Stomach Sticks Out: The Problem
Sometimes working out and dieting or being naturally thin doesn’t mean that you won’t ever have to deal with stomach fat. You may have noticed how your friends or even you, despite being skinny, have a visible belly. The fact that your stomach sticks out when you are fit creates a load of confusion. But it is not a one-in-a-million case and happens more often than you may think. You might grow a belly because draining a bottle of cold beer after work is your way to kick back and unwind, or it could be the result of a certain health issue you’re battling with. In this article, you will find out why your stomach sticks out, and how to effectively solve this problem.
Reasons Why Your Stomach Sticks Out
There are different reasons why your stomach sticks out even if you are in prime shape. To figure out how to get rid of that problem, you first need to determine its cause. So, here are some factors that may cause a visible belly:
It may be nice to relax after a hard-working day and have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine, but if the amount of consumed alcohol surpasses the norm and is regular, it may promote the deposition of fat in your abdominal area. The Korean research shows that consistent alcohol intake in adults causes an increase in the waist circumference, resulting in belly fat (6). In addition, excessive alcohol consumption has many negative consequences, including certain cancers, pancreatitis, heart muscle damage, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. So, if you want to trim your waist a bit, you should reduce the amount of alcohol intake or consider kicking this habit altogether.
The problem that your stomach sticks out depends not only on your lifestyle. A study shows that stomach fat may be caused by certain genetic factors, and may be managed with the help of correct nutrition and physical activity (13). If your parents are a bit on the fuller side, it doesn’t mean that packing on some pounds down the line is inevitable for you, because maintaining a healthy diet and working out on a regular basis won’t give your belly fat a chance.
A bad posture doesn’t only make you look older, but also makes your stomach stick out. Although slouching doesn’t exactly make you gain belly fat, it relaxes and weakens your abdominal muscles, while squeezing your organs and making your stomach protrude. In order to check if that is the reason for your problem, stand in front of the mirror and straighten your back. Pull your shoulders back, opening your chest. Check in the mirror if your belly is still there. If not, then you know that it is time for you to start working on improving your posture.
Good posture not only improves your looks but also yields multiple health benefits. For example, many people regularly suffer from lower back pain. These pains are often the result of a sedentary lifestyle and poor posture. Improving your posture is somewhat time-consuming, but it will help you get rid of this and other problems such as headaches, neck and shoulder tension, and temporomandibular joint pain. There are various practices for improving your posture, mainly including a series of low-impact exercises.
Another thing that may lead a visibly rounder belly is recent pregnancy and delivery. Your abdominal muscles significantly stretch and weaken during pregnancy and may require some additional local exercises to get back in shape.
It is also possible that your stomach sticks out due to the phenomenon called diastasis recti. It occurs when your abdominal muscles separate to let your uterus expand but don’t reconnect after some time after the delivery. To treat this condition, it is recommended to consult with a doctor (4).
Constantly being under stress can not only significantly harm your mental health but may also be of great danger to your physical wellness. Your body deposits fat in your belly for a long-term use, due to the excess production of a stress-regulatory hormone – cortisol (16). The problem with cortisol is that it stimulates your appetite. That’s why people resort to comfort food and eat more than usual when they’re stressed. But this isn’t the most unpleasant thing – cortisol lowers your metabolic rate. As a consequence, you burn fewer calories which, with regular stress, directly leads to weight gain.
You may continue gaining pounds due to stress even if you’re following a healthy diet. If you suspect your stomach sticks out because of stress, visit a doctor. Carefully eliminating other causes is crucial when you need to understand the role of stress in the problem. In any case, decreasing stress levels is extremely important for your mental health and general wellbeing. Try to reduce your level of stress by exercising or meditating.
Bloating is usually temporary and appears as a result of constipation or gases. It can occur because of lactose intolerance, consumption of fizzy drinks, dehydration, and others. This problem can be solved by fine-tuning your diet. Avoid all the gas-inducing foods, such as beans, broccoli, wheat, onions, garlic, dairy products, beer, hard candy, fatty foods, and others (22). If you suffer from bloating all the time, make sure to consult a specialist on that matter. Sometimes bloating can be the result of other conditions, such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, particular gynecological conditions, and bacterial infections.
