Contrary to what a lot of people think, body fat is a critical organ. Properly called adipose tissue, body fat is more than just stored energy; it also communicates with other organs, affects your mood, keeps you warm, and provides your internal organs and brain with cushioning and protection from impacts (1).
But, as important as body fat is, you can have too much of it. High levels of body fat can affect not just how you look but how you feel and your health too.
Too much body fat is linked to an increased risk of (2):
- Heart disease
- Type II diabetes
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic disability
While your body stores fat all over, many people tend to accumulate fat around their lower abdomen. Also known as visceral fat, this is arguably the most dangerous place to store fat because it can affect the health and function of the organs within the abdominal cavity.
Plus, lower abdominal fat will also obscure your abs, even if you are lean everywhere else. A lot of exercisers have no problem revealing the top part of their abs and show an impressive two or even a four-pack. But if you want six-pack or eight-pack abs, that lower belly fat has GOT to go!
The causes of lower belly fat
Before we reveal the best ways to get rid of lower belly fat, it’s worth discussing the primary causes. Otherwise, there is a real risk that you could undo all of your hard work by making what could otherwise be avoidable mistakes.
The main causes of lower belly fat accumulation are:
Genetics – some people are more prone to accumulating lower belly fat than others. Take a look at your family and, if they have lower belly fat, then there is a good chance that you’ll be more prone to it too.
But the good news is that you can have an effect on how these genes are expressed. While you will always have a propensity for storing lower abdominal fat, there is a lot you can do to reduce it. You just may need to work a little harder than someone with more favorable genes.
Diet – fat is mostly stored energy. If you eat too much, the excess calories from that food is converted into fat and stored for later use. If you continue to overeat, your fat stores will keep getting bigger. Eating a lot of high-calorie processed food increases your risk of gaining not only belly fat but fat all around your body.
Inflammation and stress – inflammation and stress both increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Elevated levels of cortisol are linked to the formation of visceral fat (3).
Insulin resistance – lack of exercise, eating too much sugar, not getting enough sleep, and type II diabetes can all increase insulin resistance. This affects how your body metabolizes carbohydrates and also influences fat storage. Insulin resistance and chronically elevated blood glucose levels are both linked to lower belly fat (4).
Gender – men tend to have more visceral fat than women. In contrast, women tend to store their fat more around their hips and thighs. Because of this, men usually have a greater risk of coronary heart disease, which is inextricably linked to belly fat (5).
Aging – belly fat usually increases with age. Often called “middle-age spread,” increased belly fat is often accompanied by reduced muscle mass and a slower metabolism. Exercise and a healthy diet can help offset these effects.
How to get rid of lower belly fat
The first and arguably most important thing to understand about getting rid of lower belly fat is that it is impossible to “spot reduce” fat from one area of your body. Doing hundreds of reverse crunches or leg lifts won’t get the job done, although they WILL strengthen the underlying muscles.
Also, things like neoprene waist belts, electrical muscle stimulation machines, and creams and gels won’t do anything either.
Instead, losing lower belly fat requires a more holistic approach that treats your whole body and not just the few inches that make up your lower abdomen.
Here are 12 ways to lose fat, not just from your lower abdomen but from all over your body.
1. Create a calorie deficit
To lose fat, including getting rid of lower belly fat, you need to create a calorie deficit. This means eating fewer calories than your body actually needs, which will force your body to burn stored fat for fuel.
If you aren’t tracking your food intake, you are just guessing when it comes to creating a calorie deficit. You need to know how much you are eating to make the necessary adjustments to your food intake.
Use a calorie calculator to determine how much you should be eating, and then a food tracking app to make sure you are hitting your goals.
2. Cut down on sugar
Almost all processed and junk foods contain added and refined sugar. These foods are also high in calories, aren’t very filling, and are even addictive. This creates a perfect storm for abdominal fat gain.
Consuming large amounts of sugar can cause insulin resistance and inflammation, as well as provide your body with a caloric excess. Cutting refined and added sugar from your diet removes one of the leading causes of body fat and, especially, lower belly fat.
Limit your sugar intake to less than five percent of your total calorie intake, or about 25 grams for someone consuming 2000 calories per day.
3. Eat more healthy fats
Eating fat might sound like the last thing you should be doing to get rid of belly fat, but it’s actually a very powerful intervention. Healthy fats are anti-inflammatory, and, as you know, inflammation is one of the causes of belly fat.
The best types of fat to consume are unsaturated and essential fats, which, as well as being anti-inflammatory, are also useful for increasing testosterone. More testosterone means increased muscle mass, which will help improve insulin sensitivity and increase your metabolic rate. All of which will speed up fat burning and reduce visceral fat.
4. Eat more protein
Eating more protein could be the most important dietary change you can make to get rid of belly fat. Protein is filling, will help preserve your muscle mass even when you are eating less than usual, and also has a high thermic effect. This means that eating protein increases your metabolic rate for faster fat burning.
Most people should eat 0.75 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Both animal and plant-based proteins are of value.
Not sure what to eat to get more protein in your diet? Check out our article 12 Foods That Contain the Highest Amount of Protein.
5. Eat more fiber
If you’re trying to get rid of lower belly fat, eating more fiber will undoubtedly help. Fiber, properly called non-starch polysaccharides, is indigestible plant material that is very filling despite not containing any calories.
Eating high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, will help you feel fuller for longer, so you’ll be less tempted to overeat. As an added benefit, fibrous foods are also good for the health of your digestive system.
