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The 30 Best Ways to Get a Flat Stomach

Losing the fat around your midsection can be a battle.

In addition to being a risk factor for several diseases, excess
abdominal fat may make you feel bloated and discouraged.

Luckily, several strategies have been shown to be especially
effective at reducing your waist size.

If you dream about having a flat stomach, this article may be
just what you need.

Here are 30 science-backed methods to help you reach your goal
of a flat stomach.

1. Cut Calories, but Not Too Much

Belly Fat vs. Tones Stomach

It is a well-known fact that you need to cut calories
to produce
weight loss
.

One popular approach is to reduce your daily intake by
500–1,000 calories to expect to lose approximately 1–2 pounds
(0.5–1 kg) per week (1).

That being said, restricting your calorie intake too much can
be counterproductive.

Eating too few calories can cause a major
decrease in your metabolic rate
, or the number of calories
you burn on a daily basis (2, 3, 4, 5).

In one study, a group of people who ate 1,100 calories per day
slowed their metabolic rate more than twice as much as those
who consumed about 1,500 calories per day for four consecutive
days (5).

What’s more, this decrease in metabolic rate may persist even
after you start behaving like you normally do. That means you
may have a lower metabolic rate than you had before you
severely restricted your calorie intake (4, 6).

Therefore, it is important that you don’t restrict your calorie
intake too much or for too long.



Bottom Line: Eating too few calories may
slow your metabolic rate, even in the long term. Therefore,
it is important not to restrict calories too much or for too
long.

2. Eat More Fiber, Especially Soluble Fiber

Pile of Brussel Sprouts

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 full (7, 8).

Furthermore, soluble fiber may decrease the number of calories
your body is able to absorb from food (9).

By eating soluble fiber,
you are also less likely to accumulate fat around your organs,
which reduces your waist circumference and the risk of several
diseases (10).

One observational study showed that each 10-gram increase in
daily soluble fiber intake decreased fat gain around the
midsection by 3.7% over five years (11).

Good sources of soluble fibers include oats, flaxseeds,
avocados, legumes, Brussels sprouts and blackberries.

Bottom Line: Eating soluble fiber has been
linked to a reduced risk of developing fat around your
midsection.

3. Take Probiotics

Probiotics
are live bacteria that are suggested to play a big role in
weight loss and weight maintenance (12, 13).

Overweight and obese people have been shown to have a different
composition of gut bacteria than normal-weight people, which
may influence weight gain and fat distribution (14, 15, 16).

A regular intake of probiotics may shift the balance towards
beneficial gut flora, reducing the risk of weight gain and fat
accumulation in your abdominal cavity.

Some strains of probiotics have been shown to be particularly
effective at
reducing belly fat
. These include (17, 18, 19, 20, 21):

  • Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Lactobacillus amylovorus
  • Lactobacillus gasseri


Probiotic foods
include some types of yogurt, kefir,
tempeh, kimchi and pickles.

There are also a wide variety of probiotic supplements
available. However, these supplements usually contain several
strains of bacteria, so make sure to pick one that contains at
least one of the strains mentioned above.

Bottom Line: Probiotics may help build up
beneficial gut flora. Some Lactobacillus strains
have been shown to be particularly effective at reducing
waist size.

4. Do Some Cardio

Aqua Blue Running Shoes

Doing cardio, or aerobic exercise, is an excellent way to

burn calories
and improve overall health.

Additionally, studies have shown that it is very effective at
strengthening your midsection and reducing your waistline
(22, 23, 24, 25).

Studies usually recommend doing 150–300 minutes of
moderate-to-high-intensity aerobic exercise weekly, which
translates to roughly 20–40 minutes per day (26, 27).

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

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

5. Drink Protein Shakes

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

Getting enough protein in your diet can boost
your metabolism
, reduce your appetite and assist with fat
loss, especially from your midsection (28, 29, 30, 31).

Furthermore, studies have suggested that adding protein shakes
to your weight loss diet may be especially effective at
reducing your waist circumference (32, 33, 34).

