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How To Specifically Target Weight Loss to Stubborn Belly Fat

by Trevor Hiltbrand | Reviwed by Advisory Board

How To Specifically Target Weight Loss to Stubborn Belly Fat

We've been in the health and fitness space for a long time. Once people have begun their fitness journey and seen some results, one of the last and most common struggles/complaints we hear from clients is "how do I get rid of this last bit of belly fat?" 

Belly fat is notorious for being the most stubborn and difficult to get rid of. If this is something you are struggling with, you are not alone

At Transparent Labs, we are known for, and committed to, providing science backed formulations, but we are also committed to providing education that is also rooted in science with provable claims. We research extensively, and compile our findings in easy to digest, readable formats. 

This article is aimed at illuminating the available scientific evidence on targeted abdominal weight loss. We aim to find which supplements, exercises, foods, and diets show the quickest reduction in belly fat.

Dangers of Belly Fat 

Besides the obvious aesthetic reasons, there are actually plenty of legitimate health reasons to shred that extra belly fat. 

visceral fat vs belly fat

Normal fat accumulates under the skin and can be pinched. However, part of the growth of our abdominal area is visceral fat. This is the fat that surrounds your organs, and lies beneath the abdominal muscles. 

This visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, showing links to heart disease, cancer and dementia [1]. 

A massive study in Great Britain showed a direct correlation between waist circumference and heart disease [2]. 

Another study showed increased biomarkers of cancer with women who had excess belly fat, but showed a reduction in biomarkers after weight was lost - providing further evidence of correlation [3].

As we age, we almost certainly put on more weight, especially in our mid section. This has to do with the hormone changes our body undergoes with age. For men, this usually picks up in the 30's-40's as testosterone declines. For women, either with pregnancy or menopause.  

Why Is Belly Fat The Hardest To Get Rid Of?

As mentioned above, many people get stuck with belly fat in their weight loss journey. It seems to be the most difficult area to lose fat.

The truth is, belly fat (visceral and subcutaneous) is not any more difficult on a gram per gram basis, it is simply the preferred area of storage your body naturally gravitates towards (for many people, not all).

This means that you simply need to keep going in our weight loss efforts, and it to will come off, just most likely last. Maintain a calorie deficit and you will have success.  

Muscle Specific Exercises - Does This Help With Targeted Weight Loss? 

Do sit ups reduce belly fat

This is a commonly argued topic. Can you target belly fat by doing more crunches? Can you reduce arm fat by doing more tricep dips? What about losing weight in your thigh and butt by doing squats? 

Unfortunately, the research shows that working out specific areas does not target fat burning in those specific areas.

A study specifically focused on abdominal exercises showed no fat reduction to the abdominal area despite 6 weeks of frequent targeted exercises [2]. 

However, what targeted muscle exercises does do is reshape and tone the specific areas you are targeting. 

For example, do more squats, reshape your butt to be more round and firm. Do more crunches to have more defined and prominent abs.

These reshaping improvements can often be misconstrued for targeted weight loss, helping to recirculate the myth. The reality is, defined muscles hide fat better AND the new and improved muscles required physical exercise, and consequently, calories burned to achieve the reshaping results.

A study analyzing the results of resistance training for both arm and abdominal workouts showed total body weight loss, but not an unproportional weight loss to the muscle areas being worked [3].

IN SHORT.

Targeted muscle exercises will not accelerate weight loss and fat burning to a specific area, but rather, will contribute to your overall weight loss and fat burning total body progress.

Therefore, we suggest optimizing and accelerating your efforts by following workout protocols that have been shown in studies to be the best at efficient energy expenditure.

Supplements with Supporting Clinical Evidence

We dug into the research to find supplements that actually have evidence in reducing body fat and more specifically, supplements that reduce belly fat.

Our findings led us to create a powerful fat burner that contained the most evidence backed ingredients at clinically tested dosages. Learn more about our fat burner here - or continue reading below to learn about the evidence backed ingredients we include.

best fat burners for men

Green Tea Extract

Green tea extract (50% EGCG) is one of the most science backed supplements for weight loss.

There are typically three components to green tea. Caffeine, l-theanine, and EGCG. The caffeine and l-theanine combo provide thermogenic effects that work towards weight loss, but the green tea extract also packs EGCG content to further work to decrease body fat.

