How to lose belly fat and gain muscle? We need a comprehensive guide! This is a common request among all men and women as well.
Throughout most fitness journeys, people aim to lose fat or gain muscles, sometimes even both.
And most people believe you can only do one of these things and not do them simultaneously.
But is that true? Is it true that you can not lose fat and gain muscles simultaneously? Well, today, we will address this question and so much more.
And we will also be focusing on the most problematic and stubborn fat in the body: belly fat.
So, how can you lose belly fat? How to gain muscle? What are the keys to belly fat loss and muscle gain regarding food and exercise? And what are the tips and tricks to reach this goal? We will answer these questions and so much more in this article.
But first of all, we need to address one big misunderstanding regarding fat loss and weight loss:
Weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing:
When people say they want to lose weight, they most likely mean they want to lose extra fat.
However, this does not happen automatically if you decide to lose weight and go into a caloric deficit.
Your body weight is a collective number of different things, like fat, muscle, water, glycogen, and gut contents.
So, it is essential to set your priorities straight.
Suppose all you care about is losing weight.
In that case, you could be harming yourself through fad diets that break down your muscles, an extreme caloric deficit that renders you ill, or even through laxatives and teas that she’d water weight and cause severe diarrhea.
Extreme cases can be potentially life-threatening, so please never do any of these things.
That said, you should aim to lose fat and build muscles for healthy weight loss if you are overweight or obese.
How to achieve Fat Loss?
To lose any fats in any part of your body, there is one primary rule: a caloric deficit.
And a caloric deficit is the state you’re in when you consume fewer calories than your body burns for energy.
When this happens, it forces your body to find an alternative source of energy to burn for fuel instead, and that will primarily end up being your stored glycogen which will then be followed by stored body fat.
When does the body resort to breaking down muscles?
Ideally, the caloric deficit would only break down the stored fats and not affect other body tissues. However, this is not the case. The body’s second energy source besides fats is the skeletal muscle tissues.
And that happens because, unfortunately, your body can’t tell if you’re in a caloric deficit because you’re trying to lose some fat or are in danger of starving to death.
And to avoid that, the body must pull stored energy from somewhere.
Moreover, that can mean fat, muscle, or a combination of both.
A few factors come into play here, like your daily protein intake and how you consume your daily caloric requirements.
The amount of protein you need in your diet will depend on your overall calorie needs.
The recommended protein intake for healthy adults is 10% to 35% of your total daily caloric information. One gram of protein supplies four calories.
Therefore, a person on a 2000-calorie diet could eat 100 grams of protein, or 400 calories from protein, giving 20% of their daily calories.
Now that we understand the basics of fat burning. Let’s focus more on how to lose belly fat and gain muscle.
Factors that play a role in losing belly fat and gaining muscle:
We have to make one thing clear before we start: it is a scientific fact that there is no such thing as targeted fat loss; you can not lose only belly fat and not lose fat in other parts of your body.
As mentioned earlier, a caloric deficit is the key to weight loss. And that means the fat loss throughout the whole body.
You can, however, target muscle gain through exercise.
You target specific muscles through the mind-body connection during a particular workout. For example, your trainer might say: “Engage your core” in a specific exercise. That means that this exercise targets your core muscles and so on.
This is why the two main factors that you should consider when you try to lose belly fat and gain muscles are:
1. Nutrition and diet:
Soluble fibers absorb water and form a bulk that slows down food as it passes through your digestive system. Which also helps you to feel complete by eating less (1).
Some fantastic sources of soluble fibers include fruits, vegetables, legumes, oats, and oat bran, which are also essential for cardiac health. (2)
Avoid trans fats:
Recent scientific discoveries linked trans fats to acne, inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance, and belly fat gain(3).
To help lose belly fat and gain muscle, read ingredient labels carefully and avoid products containing trans fats and hydrogenated fats.
Also, beware that junk food is full of saturated fats. You can find them in spreads and some canned food. However, many companies are becoming more aware of its dangers and avoiding using them.
Integrate healthy fats into your diet:
Fatty fish are an essential addition to a balanced diet as they’re full of protein and omega three fatty acids, which have several health benefits, help with belly fat loss, and protect against chronic disease (4)
Studies in adults and children with fatty liver show that omega-3 supplements may significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat (5). You can add these healthy fatty fish to your diet for excellent health benefits: salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies.
On the other hand, vegans and vegetarians should consume plant-based omega three supplements that are derived from natural sources (6).
Get your daily requirements of protein:
Protein is essential for weight management as it raises the metabolism rate.
And as we mentioned earlier, not getting the appropriate amount of protein daily may result in skeletal muscle loss. And this is a huge problem since we aim to lose belly fat and gain muscle. (7).
Moreover, studies show that people who eat more protein tend to lose belly fat more than those who eat a lower-protein diet (8).
Some good protein sources that you can add to every meal are meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, and beans.
