Flat, toned abs are right up there with Ryan Gosling's digits-every chick with a pulse wants them. If you're looking to lose belly fat, try these expert tips. They target that pesky pooch to score you abs so tight, could bounce a quarter off of them.
By Kelly Thore
1. Exercise in Bursts
Awesome news: Turns out that marathoning for an hour on the treadmill isn't only boring as hell, but it doesn't even really give you that great of a workout. Experts say that if you're trying flatten your abs, one of the most effective methods is actually interval training, which means incorporating short bursts of high-intensity burnouts into whatever you're doing, whether that's running, squats, whatever. And bonus-it'll keep you burning calories for up to 16 hours post-exercise. Um, we'll take it.
2. Stretch, Then Crunch
The most common mistake you're probably making when doing abwork is jumping in without limbering up, which causes you to do most of the work with your hips and back. See, your core muscles are harder to activate when the areas surrounding it are still tense. Try this: Before doing a single crunch, put a foam roller in the center of your back at the edge of your shoulder blades and stretch back over the roller, arms up. Repeat until the middle part of your back, which tends to get pulled the most during improper abwork, feels loose.
3. Dip Into the Olive Oil
Yeah, it sounds a little weird, but hear us out. Experts say that certain compounds in olive oil stimulate a hormone in your stomach that signals to your brain that it's full. Thus, it curbs your appetite so your body doesn't feel quite as hungry. You probably don't want to shoot it straight up, so try dipping some multi-grain bread into about a tablespoon of the stuff 15 minutes before a meal. Quirky, but it should keep you from overeating and packing on unnecessary lbs.
Related: How Cutting Back at The Gym Will Help You Burn More Calories
4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
We get that the last thing you want to do when you're feeling puffy is to chug water, but experts say that it's critical to regulating your metabolic rate (and consequently, your body's fat-burning mechanisms). Drinking your recommended eight glasses of H2O daily will help your body run more efficiently, making your workouts and healthy eating efforts way more effective. Plus, the more water you drink, the more excess you'll flush out, so you wind up actually de-bloating as a result. Win-win.
5. Nix That Before-Bed Snack
You know not to crush half a pizza before jumping in bed…but even munching on something healthy-ish at night can throw off your calorie-burning momentum. Ideally, while you're sleeping you want your body to burn its current fat storages (read: that pesky middle-jiggle) for fuel as opposed to whatever you ate as a midnight snack. Make sure to fill up at dinner every night, and then banish yourself from the kitchen at least two hours before bed.
6. Chill Out
One of the top belly-fat-building offenders is stress-and not just because that bad day at work can make you feel like demolishing a pint of Cherry Garcia. When your body senses that you're overwhelmed, it automatically starts producing cortisol-a hormone has been proven to eff with your body chemistry and stimulate extra fat-storage in your gut. Yeah, sucks. When you're feeling worked up, close your eyes and take long, deep breaths for about five minutes. You'll immediately start to feel more relaxed, which should calm those hormones down and nix that belly sabotage.
Related: 9 Ways to Relax
7. Get your Zzzs
Adult women require anywhere from six to eight hours of sleep every night. If you're staying up late on the regs and aren't meeting that minimum, you'll throw off your natural rhythm, which can cause your body to freak out and start overproducing hormones (including cortisol). By getting the right amount of sleep every night, your body and metabolism will stay regulated-keeping you and your tummy on-point.
8. Eat Every Three Hours
You might think passing on lunch will save calories and trim your middle, but you're actually trending toward the opposite. Going long periods of time without eating can send your body into starvation mode, meaning it starts storing everything you've already eaten as fat since it doesn't know when you're going to feed it again. And guess where that chub piles on first? Yup. Your midsection. Experts say having a small meal or snack every three hours will keep your body fueled and in prime calorie-torching mode all day.
9. Load Up on Greens
Not only are vegetables like kale, lettuce and broccoli practically calorie-free, they're also full of vitamins and are super-filling. Munching on these at lunchtime or for snack will make you less likely to eat something naughty and pudge-inducing later on.
Related: How to Get a Flat Stomach
10. Stick to One or Two Drinks
There's nothing wrong with hitting up happy hour. But when you start to drink in excess, you'll wind up packing on weight in your midsection since alcohol is digested as a sugar, and sugar ultimately turns into fat. Think of a bottle of wine as a stack of cookies-both convert into your body the same way, so you should moderate your intake accordingly.
11. Pump Iron a Few Times a Week
You know cardio is critical to tummy-toning, but weight-lifting just as clutch since it helps up your body's lean muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body processes calories and burns body fat. So not only will you get a sculpted middle, you'll also make it so you can eat more without packing on any extra poundage.
12. Eat Dark Chocolate
Seriously. It's packed with zinc, which experts say is pretty much your belly's best friend. Zinc increases your body's levels of circulating leptin, which is a hormone that regulates your energy expenditures, fat storages and appetite…so pretty much everything that impacts having that extra bit of fluff overtop your abs. You'll obviously need to opt for the lower-in-sugar kinds and indulge in moderation, but it should help chip away at that pooch. Now that we can dig.
SOURCES: Amber Edwards, group fitness manager at Equinox in Manhattan; Wendy Larkin, master trainer at Crunch Fitness in San Francisco
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