In addition to increasing resting metabolic rate, EGCG works to prolong the lifespan of naturally occuring pro-metabolic agents such as cAMP and norepinephrine. 

A rather large study conducted on 118 Chinese adults found a significant reduction of visceral fat (fat surrounding organs in the abdominal/belly area) when compared to the placebo group [5].

Forskolin 

Forskolin (Coleus forskohlii or Forslean) is one of the hottest fat burning ingredients of the decade, and in our opinion, is a 'must include' for any respectable fat burning formula.

Like green tea extract, forskolin works to activate the cellular messenger cAMP. cAMP plays a role in intercellular communication, metabolism, and energy expenditure.

This is similar to the effects of caffeine, but without the central nervous system stimulants.

Forskolin also works to prevent fat uptake from carbs into cells [6]. 

Synephrine

Synephrine is an ingredient often overlooked, because of its close ties, yet ultimately different similarities to ephedrine (the powerful banned fat burner).

A study published in the Journal of Medical Science showed synephrine was able to increase resting metabolic rate of subjects by 65-183 calories [7]. Depending on your daily calorie goals, this can add as much as a 10% boost to your calorie deficit goals. 

Another benefit to Synephrine is the energy and mental agility boost it provides (as measured by the industry standard Stroop Test)[8]. 

Safety: All studies we reviewed showed Synephrine to be "exceedingly safe" [9] when consumed at < 98mg/day [10].

5-HTP

Another rair and often overlooked weight loss supplement, 5-HTP works differently than the rest. Rather than increasing calories burned and metabolism, 5-HTP works to reduce hunger cravings, and consequently, the number of calories consumed. 

A study conducted on dieting women found those supplementing with 5-HTP vs placebo controlled group (both groups following the same exercise regiment) experienced a reduction in body mass and waist circumference (aka belly fat). The study showed 5-HTPs ability to reduce hunger cravings while dieting [11].

One of the hardest parts of dieting is sticking to your diet and your reduced calorie goals. 5-HTP has shown to have statistically significant impact on hunger cravings, and is an important ingredient ALL weight loss products should contain. 

BONUS ENTRY: FIBER

Fiber supplements can help move the digested waste through your system, resulting in leaner stomach area and reduced bloating. Also, fiber can help the user feel full or satisfied [12], resulting in less calories being consumed. 

  

Difference Between Bloating and Belly Fat

One thing people get confused is, there is a difference between bloating and belly fat. 

Bloating has two primary causes - gas and blockage.

Gases can often be attributed to lacking digestive enzymes, and is a common issue with lower quality protein. Often, a clean grass fed whey protein isolate will provide easier digestion and less bloating. 

A common issue many dieters have is constipation - this is usually from reducing carbs and increasing protein. Protein is slower and more difficult to digest, but is also way more thermogenic than carbs [13]. 

Thermogenic - meaning proteins require more bodily energy to digest, resulting in more calories being used for digestion, muscle protein synthesis, etc, resulting in less calories going towards fat stores. 

This blockade and constipation can make your belly swell, looking fatter than before you started dieting. This can also contribute to increased weight - the opposite of what you are going for. Weight in backed up bodily waste, not necessarily weight from fat storage.

But remember... bloating is not fat. 

Belly fat is either subcutaneous fat (the fat just under your skin that you can pinch) or visceral, the fat surrounding the organs in your mid section.

Bloating is gas or food within the stomach or intestines. 

To avoid bloating,

Step 1. Drink lots of water! This helps move the digestive process along smoothly and efficiently. 
Step 2. Eat more fiber. Vegetables preferably over fruits (less sugars/less carbs). Some fiber supplements/bars can increase stomach gases, making you more uncomfortable and increasing bloating. So quality and sourcing of fiber matters.

Foods and Diets That Reduce Belly Fat

reduction in belly fat from mid section waist

As mentioned above, fiber and fibrous foods are a great way of reducing bloating and often the appearance of a fatter belly. See above for difference between bloating and belly fat.

But what about foods that actually reduce body fat and promote weight loss? Do such foods exists. Well, to be honest, not really if you are looking at a strict calorie surplus/deficit weight loss. Technically all foods increase your caloric intake, which if calories taken in outway daily caloric energy expenditure, you will gain fat. 