When a woman hits menopause, her body goes through a slew of changes, and one of them is decreased production of estrogen. Some of the other causes of growing depositions of belly fat among women who go through menopause are changes in sleep pattern and lack of sleep, decreased muscle mass, insulin resistance, and others. This problem can be solved by regular full-body workouts, proper sleep, and consumption of healthy fats.
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How To Effectively Banish Your Belly Fat
Now that you figured out the reason why your stomach sticks out and found out a little about how to get rid of it, it is time to go a bit deeper into this topic. Read on about how to make your tummy fat vanish by changing your lifestyle and implementing some of the following recommendations into your everyday life (1).
It is not a secret, that a balanced diet is the key to sound health. And although there are lots of different diets that promise to instantly melt off your excess fat, some of them are not that healthy or well-balanced. If you want to get rid of your protruded belly, here are some nutrition recommendations which will help you fight this problem:
Increase The Consumption Of Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are not only a great option for your health improvement but are also highly recommended by dietitians as a substitution for saturated and trans fats. The problem is that saturated fats are more likely to stick to the sides of your arteries, gradually clogging them up, which leads to higher blood pressure and higher risk of heart disease. Trans fats in their turn are considered the most harmful fats out there. Found mostly in packaged processed foods, they increase your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol, leading to huge risk of heart disease.
If your stomach sticks out because of nutrition, you absolutely need to reduce the consumption of saturated fats and eliminate trans fats altogether if possible. There are various good fats, which, when consumed in moderation, can help trim your waist and flatten your belly. Olive oil is especially effective in the process of weight loss, which decreases lipotoxicity, which leads to the reduction of saturated fatty acids that attach to the internal organs (19). Other sources of healthy fats include avocados, eggs, fatty fish, nuts and nut butters, chia seeds, and others.
Drink Coffee And Tea Instead Of Sugary Drinks
One of the main rules of any healthy diet is to avoid drinking sugary drinks. Carbonated drinks are high in calories, full of preservatives and colorings, and are completely incompatible with a healthy lifestyle. In order to stay hydrated, you should drink water, but if you don’t like plain water, you can have a cup of tea or coffee every morning. Although the sole consumption of coffee won’t burn all your excess fat, it may add to the weight loss process (9, 8). But it doesn’t mean that you should drink 6 cups of sweetened coffee every day. Stick to the unsweetened black coffee (11).
Tea is also a great low-calorie beverage, which can significantly improve your dieting results. It is rich in antioxidants, possesses anti-inflammatory properties and it is recommended by lots of dietitians. The flavonoids found in tea promote a healthy metabolism and help your body burn fat faster (10). And thanks to its different flavors, you are unlikely to get sick of it.
Ways To Jazz Up Your Drinks
If you are tired of water, tea and coffee, there are several ways to jazz up your drinks. First, you can start with the good old lemon and water combination. It will add some zest to your drink and will make it tastier. You could also add juices and smoothies to your diet, but in small amounts. While 100% fruit juices and smoothies are certainly healthy in terms of vitamins, there is no fiber left in the fruit, which means that you are less likely to feel full after consuming a smoothie or juice rather than a whole fruit or vegetable. Look carefully at the labels if you are choosing a commercially made smoothie (it may contain a lot of added sugar), or better, always prepare them by yourself at home. Vegetable juices are also an interesting option – they usually contain less sugar and calories than fruit juices.
Consume More Fruits And Vegetables
It is general knowledge that fruits and veggies are filled to the brim with essential vitamins and minerals. Some of them are packed with vitamin C which is a great antioxidant and not only boosts your immune system and metabolism, but also improves your cardiovascular health, may prevent certain cancers, and plays an important role in the production of collagen. Collagen is the main component in connective tissue, which is found in tendons, ligaments, skin, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, and others. And that is the effects of only one vitamin of all 13 existing. So, you really should start taking the micronutrients more seriously.
Fruits and vegetables are also a rich source of fiber, which is associated with the reduction of visceral fat (18) – the lower layer of fat which is located near the internal organs. Consumption of fiber can also help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Cut Back On Carbs, Especially Refined
Not all carbohydrates are bad, and you need to keep this in mind when putting together your diet plan. Oftentimes people try to completely eliminate carbohydrates from their diet, but this is not exactly the right approach. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body. Weight gain, which is often blamed on carbohydrates, is not due to carbohydrates per se, but due to their excessive content in modern foods.
