you can use it as the basis of a complete fitness and diet programme. You can also enter your meals to log calories consumed, so you can have all your dietary data in one place.View Deal
S'Well Marble Drinking Water Bottle | now £25.00 at John Lewis
In this case beauty is more than skin deep. This bottle is vacuum sealed, which means it should be able to keep liquids warm for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours. It’s stainless steel, has a capacity of 500ml and requires handwashing, and it’s definitely one for one-upping your co-workers’ boring flasks and supermarket specials.View Deal
BEEFit Biltong, 10 x 30g bags | now £16.99 on Amazon
Looking for a calorie-dense but highly nutritional snack? Swap your bag of crisps or chocolate bar for biltong, a cured meat snack now in handy 30g bags, to keep yourself fuller for longer. It's packed full of protein to help build muscle after a workout, and comes in either BBQ or chilli flavour. View Deal
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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.
Our diet guides
- 16:8 diet
- 5:2 diet
- Vegan diet for weight loss – it's not just about saving animals
- Ketogenic diet
- Paleo diet
- Military diet
Soylent Nutrition Shake, Cacao (Chocolate), 12 Pack | now £35.00 on Amazon
Marketed as a 'complete meal in a bottle' soylent is a perfect on-the-go quick feed for breakfast or lunch. With 20g of plant protein - to keep you going and slow-burning carbs to help you stay full, Soylent is vegan, gluten free, nut free, dairy free and low GI. At under £3 a shake, it's an ideal replacement to your usual hurried, bland supermarket meal deal.View Deal
3. Love fried food too much? Get an air fryer
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, but if you're after something a little more economical, Ninja’s AF100UK Air Fryer is lightweight, compact and versatile, perfect for portion control. Check it out below.
Ninja AF100UK Air Fryer | was £119.00 | now £89.00 at Amazon
Fry food guilt-free using comparatively very little oil and a blast of hot air. If you're a junk food addict, it's one of the best ways to arrange your cheat days so that you're still having guilt-free food while fitting your macros, calorie count or diet of choice. The Ninja model is lightweight, compact and versatile, also capable of roasting, dehydrating and reheating food in addition to the air fry function.View Deal
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.
- Check out our round up of the best food processors
4. Try weight training – it's not as hard as you think
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's 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. One 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. Once you're comfortable in your own home, you can move on to more advanced equipment at the gym.
BodyPower 20 kg Cast Iron Spinlock Dumbbell set | was £59.99 | now £39.99 from Fitness Superstore
You just can't beat a good old pair of cast iron weights, and a testament to this is the fact they can be found under the beds of dads and granddads up and down the country. Get your own and they will last a lifetime and for all of their noisy, palm-chafing downsides, there is a kind of nostalgic loveliness to the spin collar set-up. View Deal
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All of this aside, don’t neglect cardio, as regular cardio workouts are important for fitness and stamina.
5. 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.
Our top choice is always SIXPAD as used by Cristiano Ronaldo, 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.
PowerDot 2.0 - Smart Electric Muscle Stimulator | now £185 at Amazon
Alternatively, the PowerDot 2.0 is a smartphone-controlled muscle stimulating monster. This neat muscle stimulator works from your phone, allowing you to control intensity, stimulation and goal. Reduce your recovery time and increase muscular performance, as the PowerDot working to support your gym schedule. This model has two stimulators, but you can scale up to four for £325View Deal
6. 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 above, but for a dedicated running watch, you can't beat the Garmin Forerunner 645, the best on the market right now.
Garmin Forerunner 645 | now £276.93 at Amazon
Garmin dominates the running/fitness watch category so totally, it's almost embarrassing for the competition. The most recent addition to their premium line, the Garmin 645, incorporates GPS and wrist heart-rate tracking, which is good for monitoring your resting and all-day rates. The 645 crunches a lot of data to suggest recovery times, make a decent stab at estimating your VO2 Max, tell you how optimal your training load and lots, lots more. View Deal
FitBit Aria 2 smart bathroom scale | was £119.95 | now £105.00 on Amazon
This clever scale tells you your weight, BMI and body fat percentage – which is all a lot of people want. It then reports this to your Fitbit account, so you can monitor your weight trends and use it alongside your Fitbit wearable's daily calorie-burn estimates. Add MyFitnessPal or Fitbit's own dietary features and you can then sync your meal-plans, daily calories consumed and weight goals, if you want.View Deal
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 in 2020. To start with, you'll need a killer playlist and a good set of workout headphones to listen to it on:
Beats By Dre Powerbeats Pro | now £219 on Amazon
Powerbeats Pro are a 'game changer' for Beats; the quality of them is over and above anything the brand has produced before. Designed for workouts and running, the clever design of these true wireless buds means they stay still in your ears during even the most arduous physical jerks. Battery life is way better than most true wireless buds at 8-9 hours and they recharge incredibly fast.View Deal