However, some foods require more energy (more calories) to digest than others. This is called the thermic rates of foods, and generally speaking, the the higher the percentage the better the food is for dieters.

  • Carbohydrates: 5-15%
  • Fats: 0-5%
  • Proteins: 20-35% [7]

These percentages help explain why replacing carbs with protein attenuates weight loss efforts.

Foods High in Fiber.

Legumes, nuts, seeds, black beans, lima beans, raspberries, apples, bananas, strawberries, artichokes, carrots, dark greens, brussel sprouts, and whole grain breads (personal favorite - Dave's Killer Bread).

Foods High in Protein

Chicken, beef, pork, fish, nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, spinach, buckweat.

Counting Macros

how to count calories for weight loss

This is probably the most sustainable way to fine tune and optimize your diet.

Carbs contribute to stored body fat more than the other two macronutrients. By simply following a high protein low carb diet, most people notice a dramatic shift in body composition [8], even while holding all other nutrition and lifestyle habits constant.

To calculate your recommended macros and calories, check out our custom calorie and macro calculator. This is the first calculator to accurately optimize your nutritional intake recommendations with variables relating to any specific diet you may be following, as well as the typical lifestyle variables that most calculators take into consideration. We also give tailored supplement results that are specific to you and your chosen diets and goals. 

A Quick Note on Fiber

Fiber falls under the category of carbohydrates, but many dieters subtract out the fiber to achieve what is called "net carbs." However, what impact does fiber have on calories

Carbohydrates are generally accepted to provide 4 calories per gram. However, this does not take into consideration your body's ability to break down and digest these carbohydrates. 

There are two primary types of fiber - soluble and insoluble. It is estimated that soluble fibers contribute 2 calories per gram and insoluble 0. Unfortunately, most nutrition facts panels do not distinguish between the two types, making it difficult to get an accurate calculation.

Regardless of the calorie contribution fiber makes, fiber is still not an insulin trigger like other carbs, and high fiber foods should be sought after and preferred [9].

The Worst Foods for Belly Fat

types of belly fat

Sugar

I think we all know that sugar is perhaps the most potent food source related to increased weight gain.

Added sugar overwhelms the liver and quickly turns to fat [14].

Studies, time and time again, show how eliminating foods/drinks with added sugars drastically reduces weight [15].

This study, published in 2017 in the US National Library of Medicine, showed a direct correlation between sugar intake and visceral fat. 

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners contain zero calories and do not impact weight gain directly like real sugar. However, the effects seem to impact weight loss in a more sneaky manner. 

Artificial sweeteners trigger responses of hunger, usually suppressed by the insulin response obtained from sugar intake [16]. This, over time, works to increase total calories obtained.  

Is it possible to consume artificial sweeteners and fight back on the enhanced cravings? 

Of course.

However, studies show that most people do not. 

Additionally, and perhaps more concerningly, is the damage artificial sweeteners can have on your gut health and chronic inflammation [17][18]. Preliminary studies have shown a reduction in healthy gut bacteria [19], but more evidence is needed to form a conclusive argument [20].

The mounting evidence on the dangers these non-caloric artificial sweeteners can have is why NONE of our products at Transparent Labs contain them. 

Belly Fat Wrap Up

Targeted weight loss is a bust when it comes to work outs, however, working out reduces total body fat, including your belly. 

The belly is often the hardest fat to remove because it is where fat likes to be stored. Hormonal changes as we age contribute to fat being accumulated in our mid section. 

Some supplements work to reduce belly fat and total body fat, and it is best to find supplements with ingredients backed by published and peer reviewed research. 

Transparent Labs has created a fat burner that uses science backed ingredients at the same dosages shown to be effective in published scientific journals.  

Additionally, eating foods high in fiber and protein will provide healthy digestion and an increase in the thermic effect of food. 




Trevor Hiltbrand
Trevor Hiltbrand

Author

Trevor Hiltbrand is one of the owners/co-founders of Transparent Labs and head of content creation. He got his start with supplement research back in 2013 when he began researching cognitive enhancement. With the help of the Transparent Labs Expert Panel and Advisory Board, we aim to bring our evidence based nutrition and exercise research to the world.



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