Bottom Line: Protein shakes are an easy way
to add extra protein to your diet. Including them as part of
a weight loss diet has been shown to be effective at reducing
your waist size.

6. Eat Foods Rich in Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Mixed Nuts

Monounsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature and
usually categorized among the “good fats.”

Studies show that diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids may
prevent the accumulation of tummy fat, the most dangerous type
of fat (35, 36).

The Mediterranean
diet
is an example of a diet that is high in
monounsaturated fatty acids, and it has been linked to many
health benefits, including a reduced risk of central obesity
(37, 38).

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

Bottom Line: Diets high in monounsaturated
fatty acids may reduce the risk of central obesity.

7. Limit Your Intake of Carbs, Especially Refined Carbs

Limiting your
carb intake
has been shown to have powerful health
benefits, especially for weight loss (39, 40).

More specifically, studies show that
low-carb diets
target the fat that lodges around your
organs and makes your waistline expand (41, 42, 43, 44).

Some studies also suggest that you can significantly improve
your metabolic health and reduce your waistline by simply
replacing refined carbs with unprocessed, whole food carbs
(45, 46).

Observational studies have shown that people with the highest
intakes of whole grains are 17% less likely to have excess
abdominal fat than those who consume diets high in refined
carbs (47).

Bottom Line: Limiting your total carb
intake, as well as simply replacing your refined carb intake
with whole food carbs, may reduce your waist circumference
and improve your health.

8. Do Resistance Training

Five People Using Kettle Bells for Resistance Training

Losing muscle mass is a common side effect of dieting.

This can be detrimental to your metabolic rate, as losing
muscle decreases the number of calories you burn on a daily
basis (48).

Doing resistance exercises regularly may prevent this loss of
muscle mass and, in turn, help you maintain or improve your
metabolic rate (49, 50).

Moreover, resistance training may be especially effective at
tightening your midsection and reducing your waist size
(51, 52).

In fact, combining resistance training with aerobic exercise
seems to be the most effective for slimming your waistline
(53).

Bottom Line: Resistance training may prevent
the loss of muscle mass often seen with dieting, which may
help maintain your metabolic rate and reduce your waist
circumference.

9. Do Exercises Standing Instead of Sitting

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 (54).

A study comparing the effects of standing and sitting exercises
showed that some standing exercises increased muscle activation
by 7–25%, compared to sitting (55).

Another study suggested that standing may improve your
breathing, compared to sitting (56).

Although this may seem like a minor alteration, it may
strengthen your midsection and is worth a try.

Bottom Line: Doing exercises while standing
instead of sitting may burn more calories, activate your
muscles more and improve oxygenation and breathing ability.

10. Add Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Diet

Apple Cider Vinegar in a Glass and a Jug

Apple cider vinegar is linked to
several impressive health benefits
, most of which are
mainly attributed to its content of acetic acid.

Several animal studies have suggested that acetic acid may
reduce body fat accumulation (57, 58, 59).

Although human studies are somewhat lacking in this area, one
study in obese men showed that taking one tablespoon of apple
cider vinegar each day for 12 weeks reduced their waistlines by
0.5 inches (1.4 cm), on average (60).

Bottom Line: Apple cider vinegar is mainly
made up of acetic acid, a compound that may reduce body fat
accumulation.

11. Walk at Least 30 Minutes Each Day

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 don’t need to
exercise vigorously to reap health benefits.

Regular, brisk walks have been shown to effectively reduce
total body fat and the fat located around your midsection
(61, 62).

In fact, walking briskly for 30–40 minutes (about 7,500 steps)
per day has been linked to a significant reduction of dangerous
tummy fat and a slimmer waistline (63).

Bottom Line: Walking for 30 minutes daily
may slim your waistline and prevent the accumulation of
dangerous tummy fat.

12. Avoid Liquid Calories

No Drinks Icon

Sugary soda, fruit juices and energy drinks are generally
loaded with
sugar
and liquid calories.

It is also very easy to drink large quantities at a time,
resulting in an abundance of empty calories.

The thing with liquid calories is that your brain doesn’t
register them like it registers solid calories. Therefore,
you’ll end up consuming these calories on top of everything
else that you eat or drink (64, 65).

