Too much belly fat can increase your risk of certain chronic conditions. Drinking less alcohol, eating more protein, and lifting weights are just a few steps you can take to lose belly fat.
Having excess belly fat can negatively affect health and may contribute to several chronic conditions.
One specific type of belly fat — visceral fat — is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions (
Many health organizations use body mass index (BMI) to classify weight and predict the risk of metabolic disease.
However, BMI is only calculated using height and weight and doesn’t take body composition or visceral fat into account (
Though losing fat from this area can be difficult, there are several things you can do if you’re looking to reduce excess abdominal fat.
Here are 18 effective tips to lose belly fat, backed by scientific studies.
A note on sex and gender
We use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. Your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to weight loss. Your doctor can better help you understand your circumstances and weight management goals.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system.
Studies show that this fiber may promote weight loss by helping you feel full, so you naturally eat less (
What’s more, soluble fiber may help reduce belly fat.
An older observational study involving over 1,100 adults found that for every 10-gram (g) increase in soluble fiber intake, belly fat gain decreased by 3.7% over 5 years (
Excellent sources of soluble fiber include (
Soluble fiber may help you to lose weight by increasing fullness and reducing calorie absorption. Try to include plenty of high fiber foods in your diet.
Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into unsaturated fats, such as soybean oil.
Previously, they were found in some margarines and spreads and also often added to packaged foods, but most food producers have stopped using them.
These fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance, and abdominal fat gain in observational and animal studies (
A 6-year study found that monkeys who ate a high trans fat diet gained 33% more abdominal fat than those eating a diet high in monounsaturated fat (
To help reduce belly fat, read ingredient labels carefully and stay away from products that contain trans fats. These are often listed as partially hydrogenated fats.
Some studies have linked a high intake of trans fat to increased belly fat gain. Regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight, limiting your intake of trans fat is a good idea.
Alcohol can have health benefits in small amounts, but it can be harmful if you drink too much.
Research suggests that too much alcohol can contribute to belly fat.
Observational studies link heavy alcohol consumption to a significantly increased risk of developing excess fat storage around the waist (
Cutting back on alcohol may help reduce your waist size. You don’t need to give it up completely, but limiting the amount you drink in a single day can help.
One study on alcohol use involved more than 2,000 people. Results showed those who drank alcohol daily but averaged less than one drink per day had less belly fat than those who drank less frequently but consumed more alcohol on the days they drank (
According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s recommended to limit alcohol intake to two drinks or fewer per day for men and one drink or fewer per day for women (
Excess alcohol intake has been associated with increased belly fat. If you’re trying to lose weight, consider drinking alcohol in moderation or abstaining completely.
Protein is an extremely important nutrient for weight management.
High protein intake increases the release of the fullness hormone peptide YY, which decreases appetite and promotes fullness.
Protein also raises your metabolic rate and helps you to retain muscle mass during weight loss (
Many observational studies show that people who eat more protein tend to have less abdominal fat than those who eat a lower protein diet (
Be sure to include a good protein source at every meal, such as:
- whey protein
High protein foods, such as fish, lean meat, and beans, may be beneficial if you’re trying to decrease belly fat.
Stress can make you gain belly fat by triggering the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
Research shows that high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage (
What’s more, women who already have a large waist tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress. Increased cortisol further adds to fat gain around the middle (
To help reduce belly fat, engage in activities that relieve stress. Practicing yoga or meditation can be effective.
Stress may promote fat gain around your waist. Minimizing stress should be one of your priorities if you’re trying to lose weight.
Sugar may contain fructose, which is linked to several chronic diseases when consumed in excess.
These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease (
Observational studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat (
It’s important to realize that more than refined sugar can lead to belly fat gain. Even natural sugars, such as real honey, should be used in moderation.
Excess sugar intake is a major cause of weight gain in many people. Limit your intake of candy and processed foods high in added sugar.
Aerobic exercise (cardio) is an effective way to improve your health and burn calories.
Studies also show that it can be an effective form of exercise for reducing belly fat. However, results are mixed as to whether moderate or high intensity exercise is more beneficial (
In any case, the frequency and duration of your exercise program can also be very important.
One study found that postmenopausal women lost more fat from all areas when they did aerobic exercise for 300 minutes per week, compared with those who exercised 150 minutes per week (
However, researchers also noted that changes in visceral belly fat were not significantly different between either group (
Aerobic exercise is an effective weight loss method. Studies suggest it’s particularly effective at reducing belly fat and overall body fat.
Reducing your carb intake can be very beneficial for losing fat, including abdominal fat.
In fact, low carb diets may cause belly fat loss in people with overweight, those at risk for type 2 diabetes, and people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (
You don’t have to follow a strict low carb diet. Some research suggests that replacing refined carbs with unprocessed starchy carbs may improve metabolic health and reduce belly fat (
In the Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest consumption of whole grains were 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who consumed diets high in refined grains (
A high intake of refined carbs is associated with excessive belly fat. Consider reducing your carb intake or replacing refined carbs in your diet with healthy carb sources, such as whole grains, legumes, or vegetables.
Resistance training, also known as weightlifting or strength training, is important for preserving and gaining muscle mass.
Based on studies involving people with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease, resistance training may also be beneficial for belly fat loss (
In fact, one study involving teenagers with overweight showed that a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise led to the greatest decrease in visceral fat (
If you decide to start lifting weights, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor first and get advice from a certified personal trainer.
Strength training can be an important weight loss strategy and may help reduce belly fat. Studies suggest it’s even more effective in combination with aerobic exercise.
Sugar-sweetened beverages are high in added sugars like fructose, which can contribute to belly fat.
