Doing ab workouts might strengthen your core, but it won’t actually decrease fat or shrink those love handles — and that’s why you need to eat healthy. “You exercise for 30 minutes compared to the 23-and-a-half hours that you don’t exercise. You need to eat the right things,” says Harris-Pincus.
Repeat after us: It’s time to start eating clean. She recommends a combination of veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, low-fat dairy and lean protein like poultry, eggs and fish for a dose of omega-3 fatty acids. And drop the added sugar while you’re at it. “Studies show that when you have a diet rich in whole grains — and calorie-controlled — that you can reduce the belly fat,” she says. But remember to watch your portions, too. “A lot of people eat very healthy and don’t eat junk, but their portions are too large.”
If you’re smart about the foods you choose and limit your intake, eventually you’ll start to lose body fat and drop pants sizes. But sorry: There’s no way to get it to disappear from only your belly — you’ll likely reduce your overall body fat percentage and lose it in your face, hips, butt and chest, too.
Luckily, exercise can help spur things along when it comes to that pesky stomach fat. “Visceral fat responds well when… [you] start exercising and watching your calories and what you eat,” Harris-Pincus says. And while endless crunches aren’t your ticket to a flat stomach, it is still important to train your ab muscles. “Everything radiates from the center of your body – your balance, your posture, your functional movement,” says Joe Ardito, founder of Fit Crush NYC. “You can perform better when you have a strong core.”
Research also shows that workouts involving high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help reduce excess fat around your middle. Besides working your core, try incorporating a day or two of more vigorous exercise into your weekly schedule. (You can start with these three beginner routines.) Keep in mind that you can lower your total body fat percentage even by moving around more at work, according to another study.
The Bottom Line
There isn’t one magic trick or quick fix that will melt the fat around your midsection and give you those coveted abs we all see on the newsstands. Decreasing belly fat — and all body fat for that matter — is about making changes over the long-term.