According to different studies, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a significant risk of developing excess belly fat(9), which is the opposite of what you want since you are here to know how to lose belly fat and gain muscle.
Moreover, alcohol has a lot of negative impacts on overall physical and mental health.
Limit your consumption of sugary foods:
Sugar is linked to several chronic diseases with long-term use, including heart disease, type two diabetes, and fatty liver(10).
Moreover, studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased belly fat (11).
However, it is essential to know that not only refined sugar can lead to belly fat gain, but also natural sugars, such as honey and sugar in dried fruits, can result in the same thing with excessive consumption.
Avoid beverages with high sugar content:
Most beverages in the market that are not sugar-free are high in added sugars like fructose, which can contribute to belly fat.
Moreover, a study on people with type two diabetes found that consuming at least one serving of beverages high in sugar content per week was associated with increased belly fat compared to drinking less than one serving per week (12).
LLimiting your intake of beverages containing large amounts of sugar, such as soda and sweet tea, is the best to lose belly fat.
Consume less refined carbohydrates:
Reducing your carbohydrate intake can be very beneficial for losing fat in general, including belly fat.
It is a well-known fact that carbohydrates generally spike up insulin levels in the blood rapidly, which is the last thing you want to happen if you are trying to lose weight.
The sudden increase in insulin levels signals the body to start storing fat. And on the long term, it might cause insulin resistance.
On the other hand, low-carb diets may cause belly fat loss in overweight individuals, people at risk for type 2 diabetes, and people with polycystic ovary syndrome.
However, you don’t have to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet.
Some research suggests that replacing refined carbs with unprocessed carbs may improve metabolic health and even reduce belly fat (13).
Eat fruits rather than drinking juice:
Although fruit juice provides vitamins and minerals just the same as the fruit itself, it’s often just as high in sugar as soda.
And if you eat an orange, for example, you would get vitamins, minerals, sugar, and dietary fibers. These fibers make you feel whole way faster than the juice.
So if you eat two oranges, for example, you will feel full, and the amount of sugar you get from the fruit won’t be overwhelming.
However, a large serving of the juice can take up to 6 oranges, for example. That is three times the amount of sugar with zero added benefits of the fibers.
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria found in some foods like yogurt or supplements.
They may have health benefits, including helping improve gut health and enhancing immune function (14).
And researchers have found these beneficial bacteria play a role in weight regulation and can help with weight loss, including belly fat loss.
Most of all, the types of bacteria shown to reduce belly fat include members of the Lactobacillus family.
However, we recommend consulting your healthcare provider before adding probiotics supplements.
Drink green tea:
Green tea is the most popular drink when it comes to weight loss.
Not only does it increase the metabolism rate, but it is also full of antioxidants that fight off free radicals.
And free radicals are the main culprit responsible for cell damage, from skin and hair to blood vessels.
Moreover, studies concluded that green tea could stimulate weight loss, especially when you drink it in doses of 500 milligrams per day for three months (15).
It also shows a significant change in the waist circumference with regular consumption. However, green tea alone is not enough for the individual to depend on without a caloric deficit.
2. Exercise and working out
Cardio, or aerobic exercise, is one of the most popular and effective ways to lose weight and improve stamina.
And although most cardio workouts focus on core strengthening exercises, losing belly fat and gaining muscle is beneficial as all movements concentrate on engaging the core.
However, you’ll do some core activation if you’re doing steady-state cardio, like logging miles on a treadmill or stationary bike. This alone is not enough; different variations in your workout routine are essential.
Studies show that cardio can be an effective form of exercise to reduce belly fat and gain muscles.
However, we recommend variations and higher intensity for relatively faster results, as the frequency and duration of your exercise program can also be very important.
Begin with a regular forearm plank position. Keep your body straight, engage your core, and elbows under your shoulders. Here are a few examples of cardio workouts that will help:
Then, jump with both legs to the sides and bring them back into position.
Knee taps and high to low plank:
Begin in a high plank position with the feet slightly wider than the hip distance.
Draw your right knee under your torso and tap it with your left hand while trying to keep your hips in place without rotation.
Step back to the plank position and repeat the same move on the other side by drawing your left knee and tapping it with your right hand.
Drop your right forearm down to the ground, then drop your left forearm down so you end up in a regular forearm plank with your elbows under your shoulders.
Then, push up to a high plank again, put your right hand under your shoulder to press your right arm straight, and repeat with your left side.
Keep your abs and core engaged the whole time to target your muscles and avoid any injuries.
High plank rotation:
Start by getting into a high plank.
Ensure your wrists are shoulder width apart, your arms are extended, and your body is straight from your shoulders to your toes. This is very important to avoid any back injuries.
Then, shift your weight to the left side, turning your body to the right.
That happens when your left arm is straight beneath you, and your hand rests on the ground, while your right arm should be straight up in the air, forming a straight line with your left hand.
Also, your right leg should create a straight line with your torso. Ensure your hips are straight with your whole body and not sagging toward the ground.
