Living with fat around your midsection can be a risk factor for several chronic conditions, including cancer and heart disease (1).

However, if you’re living with excess abdominal fat and have been looking for ways to lose it, you probably realize it’s not always as simple as some weight loss gurus would have you believe.

For one, the size (or “flatness”) of your stomach can depend on many different factors, including the time of day, whether you’ve exercised recently, and what foods or drinks you’ve consumed during the day (2, 3).

Furthermore, multiple older studies have found that spot reduction — or targeted fat loss in a specific area of the body — is not possible (4, 5).

This is because fat cells are stored throughout the body and can be broken down and used as energy during exercise from any part of the body, not just the area that you’re exercising (6, 7).

There are several strategies that can increase weight loss and promote muscle growth. When combined with a nutritious diet and health-promoting lifestyle, this could potentially help decrease belly fat while improving overall health.

Here are 29 science-backed methods to help you lose extra belly fat.

1. Cut calories, but not too much

Typically, if you’re looking to lose weight, you may need to monitor your calorie intake.

One popular approach is to reduce your daily intake by 500–750 calories, which can help you lose approximately 1–2 pounds (0.5–1 kg) per week (8).

That being said, restricting your calorie intake too much can be counterproductive and harmful to your health.

Eating too few calories can cause a decrease in your metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn on a daily basis (9, 10).

Decreasing your calorie intake too much can also cause a significant reduction in lean body mass, which can lower the number of calories that you burn at rest (11).

Furthermore, consuming too few calories each day is associated with several side effects, including fatigue, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and irritability (12).

Summary

Eating too few calories may slow your metabolism and cause negative health effects. Therefore, it is important not to restrict calories too much or for too long.

2. Eat more fiber, especially soluble fiber

Soluble fibers absorb large quantities of water and slow down the passing of food through the digestive tract.

This has been shown to delay stomach emptying, causing the stomach to expand and make you feel more full between meals (13).

Furthermore, soluble fiber may decrease the number of calories your body is able to absorb from food (14).

Some research also suggests that eating more soluble fiber could be associated with less visceral fat, a type of fat that wraps around your organs — especially in the abdominal area — and is linked to several chronic health conditions (1, 15).

Good sources of soluble fiber include fruits, oats, barley, legumes, and certain vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots (13).

Summary

Eating soluble fiber can increase feelings of fullness, help decrease the absorption of calories, and protect against the accumulation of visceral fat around the organs.

3. Increase your intake of probiotics

Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria that may play a key role in weight management (16).

Not only has some research found that the gut microbiome may impact weight gain, but alterations in its composition could also be linked to a greater risk of obesity (17, 18).

Regular intake of probiotics may shift the balance toward beneficial gut flora, reducing the risk of weight gain to help you reach and maintain a moderate weight.

Some strains of probiotics have also been shown to be particularly effective at helping reduce belly fat in individuals who are already living with obesity. These include (19, 20):

  • Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Lactobacillus amylovorus
  • Lactobacillus gasseri

Probiotic foods include fermented ingredients like Kombucha, yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, and pickles.

It’s important to note that probiotics do not directly cause weight loss. They can be a helpful tool when used in conjunction with a nutritious diet and exercise, but they may not have the same effect on everyone. Always talk with your doctor before deciding to add probiotics to your diet.

Summary

Probiotics may help build up beneficial gut flora. Some Lactobacillus strains have been shown to be effective at helping prevent weight gain and reduce belly fat in individuals already living with obesity, but this is typically in conjunction with other lifestyle changes.

4. Add more cardio to your routine

Doing cardio, or aerobic exercise, is an excellent way to burn calories and improve overall health.

Additionally, studies have shown that it’s very effective at strengthening your midsection and reducing belly fat (21, 22, 23).

Studies usually recommend doing 150–300 minutes of moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise weekly, which translates to roughly 20–40 minutes per day (24, 25).

Examples of cardio include running, brisk walking, biking, and rowing.

Summary

Doing moderate to high intensity cardio for 20–40 minutes per day has been shown to be effective at reducing belly fat.

