The way to lose stomach fat quickly is to have consistency in three key areas:
As we age, hormones make it difficult to lose that muffin top that slowly grew over the years. However, when you address the underlying causes that led to the development of stomach or belly fat, you can also reverse it.
It’s important to know (and accept) that spot reducing is not possible. So be skeptical of that special juice recipe or “killer ab workout” that promises to rid you of that spare tire. Those things don’t work if you ignore the bigger issues of what you eat (and don’t), the number of minutes you exercise (or don’t) each week, and the number of hours you sleep (or don’t) nightly.
What you consistently eat is on display
First and foremost is diet. As we age, we can’t eat what we ate as kids and not feel the effects of it. In high school, my typical meal plan would look something like this: Fruity Pebbles for breakfast; pepperoni pizza, fries, and a Little Debbie snack cake for lunch; nachos with cheese for an after-school snack, and spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner.
By my 30s, I was eating less ultra-processed packaged foods, and more whole foods, but I still consumed a lot of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and oil. Not until I eliminated all animal products from my diet and replaced them with a whole food plant-based diet (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes like beans, lentils, and peas—plus a bit of nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices) did the stomach and overall body fat shed effortlessly. I’ve been able to maintain a flat stomach with this nutrition plan even into my 50s despite menopause.
To lose that stomach fat, consider adopting a whole food, plant-based nutrition plan that omits animal products and oil, plus portion-controlling high fat plant foods like nuts, seeds, and avocado.
Movement will help you lose stomach fat
The second factor is the frequency, duration and intensity of structured exercise. If your diet is dialed in, you may be able to get away with the bare minimum: 30 minutes of movement five times a week. However, if you’re like me, that’s just not enough—especially now that I’m older.
The photo below is of me and my parents on my college graduation day in 1994. You can see that I have a genetic predisposition to weight gain and obesity—including stomach fat. I was about 20 pounds heavier my junior year in college. My physical activity increased significantly during my senior year that aided in me shedding those “Freshman 15” plus another 5 pounds.
In addition to my whole food, plant-based diet, I have a workout schedule that’s above the minimum guidelines. I follow an intensive workout schedule because I’m a cyclist and training to race. However, even during the pandemic when there were no races, I continued to train as though I were racing.
Exercise 60 minutes a day to lose stomach fat
My workout schedule includes cycling five days a week for a total of 9 to 10 hours; three days a week of running, for a total of 1.5 hours; two days a week of strength and core training totaling 1 hour; and flexibility or stretching sporadically throughout the week. Once a month I have a “recovery” week when my cycling workouts are cut in half. While the duration and frequency has changed somewhat, the consistency has been in place since 2013—less than a year after I adopted a whole food plant-based diet.
Now, I’m not recommending you adopt my workout schedule. However, most health experts agree that for additional benefits, you want to get in 60 minutes or more of structured cardio exercise five days a week. Ideally, these vigorous workouts get your heart rate up. In addition, it’s advised to get in at least two days a week of strength and resistance training, working all the major muscle groups. Finally, adding in some stretching and flexibility work on the regular can prevent injury and help keep you limber.
If you’re starting a new exercise routine, check with your healthcare provider. It’s recommended you start slow and work up gradually. If you’re curious about the personal workout routines of some health experts, check out this article.
Sleep is an important component
Like many women in menopause, I found that sleep quality and duration can change with hormonal shifts. When we don’t get enough sleep, we tend to overeat, which can thwart our efforts to lose stomach fat. What’s more, lack of sleep makes our bodies secrete more cortisol, the “stress” hormone, which can also increase stomach fat.
For most people, it’s best to get between 7 to 9 hours of high-quality sleep nightly. You can start to improve sleep with the first steps I just gave: a healthy diet and regular exercise. Other tips to improve sleep:
- Eliminating alcohol
- Consuming less (or no) caffeine, and only before noon
- Creating a sleep routine that involves prayer, meditation and journaling
- Managing or addressing life stressors
- Going to bed in accordance with your circadian rhythm, between 8pm and midnight, nightly
- Keep phones and tablets out of the bedroom