One study showed that each daily serving of a sugar-sweetened
beverage increased the risk of obesity by a whopping 60% in
children (66).

These drinks are also generally loaded with fructose,
which has been linked directly to belly fat gain (67, 68, 69).

Bottom Line: Your brain doesn’t register
liquid calories like it registers solid calories. Therefore,
they’re added on top of everything else you eat and
contribute to weight gain.

13. Eat Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods

The single best dietary advice you can give someone is to base
their diet around eating more whole, single-ingredient foods.

Whole foods are loaded with nutrients, fiber, water, vitamins
and minerals.

This makes it very difficult to overconsume these foods, some
of which even have their own benefits for preventing weight
gain
(70, 71).

Try to eat plenty of whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits,
vegetables, dairy, fish and unprocessed meat.

Bottom Line: Whole, single-ingredient foods
are loaded with nutrients, and it’s hard to eat too much of
them.

14. Drink Water

Small Glass of Water

There are at least three ways in which
water
may help you achieve a flat stomach.

First, it
may help with weight loss
by temporarily increasing your
metabolic rate.

In fact, drinking water may increase your total energy
expenditure by up to 100 calories per day (72, 73).

Second, drinking water before meals can make you feel fuller,
so you’ll ultimately eat fewer calories (74, 75, 76).

Third, it may help relieve constipation and reduce belly
bloating (77, 78, 79).

Try drinking a large glass of water before each meal. It may
help you achieve your goal.

Bottom Line: Drinking water may increase
your metabolic rate, make you feel fuller and help relieve
constipation, all of which may help you achieve your goal of
a flatter stomach.

15. Practice Mindful Eating

Young Man Enjoying a Healthy Meal

Mindful
eating
is a technique that helps you recognize and cope
with your emotions and physical sensations regarding food and
hunger (80, 81).

It involves slowing down, eating without distraction, focusing
on your physical hunger cues and eating only until you feel
full (82).

Most studies agree that mindful eating helps you lose weight by
changing your eating behavior and reducing stress-related
behavior, such as stress eating and binge eating (82, 83, 84).

Also, it is more likely to help you keep the weight off in the
long term, as it focuses on changing your behavior.

Bottom Line: By eating mindfully, you can
focus on your physical hunger and eating only until you’re
satisfied. That reduces the risk of stress eating and
binging.

16. Avoid Swallowing Air and Gases

The biggest source of gas in the diet is carbonated beverages
such as
soda
.

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The bubbles in it contain carbon dioxide, which is released
from the liquid in your stomach. This may cause stomach
distention or bloating.

This can also happen when you chew
gum
, drink through a straw or talk while eating.

Eating in silence, drinking from a glass and swapping
carbonated drinks out for water may help you achieve a flatter
stomach.

Bottom Line: Carbonated drinks and gum may
both cause stomach distention and bloating in some people.

17. Do High-Intensity Training

One popular way to do high-intensity training is to perform
intervals of very intense activity, such as sprinting, rowing
or jumping, with short breaks in between.

This way of exercising makes your body burn more fat and
increases your metabolic rate, even long after you’ve finished
your workout (85, 86, 87, 88).

High-intensity training has been shown to have superior effects
on fat burning, compared to other types of exercises, and is
especially effective for slimming the waistline (89, 90, 91).

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

Bottom Line: High-intensity training
increases fat burning and metabolic rate, even long after
your workout is over. It is especially effective for slimming
the waistline.

18. Reduce Your Stress Levels

Exercise Mat

Stress and anxiety are very common, and most people experience
them at some point in their lives.

Stress is linked to the development of many diseases, and it is
also a common reason why people tend to eat or binge eat, often
without being hungry in the first place (92, 93).

Also, stress triggers the body to produce cortisol, a stress hormone. It has been known to
increase appetite and lead specifically to belly fat storage
(94, 95, 96).

This may be especially harmful in women who already have a
large waist, as they tend to produce more cortisol in response
to stress, which further adds to belly fat gain (97).

Try to add some stress-relieving activities to your daily
routine, such as yoga or meditation.