5. Try protein shakes

Protein shakes are an easy way to add extra protein to your diet.

Getting enough protein in your diet may temporarily boost your metabolism, reduce your appetite, and help maintain lean body mass (26).

Furthermore, studies suggest that increasing protein intake may help reduce visceral fat, especially if paired with a lower-calorie diet (27, 28).

For best results, add other nutrient-dense, fiber-rich ingredients to your protein shake, such as spinach, kale, or berries.

Summary

Protein shakes are an easy way to add extra protein to your diet. Increasing your protein intake may help maintain lean body mass, reduce your appetite, and decrease visceral fat.

6. Eat foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids

Monounsaturated fatty acids are a type of heart-healthy fat found in a variety of foods.

Interestingly, studies show that diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids may be associated with decreased body weight (29).

The Mediterranean diet is an example of a diet that’s high in monounsaturated fatty acids, and it’s been linked to many health benefits, including a reduced risk of weight gain and decreased belly fat in children and adults (30, 31, 32).

Foods high in monounsaturated fatty acids include olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds (33).

Summary

Diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids may help reduce belly fat and help with weight management.

7. Limit your intake of refined carbs

Limiting your carb intake has been shown to have real health benefits, especially for weight loss (34).

More specifically, studies show that low carb diets may help reduce visceral fat and belly fat in some people (35, 36, 37).

However, you don’t have to cut out all carbs to reap the benefits, especially if a low carb diet is not ideal for your personal health history. Replacing refined carbs, which are heavily processed and low in important nutrients like fiber, with whole grains can be quite beneficial (38).

In fact, several studies have shown that eating more whole grains is associated with decreased body weight and belly fat (39, 40, 41).

Summary

Limiting your total carb intake or swapping refined carbs for whole grains could help reduce belly fat and support weight loss.

8. Try resistance training

Losing muscle mass is a common side effect of dieting.

This can reduce your metabolic rate, or the number of calories that you burn on a daily basis (42).

Doing resistance exercises regularly may preserve lean body mass and help you maintain or improve your metabolism (43, 44, 45).

Moreover, resistance training may even be effective at reducing total body fat and visceral fat (46).

Summary

Resistance training may prevent the loss of muscle mass often seen with dieting, which could help maintain your metabolic rate and reduce body fat and visceral fat.

9. Do exercises standing instead of sitting

If you’re able, performing exercises while standing up may benefit your health more than performing the same exercises while sitting or using weight machines.

By standing, you activate more muscles to maintain balance and hold up your weight. Therefore, you’ll spend more energy working out (47).

A 2013 study comparing the effects of standing and sitting exercises showed that some standing exercises increased muscle activation by 7–25%, compared to sitting (48).

Another study suggested that standing may improve your breathing and slightly increase your heart rate compared to sitting (49).

Although this might seem like a minor alteration, for individuals who are able to, standing can be an easy way to strengthen the midsection and maximize your results.

Summary

If you’re physically able to, doing exercises while standing instead of sitting may burn more calories, increase muscle activation, improve your breathing, and increase your heart rate.

10. Take walks regularly

A combination of diet and exercise is probably the most effective way to achieve weight loss and improve your overall health.

Interestingly, studies have shown that you do not need to exercise vigorously or spend hours in the gym to reap health benefits.

Regular, brisk walks have been shown to effectively reduce total body fat and the fat located around the midsection of individuals already living with obesity (50, 51).

In fact, one study found that when individuals living with obesity reached 12,000 steps per day and took a brisk walk 3 days per week, they reduced visceral fat and hip circumferences after 8 weeks (51).

Summary

Taking regular, brisk walks could be an effective strategy to reduce body fat and belly fat.

11. Limit sugary drinks

Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, fruit juice, sweet tea, and energy drinks are often high in calories and added sugar.

It’s also very easy to drink large quantities of these beverages at a time, which can significantly increase your daily calorie intake and may contribute to weight gain (52).

This is because liquids have less of an effect on satiety compared to solid foods, making it easier to consume them in excess (53).