One study of people with type 2 diabetes found that consuming at least one serving of sugar-sweetened beverages per week was associated with increased belly fat compared to consuming less than one serving per week (
Additionally, because your brain doesn’t process liquid calories the same way it does solid ones, you’re likely to end up consuming too many calories later on and storing them as fat (
To lose belly fat, it’s best to limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages such as:
- sweet tea
- alcohol mixers containing sugar
Limiting liquid forms of sugar, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, is very important if you’re trying to lose belly fat.
Sleep is important for many aspects of your health, including weight. Studies show that not getting enough sleep may be linked to a higher risk of obesity and increased belly fat for some groups (
A 16-year study involving more than 68,000 women found that those who slept fewer than 5 hours per night were significantly more likely to gain weight than those who slept 7 hours or more per night (
The condition known as sleep apnea, where breathing stops intermittently during the night, has also been linked to excess visceral fat (
In addition to sleeping at least 7 hours per night, make sure you’re getting sufficient quality sleep.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, consider speaking to a doctor about treatment options.
Sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of weight gain. Getting enough high quality sleep is important if you’re trying to lose weight.
Many things can help you lose weight and belly fat, but consuming fewer calories than your body needs for weight maintenance is key (
Keeping a food diary or using an online food tracker or app can help monitor your calorie intake. This strategy has been shown to be beneficial for weight loss (
In addition, food tracking tools help you to see your intake of protein, carbs, fiber, and micronutrients. Many also allow you to record your exercise and physical activity.
You can find several free apps or websites to track nutrient and calorie intake on this page.
If you’re looking to lose weight, it may help to keep track of what you’re eating. Keeping a food diary or using an online food tracker are two of the most popular ways to do this.
Fatty fish can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet.
They’re rich in high quality protein and omega-3 fats, which may offer protection against chronic disease (
Some evidence suggests that these omega-3 fats may also help reduce visceral fat.
Studies in adults and children with fatty liver disease have shown that omega-3 supplements may significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat (
Aim to get 2–3 servings of fatty fish per week. Good choices include:
For vegans, vegetarians, and those who don’t regularly consume fish, plant-based omega-3 supplements derived from sources like algae are also available (
Eating fatty fish or taking omega-3 supplements sourced from fish oil or algae may improve your overall health. Some evidence also suggests it may reduce belly fat in people with fatty liver disease.
Although fruit juice provides vitamins and minerals, it’s often just as high in sugar as soda and other sweetened beverages.
For example, an 8-ounce (248-milliliter) serving of unsweetened apple juice contains 24 g of sugar, over half of which is fructose (
Research suggests that consuming high amounts of fruit juice could contribute to weight gain due to the excessive amount of calories that it provides rather than the fructose that it contains (
Still, to help reduce excess belly fat, moderate your intake and enjoy other beverages with lower sugar content, such as water, unsweetened iced tea, or sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime.
Fruit juice often contains as much sugar as soda and may contribute to weight gain if consumed in high amounts. It’s best to moderate your intake and enjoy other beverages, such as water or unsweetened iced tea.
Probiotics are bacteria found in some foods and supplements. They may have health benefits, including helping improve gut health and enhancing immune function (
Researchers have found that different types of bacteria play a role in weight regulation and that having the right balance can help with weight loss, including loss of belly fat.
Those shown to reduce belly fat include members of the Lactobacillus family, such as Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus amylovorus, and Lactobacillus gasseri (
However, while probiotics may be beneficial for weight loss, more research is needed. As some probiotics aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it’s important to talk with a doctor before adding probiotics or other supplements to your routine.
Taking probiotic supplements may help promote a healthy digestive system. Studies also suggest that beneficial gut bacteria may help promote weight loss.
Intermittent fasting has recently become very popular as a weight loss method.
It’s an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and periods of fasting (
One popular method involves 24-hour fasts once or twice per week. Another consists of fasting every day for 16 hours and eating all your food within an 8-hour period.
One study found that combining intermittent fasting with protein pacing — which involves consuming nutrient-dense meals spaced evenly throughout the day — led to greater reductions in body weight, total fat, and visceral fat compared to calorie restriction (
Keep in mind that there’s some older evidence suggesting intermittent fasting may negatively affect blood sugar control in women but not men (
Although certain modified intermittent fasting methods appear to be better options, stop fasting immediately if you experience any negative effects.
Additionally, talk with a doctor before trying intermittent fasting or making other changes to your diet.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of eating and fasting. Studies suggest that it may be one of the most effective ways to lose weight and belly fat.
Green tea is an exceptionally healthy beverage.
It contains caffeine and the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which appear to boost metabolism (
EGCG is a catechin, which several studies suggest may help you lose belly fat. The effect may be strengthened when green tea consumption is combined with exercise (
Interestingly, one review concluded that green tea could increase weight loss, especially when consumed in doses of less than 500 milligrams per day for 12 weeks (
Another review showed that regular consumption of green tea could be beneficial for reducing body weight and waist circumference (74).
However, more high quality research is needed.
Though more research is needed, regularly drinking green tea has been linked to weight loss. However, it’s probably not as effective on its own and best combined with exercise.
Doing one of the items on this list may not have a big effect on its own.
For best results, combining different methods may be more effective.
Interestingly, many of these methods are generally associated with balanced eating and an overall healthy lifestyle.
Therefore, changing your lifestyle for the long term is the key to losing your belly fat and keeping it off.
When you have healthy habits, stay active, and reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods, fat loss tends to follow as a natural side effect (
Losing weight and keeping it off may be difficult unless you maintain consistent dietary habits and lifestyle measures.
There are no magic solutions to losing belly fat.
Weight loss always requires some effort, commitment, and perseverance.
Adopting some or all of the strategies and lifestyle goals discussed in this article may help you lose belly fat and improve overall health.