Bottom Line: Stress triggers the production
of cortisol, which increases appetite and drives belly fat
storage.

19. Eat More Protein

Foods High in Protein

Protein is the most important nutrient when it comes to weight
loss.

Your body burns more calories digesting protein than fat
or carbs. Therefore, a high-protein diet may account for an
extra 80–100 burned calories per day (98, 99).

High-protein diets also reduce your appetite, make you feel
full and help you retain your muscle mass during weight loss
(30, 100, 101, 102).

Furthermore, studies have observed that people who eat more
protein have slimmer waistlines than those with lower protein
intakes (32, 34, 103).

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

Generally, you should aim to get 20–30% of your calories from
protein on a daily basis. This can easily be achieved by
incorporating a
protein source
in every meal.

Bottom Line: High-protein diets may increase
your metabolic rate, reduce your appetite and help you retain
muscle mass during weight loss. They are also linked to lower
abdominal obesity rates.

20. Track Your Food Intake

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

There are several ways to do this, but the most popular and
effective ones are counting
calories
, keeping a food diary and taking pictures of your
food (104, 105, 106, 107).

You don’t have to do this all the time, but it may be good to
track your intake for a few days in a row every few weeks. This
will make you more aware of your calorie intake and allow you
to adjust your weight loss diet if needed.

Studies generally agree that people who track their food intake
are more likely to reach their weight loss goals (108).

Here
are five free apps or websites that allow you to easily track
your nutrient and calorie intake.

Bottom Line: Tracking your food intake once
in a while may help you lose weight by making you more aware
of your calorie intake.

21. Eat Eggs

Three Fried Eggs on a Plate


Eggs
are healthy, high in protein and have a few unique
weight loss properties.

A large egg is very
nutritious
and contains only about 77 calories (109).

Studies have shown that eating eggs for breakfast as part of a
calorie-restricted diet may cause up to 65% greater weight loss
over eight weeks, compared to other types of breakfast foods
(110, 111).

An egg breakfast has also been shown to significantly reduce
calorie intake for the next 24 hours, automatically and without
effort (100, 112).

Moreover, eggs have been shown to be more effective at reducing
waist size than other foods with the same calorie content
(111, 113).

Bottom Line: Eggs have well-established
weight loss properties and may be more effective at reducing
waist circumference than other foods when matched for
calories.

22. Get Enough Sleep

Woman Sleeping Peacefully

Getting a sufficient amount of
good sleep
is very important for weight loss.

Studies have repeatedly shown sleeping less than five hours a
night for adults and less than 10 hours for children is linked
to an increased risk of weight gain (114, 115).

In women, short sleep duration is consistently linked to
increased waist size, compared to those who get a good night’s
sleep (116, 117).

Similarly, sleep-deprived people are up to 55% more likely to
become obese (114, 118).

Luckily, shifting sleep duration from shorter lengths to
healthier lengths has been shown to help eradicate these
effects (119).

Bottom Line: Those who sleep too little are
much more likely to gain weight and have increased waist
circumference, compared to normal sleepers.

23. Try Intermittent Fasting

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

The most popular
intermittent fasting approaches
are doing a 24-hour fast
two to four times per week or a 16:8 fast, where you restrict
your eating window to eight hours each day, often between lunch
and 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
tummy fat, many people find intermittent fasting to be easier
to stick to than traditional weight loss diets (120, 121, 122, 123).

Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting generally
makes you eat fewer calories with little effort by
restricting your “eating window.” It’s effective at reducing
tummy fat and may be easier to stick to than traditional
weight loss diets.

24. Eat Fatty Fish Every Week or Take Fish Oil

Grilled Salmon

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

Fatty fish is very healthy and rich in essential long-chain

omega-3 fatty acids
and good-quality protein (124, 125).

Protein has been shown to help with weight loss, and studies
have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce
the accumulation of fat in the liver and abdominal cavity
(126, 127, 128, 129).

If you don’t like eating fatty fish, you can get long-chain
fatty acids from fish
oil
or fish oil supplements.