These drinks are also generally loaded with fructose, which has been linked directly to weight gain and increased belly fat (54, 55, 56).

Summary

Beverages like soda, fruit juice, sweet tea, and energy drinks are often high in calories, added sugar, and fructose, which may contribute to weight gain. Liquids also have less impact on satiety than solid foods, making it easier to consume them in excess.

12. Eat whole, single-ingredient foods

Focusing on eating more whole, single-ingredient foods is a great way to improve the nutritional value of your diet.

Whole foods are nutrient-dense and often rich in fiber, which can increase feelings of fullness to help you reach and maintain a moderate weight (13).

Furthermore, many nutritious whole foods have been shown to support weight management, including vegetables, nuts, and legumes (54, 55, 56).

Summary

Whole, single-ingredient foods are loaded with nutrients, including fiber. Many whole foods have also been shown to support weight management.

13. Drink water

There are several ways in which drinking more water could help support weight management and prevent bloating.

For starters, it may promote weight loss by very temporarily increasing your metabolic rate, or the number of calories that you burn at rest (57).

Additionally, drinking water before meals can make you feel fuller, so you may eat fewer calories (58, 59).

What’s more, increasing your water intake can also help relieve constipation, which can contribute to bloating (60, 61).

Summary

Drinking water may temporarily increase your metabolism, increase feelings of fullness, and help relieve constipation, all of which may be beneficial for a flatter stomach.

14. Practice mindful eating

Mindful eating is a technique designed to help you recognize and cope with your emotions and physical sensations regarding food and hunger (62, 63).

It involves slowing down, eating without distractions, focusing on your physical hunger cues, and eating only until you feel full (63).

Most studies agree that mindful eating helps promote weight management by changing your eating behaviors and reducing stress-related behaviors, such as emotional eating or overeating (64, 65, 66).

Also, it is more likely to help you maintain long-term weight loss, as it focuses on changing your behaviors and improving your relationship with food (63).

Summary

By eating mindfully, you can focus on your physical hunger and eating only until you’re satisfied. This may help reduce the risk of stress eating for some people.

15. Limit carbonated beverages

Drinking large amounts of carbonated beverages such as soda or sparkling water can cause gas.

This is because the bubbles in it contain carbon dioxide, which is released from the liquid in your stomach. This may cause stomach distention or bloat (67).

Chewing gum, drinking through a straw, or talking while eating can also contribute to bloating (67).

Drinking from a glass and swapping carbonated drinks out for water may be beneficial to help prevent bloating.

Summary

Consuming carbonated drinks, drinking from a straw, and chewing gum may cause stomach distention and bloating in some people.

16. Try high intensity interval training (HIIT)

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of exercise that usually involves performing intervals of very intense activity, such as sprinting, rowing, or jumping, with short breaks in between.

This method of exercising helps your body burn more fat and temporarily increases your metabolic rate, even after you’ve finished your workout (68, 69, 70).

What’s more, this type of exercise takes up much less of your time than other types of exercise, as it usually can be completed in 10–20 minutes.

Summary

High intensity interval training increases fat burning and boosts your metabolic rate, even after your workout is over. It also takes less time than other types of exercise.

17. Manage your stress levels

Not only has chronic stress been linked to the development of many diseases, but it also often contributes to overeating and emotional eating, which can lead to weight gain (71, 72).

Additionally, stress triggers the body to produce cortisol, which is a hormone that has been shown to increase appetite and food cravings (73, 74).

Furthermore, some research even indicates that increased accumulation of visceral fat could be linked to increased cortisol production as well, meaning that stress may have a greater effect on people with more visceral fat (75).

Though it might not be possible to eliminate stress completely, adding stress-relieving activities to your daily routine, like yoga or meditation, can be beneficial.

Summary

Stress triggers the production of cortisol, which can increase appetite and food cravings.

18. Eat more protein

Protein is an important nutrient when it comes to weight loss (76).

High protein diets can reduce your appetite and increase feelings of fullness. Additionally, your body burns more calories digesting protein than fat or carbs (77, 78, 79).