After that, return to the plank position but don’t let both your hands touch don’t-round simultaneously.
Once you place your right hand back on the basis, rotate by lifting your left hand. Get into the same position as before but with your right hand supporting you and your left hand up in the air. Your left leg should form a straight line with your torso in this position.
Remember that the other leg in this position supports your weight behind the straightened leg.
Start with sitting on the ground with your knees bending at 90 degrees and your heels resting flat on the floor. Hold your hands together in front of your torso.
Then twist to your upper body’s right side. And bring youbody’ss down towards your right hip. After that, switch to your left side.
For more advanced individuals, do this workout with your feet elevated.
Hip dip plank:
Start with a basic forearm plank with your elbows under your shoulders and your body in a straight line.
While keeping your core and abs engaged, lower the right hip toward the floor while keeping both elbows planted.
Return to the center, then reverse the move so your hips drop to the left.
You start this workout by sitting on all fours on the ground. Then leave your knees off the ground at a 90 degrees angle, keep your back straight, and make sure your knees are hip-width apart. Also, your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
Then move your right hand and left foot forward simultaneously while maintaining your posture.
After that, do the same with your left hand and right foot; this completes one rep.
Resistance training, weightlifting, or strength training is essential to your lifestyle to lose belly fat and gain muscle. It also works wonders with diabetes type two patients and individuals with fatty liver.
However, if you decide to start lifting weights, you should talk with your healthcare provider or family doctor if you have a medical condition.
And if your doctor says you can begin resistance training. Get advice on how to start from a certified personal trainer.
Some health conditions that resistance training might negatively affect are back problems and joint problems.
Strength training workouts that target abdominal muscles:
Dumbbell wood chopper:
Start with standing with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Hold a relatively light dumbbell with both hands.
Both hands hold the dumbbell up, creating a diagonal line starting from your right foot, going along your body, and to your stretched arms on the upper left side.
Then, raise your arms diagonally in front of your body to the left side. If you pause at this position, your body should form a diagonal line starting from your right leg stretched to the side, your right toes on the ground.
After that, bring your hands with the dumbbell down to the right side, bringing it across the body until you reach your hip’s right side.
If you pause at this position, your knees should be slightly bent, your feet, your face, and your upper body should be facing the right side. It is better to focus on keeping your lower body stable while rotating your core.
Low to high dumbbell chopper:
Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of the chest.
Rotate your body towards the left foot while lifting the right heel and rotating on your right ball of the foot so your knee faces the other knee and your hips face the left side.
All while you are bending over and lowering the weight down the outside of your right foot.
Then reverse the movement, and continue rotating through the center until the body faces the right side, turning on your right ball of the foot and raising weight overhead at a 45-degree angle.
Dumbbell crossover punch:
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Hold dumbbells of the appropriate weight in both hands at your chest with your elbows on the floor.
And while keeping your hands at your chest, roll up to a sitting position. Twist your torso to the left as you punch your right hand outside the left knee.
Bring the right hand back to your chest as you untwist, rotate your torso back to the center, and roll down to the ground.
Repeat the sit-up while twisting to the right side and punching your left hand.
Start with sitting with your legs in front of you. Then hold a dumbbell in front of your chest.
Lift your feet off the floor while engaging your core muscles as you twist to the right.
Slowly return to the center and repeat.
Squat to overhead press:
Start standing and hold two dumbbells toward your chest with your palms facing your body.
Lower into a squat and then stand up straight. At the same time, extend your arms overhead with your palms facing away from your body and repeat.
Why are losing belly fat and gaining muscle necessary?
Too much belly fat can increase your risk of certain chronic conditions like fatty liver, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many other conditions.
And though losing fat from this area can be difficult, there are several things you can do if you’re looking to lose belly fat and gain muscle, such as the things we mentioned earlier regarding food and exercise.
But to know if you have excess abdominal and visceral fat or if you want to see if you are overweight in general, we do not recommend using BMI as a guide.
And while many different health organizations depend on body mass index (BMI) to classify weight, BMI is only calculated using height and weight and doesn’t consider body composition doesn’t have vast and heavy muscles that elevate your importance, your body mass index might indicate that you are overweight or obese.
While in reality, this excess weight is just power weight, and you can be very healthy. And that’s why you should consult your healthcare provider and go through regular checkups to know whether you have a weight issue.
When you step towards a healthier lifestyle, you should always research different diets and exercises to see which is safer and more suitable for your needs.
And although there is no such thing as targeting fat loss in certain areas, integrating certain foods into your diet, following certain workout routines, and avoiding unhealthy food ingredients will help you lose belly fat and gain muscles.
And one primary rule to remember here is to be safe regarding your life choices and avoid artificial supplements.
There is no such thing as fast and maintainable results; you should never risk your health to reach any goal.
We hope we were able to help you today. Let us know in the comments if there is anything that we can help you with. And as always, stay safe.