Bottom Line: The long-chain omega-3 fatty
acids from fatty fish may help reduce the accumulation of fat
around your waist.

25. Limit Your Intake of Added Sugar


Added sugar
is linked to most of the common diseases in
society today, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and
fatty liver disease (130, 131, 132).

The intake of added sugar is way too high in most societies,
and Americans eat about 15 teaspoons of added sugar daily
(133).

Studies have shown a direct link between high intake of added
sugar and increased waist size, especially in people who drink
sugar-sweetened beverages (134, 135, 136).

Added sugar is hidden
in various foods, so it is very important to read the
ingredient lists on foods.

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

26. Replace Some Fat With Coconut Oil

A Jar of Coconut Oil and a Teaspoon


Coconut oil
contains a unique combination of fatty acids.
It is one of a few foods that is rich in medium-chain
triglycerides
(MCTs).

Studies have shown that replacing some dietary fat with MCTs
may increase energy expenditure and make you feel fuller
(137, 138, 139, 140).

What’s more, coconut oil has been shown to more effectively
reduce waist size than other types of fat (141, 142).

Keep in mind that coconut oil is still fat with 9 calories per
gram. Therefore, it is important not to just add
coconut oil to your diet, but rather replace other
sources of fat with it.

Bottom Line: Coconut oil is rich in
medium-chain triglycerides. Replacing other fats with coconut
oil may increase your energy expenditure, make you feel full
and reduce your waist circumference.

27. Strengthen Your Core

Crunches and other abdominal exercises can benefit both your
overall health and appearance.

By doing regular core exercises, you strengthen and add mass to
your abdominal muscles, which may prevent back aches that
result from weak posture.

A strong core will also improve your posture and prop up your
spine, allowing you to appear taller and more confident.

Furthermore, core exercises help you strengthen the muscles
that ultimately hold in your belly, making you appear leaner.

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

Bottom Line: By strengthening your core, you
are training the muscles that hold your stomach in. By having
well-trained abs, you will appear taller, more confident and
leaner.

28. Drink (Unsweetened) Coffee or Green Tea

Coffee in a Yellow Cup

Unsweetened
coffee
and
green tea
are among the healthiest beverages in the world.

Drinking coffee has been shown to increase the number of
calories you burn by about 3–11% (143, 144, 145).

Similarly, drinking tea or taking green tea extract supplements
has been shown to increase fat burning up to 17% and calorie
expenditure by 4% (146, 147, 148, 149).

This includes green tea, black tea and oolong tea.

Most importantly, studies in animals and humans have shown that
drinking coffee and tea may reduce the risk of accumulating
belly fat, helping you reduce your waist size (150, 151).

Bottom Line: Drinking unsweetened coffee or
tea may increase your fat burning and reduce your waist size.

29. Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol
contains seven calories for each gram, which partly explains
why alcoholic drinks tend to be loaded with liquid calories.

Ounce for ounce, beer contains a similar number of calories as
a sugary soft drink, while red
wine
contains a whopping twice that amount (152, 153, 154).

Although moderate drinking is unlikely to affect weight gain,
heavy drinking is linked to increased weight gain, especially
around your midsection (155, 156, 157).

If you want a flat stomach, you should aim to reduce or skip
the alcoholic drinks.

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

30. Sneak Extra Activity Into Your Day

Young Professional Man Standing While Working at His Computer

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

This involves walking, standing, fidgeting, moving around and
basically everything other than exercise training, sleeping and
eating (158).

Studies have shown that just standing, fidgeting or walking
around can increase the calories you burn by five- to six-fold,
compared to sitting still (159, 160).

One study suggested that fidgeting, walking and standing could
burn up to 2,000 extra calories per day, depending on your
weight and activity level (160).

Make it your goal to walk around while talking on the phone,
stand up regularly, work at a
standing desk
or take the stairs whenever possible.

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

Take Home Message

As you can see, there are many strategies that can help you
achieve your goal of a flat stomach.

By incorporating some of the tips mentioned above into your
daily routine, you may get to see your six pack sooner than
later.

Keep in mind that it may take some time and effort, but will
all be worth it in the end if done properly.

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