A distinction is often made between “good” and “bad” carbohydrates. Carbs found in sugary drinks and foods, refined grains, white bread, and others are high in calories but low in nutritional value. These refined and simple carbs have been linked to abdominal fat deposition and should be avoided.
Simple carbohydrates trigger a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, often referred to as the “blood sugar rollercoaster”. This activates insulin, which quickly lowers glucose levels, converting it to fat. This leads to the so-called “sugar crash”, which aside from weight gain, makes you tired, worsens your mood, and increases your appetite. Not all carbs are simple and refined though. It is recommended to substitute them with complex carbs, which occur in fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain products. Those complex carbs often contain fiber as well, which is helpful for weight loss.
Eat Lean Proteins
Protein is the main building block of your cells. With proteins, your body can grow actively, repair damaged cells and create new ones, and defend itself against viruses and bacteria. Proteins are made up of amino acids necessary for the body to function properly.
There are complete and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain all the amino acids the body needs, while incomplete proteins contain some of them. Most complete proteins are animal-based products such as meat, poultry, cheese, and other dairy. Most plant-based proteins, other than soy, quinoa, buckwheat, and seitan, are incomplete. So, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you need to consume protein from a variety of sources. Including some lean proteins into your diet can help you reduce the consumption of fatty meats and overall food cravings, promoting prolonged feeling of satiation.
Protein is also highly beneficial in the weight loss process, as it helps to preserve the lean muscle tissue, while fighting fat. You can find lean proteins in legumes, nuts, white-fleshed fish, and lean meat. If your stomach sticks out, you can check out these protein shakes to up your daily protein intake without effort.
Exercising is the second main aspect of a successful weight loss and good health in general. It may help you prevent the occurrence of different diseases, improve health, strengthen your body, reduce stress, and banish your excess fat(2). Here are some of the trainings which you can try:
A proper cardiovascular workout can increase your blood flow and improve your blood circulation, while melting fat and strengthening your muscles. Cardio strengthens your heart and helps it pump blood more efficiently throughout your body. Plus. cardio lowers blood pressure and improves arterial health by raising “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Finally, cardio can help you get rid of excruciating back pain. Incorporate some walking, running, cycling or swimming into your workout routine and you will not only feel better, but will also be able to notice how your body gradually becomes more toned and healthier.
High-intensity interval training is a great fat-burning workout, based on the principle of combining a more intensive exercise with a less intensive one, for example, walking for 3 minutes may be followed by 30 seconds of running. It has proven to be effective at fat reduction and muscle strengthening.
HIIT workouts are highly effective and convenient for several reasons. Firstly, they are suitable for anyone who does not have enough time in a busy schedule for extended workouts in the gym. HIIT workouts allow you to achieve the same results in a shorter time thanks to the extremely high intensity. Secondly, HIIT training has a specific effect on metabolism. When you perform regular cardio, only slow muscle fibers are activated. Those fibers use fat cells as a source of energy. When you perform an HIIT session, your body also engages fast muscle fibers, which use glucose stores as an energy source. Your body is constantly switching between these two sources, and your metabolism speeds up greatly. If your stomach sticks out, try HIIT training for a flat and toned tummy.
Strength training is a recommended way of improving your bone and joint health and shedding excess fat. Although it aims at muscle mass growth, it is an effective way to get rid of a stomach that sticks out. The more muscle mass you have – the more calories you burn. While you burn fewer calories on average in one strength training session than in one cardio session, things are not so simple.
First, strength training improves your metabolism while you are at rest – when you are not doing anything. Secondly, you burn more calories after (!) a strength-training session than after your cardio workout. In general, a combination of cardio and strength training is the best choice. A balance of these two types of workouts in your regular training can help you shed excess pounds and flatten your belly. You can practice strength training twice a week, focusing on the major muscle groups (7).
Although they won’t make your belly fat disappear in an instant, local exercises, such as sit-ups and crunches add to the general amount of burnt calories and strengthen and tone up your abdominal muscles.
You don’t necessarily have to purposely work out for hours in the gym, to increase the number of burnt calories and get rid of your belly. Try adding more motion or dynamics to your daily activity and you will be surprised by the result. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator; walk or take a bike instead of driving somewhere; wander around the room while talking on the phone or watching TV. Even such small changes will make a significant difference.