Protein can also help retain lean body mass during weight loss, which can help maintain your metabolism to ease weight management (80, 81).

How much protein you need depends on many factors, such as your age, sex, and activity level.

For an easy way to meet your protein needs, be sure include a good source of protein — such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, or legumes — in every meal.

Summary

High protein diets may increase your metabolic rate, reduce your appetite, and help you retain muscle mass during weight loss.

19. Track your food intake

When you’re trying to lose weight, it can be helpful to monitor your food intake.

There are several ways to do this, but the most popular and effective options involve counting calories or keeping a food diary (82, 83, 84).

You do not have to do this all the time, but it may be good to keep track of your intake for several days in a row every few weeks. This will make you more aware of your calorie intake and allow you to adjust your eating patterns if needed.

Here are five free apps or websites that can help you easily keep track of your nutrient and calorie intake.

Summary

Monitoring your food intake once in a while may help you lose weight by making you more aware of your calorie intake.

20. Add eggs to your diet

Eggs are high in protein and low in calories, with about 72 calories and 6 grams of protein in one large egg (85).

Some research suggests that eggs can help support weight loss.

For example, one study showed that people who ate a breakfast containing eggs consumed fewer calories at lunch compared with those who ate a breakfast with cereal (86).

Another study involving over 2,200 adults found that consuming at least one egg per day was associated with a 34% lower risk of central obesity and a 38% lower risk of excess body fat (87).

Similarly, a study on nearly 24,000 people showed that eating eggs once daily was linked to a lower risk of abdominal obesity (88).

Summary

Eggs are high in protein and low in calories. They can increase feelings of fullness and may be associated with a lower risk of belly fat.

21. Get enough sleep

Getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep each night is very important for weight management.

In fact, one study found that better sleep health was associated with greater weight loss and fat loss during a 12-month weight-loss intervention (89).

Another small study in 36 people showed that getting 1 hour less of sleep for 5 nights per week led to less fat loss in people on a low calorie diet compared to a control group (90).

According to one review, sleep deprivation may be associated with a higher risk of obesity, which could be due to increased fatigue and changes in levels of certain hormones that affect hunger and appetite (91).

For most adults, it’s generally recommended to aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night to support overall health and maintain a moderate weight (92).

Summary

Getting enough sleep may help support weight loss and fat loss. It’s generally recommended to aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night.

22. Try intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern in which you alternate between eating and fasting for specific amounts of time.

Two popular intermittent fasting approaches include doing a 24-hour fast two to four times per week or a 16/8 fast, where you restrict your eating window to 8 hours each day, often by skipping breakfast or eating an early dinner.

Generally, this makes you eat fewer calories overall without having to consciously think about it.

While intermittent fasting has only been shown to be as effective as regular, daily calorie restriction at reducing belly fat and promoting weight loss, some people may find it easier to stick to than other diets (93, 94).

Make sure to talk with a doctor before trying intermittent fasting, as the long-term effects of this eating pattern are not yet known.

Summary

Intermittent fasting generally causes you to eat fewer calories with little effort by restricting your eating window. It’s effective at reducing belly fat and may be easier to stick to than other diet plans.

23. Eat fatty fish each week or take fish oil

It’s generally recommended to eat fatty fish once or twice per week.

Fatty fish is a nutrient-dense food that’s rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids (95, 96).

Protein has been shown to help with weight loss, and studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may also be tied to reduced belly fat (97, 98).

While whole foods are generally the best way to get your vitamins and minerals, if you don’t like eating fatty fish, you can get long-chain fatty acids from fish oil or fish oil supplements. Be sure to talk with a doctor first if you’re considering supplementation.

Summary

Fatty fish is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which may help reduce belly fat.

24. Limit your intake of added sugar

Added sugar has been linked to many chronic conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease (99).

It’s recommended to limit added sugar intake to less than 10% of total daily calories. On a 2,000-calorie diet, this translates to about 200 calories, or 12 teaspoons (48 grams) per day (100).