6. Drink more water
Water contains no calories or vitamins and only trace minerals. And yet, it’s arguably the most important thing you need to consume for fat loss and health. Your body is made up of about 60% water, and even mild dehydration can interfere with fat burning.
Drinking water before meals can help fill you up and prevent overeating, which will speed up fat loss. Also, processing water uses energy, so the more you drink, the more calories your body will use ingesting, transporting, utilizing, and eliminating it.
How much water you should drink is up for debate, but 72 fluid ounces per day is an excellent place to start.
7. Belay the booze!
Heavy drinkers often have what is commonly called a beer belly. Jokey names aside, this is visceral fat. If you want to get rid of lower belly fat, you need to go easy on the beer and any other alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol is high in calories, inhibits fat burning, and can increase your appetite while lowering your willpower. Many alcoholic drinks also contain a lot of sugar, and you already know how detrimental that can be for your waistline.
The occasional beer or glass of wine probably won’t do you much harm and may even be good for your cardiovascular health. However, habitual and binge drinking will make it all-but-impossible to get rid of your belly fat.
8. Cut down on carbs
Low-carb diets are popular for a reason; they actually work! Reducing your carb intake is an easy way to lower your calorie intake and also means you’ll have more space in your diet for the extra protein you should be eating.
Eating less carbohydrate can also keep your blood glucose low, which in turn will reduce insulin production. Insulin impedes efficient fat burning.
You don’t need to go full keto and eliminate carbs from your diet completely, but you should consider reducing your carb intake to about one gram per pound of bodyweight.
To achieve this, cut down on carb-dense foods like bread, rice, pasta, cereal, and processed/junk food. Instead, eat more natural vegetables and fruits. As an added bonus, low carb vegetables and fruits are high in fiber.
9. Use (but don’t abuse) cardio for fat loss
Cardio burns both fat and calories, making it useful for getting rid of belly fat. It’s also good for your cardiovascular fitness and health. But, on the downside, doing too much cardio can lead to muscle atrophy, and that will reduce your metabolic rate.
To that end, you should use but not abuse cardio. 20-30 minutes 3-5 times per week should be sufficient. If you’re not getting the results you want, you are probably overeating. You’ll find it easier and more effective to eat a little less instead of doing more cardio.
And remember, you cannot outrun a bad diet, at least, not for long! Not a cardio fan? No problem! You can also burn fat with strength training, or try some barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell fat-burning complexes.
10. Pump iron
Strength training is a very valuable form of exercise for getting rid of lower belly fat. Despite not burning as much fat or as many calories as cardio, it can still help you on your quest to get leaner.
Pumping iron will build muscle, and muscle is metabolically active tissue. That means it uses calories to sustain it. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you’ll burn per day, even while you are sleeping.
Also, eating less, as you must do to get rid of belly fat, can lead to muscle loss. Your body operates on a system of “use it or lose it,” and if you are challenging your body with intense strength training workouts, you are much less likely to lose muscle mass.
11. Do more NEAT
NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis and is the term used to describe any physical activity that isn’t a workout. Even if you exercise regularly, you may be otherwise very sedentary, which means your daily energy expenditure will be low. The fewer calories you burn per day, the harder it will be to lose that belly fat.
Doing more NEAT means looking for ways to get up and move your body more. Examples of NEAT include:
- Washing your car by hand
- Playing with your kids
- Carrying groceries
- Taking the stairs
- DIY projects
Clocking up an hour or two of NEAT per day will help you lose fat faster and more easily. Because NEAT is very low intensity, it won’t have a negative impact on your energy or recovery after exercise. In fact, getting up and moving will make you feel energized and may actually enhance recovery.
12. Train your core
For a lot of exercisers, this last tip is their first and even their only method for getting rid of lower belly fat. In fact, it’s arguably the LEAST important thing because, as you already know, you can’t spot-reduce fat from your lower abdomen even if you do millions of crunches.
That said, training your core will strengthen and stabilize these important muscles and could improve your posture and underlying muscle tone. There is no need to become obsessed with training your core; just a couple of exercises per workout will produce the results you want.
Don’t do lots of high reps with light weights to try and burn lower belly fat; that’s nothing more than a waste (or should that be waist?!) of time. Instead, overload your abs with moderate to heavy weights to build some muscle. Also, in place of the more usual crunches and sit-ups, try some more challenging exercises, such as shovel lifts.
Get Rid of Belly Fat – Wrapping Up
When it comes to getting rid of lower belly fat, there is no single, easy, or fast solution. Belly fat is the result of lots of convergent factors, and you’ll need to take a holistic approach to get rid of it.
You’ll need to consider your diet, workout plan, and your general lifestyle to shed belly fat and, even then, it can take months or even years to lose it.
But the good news is that the interventions you need to use to get rid of belly fat are also good for your health. There is no denying that losing belly fat will help you look better, but more importantly, it could help you live longer and more healthily too.
1 – Science Daily: The Biology of Fats in The Body https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423102127.htm
2 – PubMed: The Medical Risks of Obesity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2879283/
3 – PubMed: Abdominal Fat Is Directly Associated with Inflammation In Persons With Type-2 Diabetes Regardless Of Glycemic Control https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6878926/
4 – PubMed: Body Fat Distribution and Insulin Resistance https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725490/
5 – PubMed: Gender Differences in Changes In Subcutaneous And Intra-Abdominal Fat During Weight Reduction: An Ultrasound Study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9845228/