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Tips And Recommendations To Promote Fat Burning
Besides general dietary and training advice, there are some tips that may add to the whole fat-melting process and help you achieve your goal faster. The following recommendations do not require any critical lifestyle changes and helping you get rid of the protruded stomach, they can also significantly improve your health and wellness.
Use Artificial Sweeteners Instead Of Sugar
If you do not want a stomach that sticks out, but have a huge sweet tooth, don’t worry as there is an option for you. Studies show that using an artificial sweetener instead of sucrose or simple sugars may promote weight loss and even help control blood sugar levels for diabetics (5). But it doesn’t mean that you are to eat more foods with the addition of artificial sweeteners. Consider them a last resort, and most of the time try to keep away from any additional sweetening.
There are some naturally sweet foods, which can satisfy your cravings without ruining all your dieting efforts. They include fruits and berries, dried fruits, dark bitter chocolate, home-made cereal bars which are based on whole-grain cereal, nuts and dried fruits, and others.
Proper hydration is an important aspect of healthy nutrition and life. It doesn’t only improve the state of your skin and wellness but can also significantly help in fighting stubborn stomach fat. Although you should consume 8 glasses of water per day, but the main indicator on which you should focus is your thirst. As was mentioned before, if you are not a fan of plain water, you can sometimes have a cup of tea or coffee instead.
Smoking is an overall health-harming practice, which along with others can promote belly fat. Besides obvious and well-known risks of smoking, such as lung cancer, accelerated aging processes, and others, it has also proven to cause sagging breasts in women. That is why you should stop smoking for your own health and body.
This recommendation was mentioned before, and it is quite an important one. Sleep plays a significant role in your overall wellness. The main purposes of this process are to rest, regenerate and recover. And proper sleep can improve your health, and aid in weight loss, including your belly fat reduction. Sleep norm among adults is 7-9 hours per night. If you want to feel fresh and full of energy every day, and improve your internal functions, including the fat burning process, make sure to have that 8-hour shut-eye.
Why Should You Pay Attention To Your Belly Fat?
Everyone is beautiful, no matter their height, weight, or body type. And there is nothing wrong with having a bit of excess weight. But it does deserve your attention and effort, when it reaches the point when it becomes a menace to your wellness. And having a normal weight does not automatically imply that you are healthy through and through. Such a condition as abdominal or central obesity is measured not by your overall weight, but by your waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio. And as researches show, your belly fat is the worst type of fat there is (3). Here are the risks which central obesity carries (15):
Higher Mortality Rate
A study showed that people with normal weight, who suffer from abdominal obesity have a higher mortality rate than those whose body mass index is higher than the norm (17).
Research shows that people who suffer from cardiovascular diseases or are at the risk of their development often have excess abdominal fat (12).
Certain Types Of Cancer
Big amounts of visceral fat – may cause the occurrence of cancer. It happens as a result of the production of certain proteins, which makes the non-cancerous cells turn into cancerous cells and cause the appearance of tumors (20, 14).
Type 2 Diabetes
Another Korean study showed that visceral fat is more associated with the increased risk of type 2 diabetes than other obesity indicators (21).
Visceral fat is very dangerous and may cause different health conditions. But don’t jump into any conclusions, as having a small belly doesn’t mean that you have abdominal obesity. A moderate amount of abdominal fat is not critical and you can reduce it. However, if you feel like you are close to the point of abdominal obesity, which equals to waist circumference in men of 40 inches (101cm) and above and in women of 35 inches (around 89cm) and above, please visit a doctor.
Being within normal weight range doesn’t always mean that you don’t have excess fat on your body. If your stomach sticks out even if you are skinny, you may need to change certain habits to try to get rid of it. In order to do so, first you need to figure out what causes your protruded belly. It may be the regular consumption of alcohol, stress, hormones, bad posture, recent pregnancy, bloating, or others.
If you are determined to flatten your belly, you should exercise more and stick to a healthy diet. Following the above-listed tips will significantly improve the whole process and make it even more effective. A growing amount of belly fat may be harmful for your health, as it increases the risk of different diseases. If the amount of your abdominal fat reaches a critical point, when it causes central obesity, please, seek help of a health specialist.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- Abdominal Separation (Diastasis Recti) (2018, webmd.com)
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- This is how belly fat could increase your cancer risk (2017, sciencedaily.com)
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