However, most people exceed this amount, and adults in the United States consume an average of 17 teaspoons (68 grams) of added sugar daily (100).

Studies have shown a direct link between high intake of added sugar and increased waist size, especially in people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages (101, 102, 103).

Added sugar is hidden in various foods, so it is very important to check the ingredient label carefully when shopping.

Summary

Added sugar has a direct link to increased waist circumference, especially in those who regularly drink sugar-sweetened beverages.

25. Replace some fat with MCT oil

MCT oil is a type of oil that contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

Studies suggest that replacing some dietary fat with MCT oil may increase energy expenditure and help you feel fuller (104, 105, 106).

What’s more, one review of 13 studies also found that MCTs were more effective at reducing body weight, total body fat, and belly fat compared with long-chain triglycerides (104).

Keep in mind that MCT oil is still high in calories, much like other types of fat. Therefore, it’s important not to just add MCT oil to your diet, but rather replace other sources of fat with it.

Summary

Replacing other fats in your diet with MCT oil could boost energy expenditure and increase feelings of fullness. Some studies also show that MCT oil may be more effective at reducing waist circumference and body weight compared with other types of fat.

26. Strengthen your core

Crunches and other abdominal exercises can help strengthen the muscles in your core.

By doing regular core exercises, you can add mass to your abdominal muscles, which may improve your posture and enhance spinal stability to prevent injuries (107).

Furthermore, core exercises help you strengthen the muscles that ultimately hold in your belly, which may make you appear leaner (108).

If possible, aim to do core exercises that engage all your core muscles, such as planks or Pilates roll-ups.

Summary

Core exercises can strengthen your abdominal muscles, improve your posture, and enhance spinal stability.

27. Drink unsweetened coffee or green tea

Unsweetened coffee and green tea are both highly nutritious beverages that can help you reach or maintain a moderate weight.

In fact, multiple studies have also shown that drinking coffee and tea may be associated with decreased belly fat and body weight (109, 110, 111).

This may be partly due to their caffeine content, which can temporarily boost your metabolism to increase the number of calories that you burn throughout the day (112).

Summary

Drinking unsweetened coffee or tea may increase fat burning and metabolism to help you reach or maintain a moderate weight.

28. Limit alcohol intake

Alcohol contains seven calories for each gram, which partly explains why many alcoholic drinks are often loaded with liquid calories (113).

Ounce for ounce, beer contains a similar number of calories as a sugary soft drink, while red wine contains nearly twice that amount (114, 115, 116).

Although moderate drinking is unlikely to affect body weight, heavy drinking is linked to increased weight gain, especially around your midsection (117, 118, 119).

According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is defined as less than two drinks per day for men and less than one drink per day for women (120).

Summary

Heavy alcohol consumption may contribute to weight gain, especially around your midsection.

29. Sneak extra activity into your day

You can easily sneak extra activity into your day by increasing the amount of non-exercise activity you do.

This involves walking, standing, fidgeting, or just generally moving around (121).

According to one review, these activities can help you burn up to 2,000 additional calories per day, depending on factors like your size and activity level (122).

Easy ways to add extra activity to your daily routine include walking around while talking on the phone, standing up regularly, working at a standing desk, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.

Summary

Increasing the amount of non-exercise activity you do may significantly increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.

The bottom line

If your doctor has advised you to lose weight, or you have personally made the decision to lose some weight, it’s important to keep your journey in perspective — no matter what random weight loss ads and products try to tell you.

It’s not possible to “target” fat loss in just your stomach specifically, but there are many strategies that can help support overall fat loss and weight loss effectively.

In addition to making changes to your diet and workout plan, getting plenty of sleep, managing stress levels, and practicing mindful eating can all be beneficial.

By incorporating some of the tips mentioned above into your daily routine, you can work toward a “flatter stomach” while also improving your overall health.

Just one thing

Try this today: Switching up your morning routine is a great way to get your day off to a good start and help you reach your goals. Check out this article for 10 simple morning habits that can help you lose weight!