Losing the fat around your midsection can be a battle.
In addition to being a risk factor for several diseases, excess abdominal fat may make you feel bloated and discouraged.
Luckily, several strategies have been shown to be especially effective at reducing your waist size.
If you dream about having a flat stomach, this article may be just what you need.
Here are 30 science-backed methods to help you reach your goal of a flat stomach.
One popular approach is to reduce your daily intake by 500–1,000 calories to expect to lose approximately 1–2 pounds (0.5–1 kg) per week ().
That being said, restricting your calorie intake too much can be counterproductive.
Eating too few calories can cause a major decrease in your metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn on a daily basis (, , , ).
In one study, a group of people who ate 1,100 calories per day slowed their metabolic rate more than twice as much as those who consumed about 1,500 calories per day for four consecutive days ().
What's more, this decrease in metabolic rate may persist even after you start behaving like you normally do. That means you may have a lower metabolic rate than you had before you severely restricted your calorie intake (, ).
Therefore, it is important that you don't restrict your calorie intake too much or for too long.
Bottom Line: Eating too few calories may slow your metabolic rate, even in the long term. Therefore, it is important not to restrict calories too much or for too long.
Soluble fibers absorb large quantities of water and slow down the passing of food through the digestive tract.
This has been shown to delay stomach emptying, causing the stomach to expand and make you feel full (, ).
Furthermore, soluble fiber may decrease the number of calories your body is able to absorb from food ().
By eating soluble fiber, you are also less likely to accumulate fat around your organs, which reduces your waist circumference and the risk of several diseases ().
One observational study showed that each 10-gram increase in daily soluble fiber intake decreased fat gain around the midsection by 3.7% over five years ().
Good sources of soluble fibers include oats, flaxseeds, avocados, legumes, Brussels sprouts and blackberries.
Bottom Line: Eating soluble fiber has been linked to a reduced risk of developing fat around your midsection.
Probiotics are live bacteria that are suggested to play a big role in weight loss and weight maintenance (, ).
Overweight and obese people have been shown to have a different composition of gut bacteria than normal-weight people, which may influence weight gain and fat distribution (, , ).
A regular intake of probiotics may shift the balance towards beneficial gut flora, reducing the risk of weight gain and fat accumulation in your abdominal cavity.
Some strains of probiotics have been shown to be particularly effective at reducing belly fat. These include (, , , , ):
- Lactobacillus fermentum
- Lactobacillus amylovorus
- Lactobacillus gasseri
Probiotic foods include some types of yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi and pickles.
There are also a wide variety of probiotic supplements available. However, these supplements usually contain several strains of bacteria, so make sure to pick one that contains at least one of the strains mentioned above.
Bottom Line: Probiotics may help build up beneficial gut flora. Some Lactobacillus strains have been shown to be particularly effective at reducing waist size.
Doing cardio, or aerobic exercise, is an excellent way to burn calories and improve overall health.
Additionally, studies have shown that it is very effective at strengthening your midsection and reducing your waistline (, , , ).
Studies usually recommend doing 150–300 minutes of moderate-to-high-intensity aerobic exercise weekly, which translates to roughly 20–40 minutes per day (, ).
Examples of cardio include running, brisk walking, biking and rowing.
Bottom Line: Doing moderate-to-high-intensity cardio for 20–40 minutes per day has been shown to be effective at reducing belly fat.
Protein shakes are an easy way to add extra protein to your diet.
Getting enough protein in your diet can boost your metabolism, reduce your appetite and assist with fat loss, especially from your midsection (, , , ).
Furthermore, studies have suggested that adding protein shakes to your weight loss diet may be especially effective at reducing your waist circumference (, , ).
Bottom Line: Protein shakes are an easy way to add extra protein to your diet. Including them as part of a weight loss diet has been shown to be effective at reducing your waist size.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature and usually categorized among the "good fats."
Studies show that diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids may prevent the accumulation of tummy fat, the most dangerous type of fat (, ).
The Mediterranean diet is an example of a diet that is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, and it has been linked to many health benefits, including a reduced risk of central obesity (, ).
Foods high in monounsaturated fatty acids include olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Bottom Line: Diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids may reduce the risk of central obesity.
Limiting your carb intake has been shown to have powerful health benefits, especially for weight loss (, ).
More specifically, studies show that low-carb diets target the fat that lodges around your organs and makes your waistline expand (, , , ).
Some studies also suggest that you can significantly improve your metabolic health and reduce your waistline by simply replacing refined carbs with unprocessed, whole food carbs (, ).
Observational studies have shown that people with the highest intakes of whole grains are 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who consume diets high in refined carbs ().
Bottom Line: Limiting your total carb intake, as well as simply replacing your refined carb intake with whole food carbs, may reduce your waist circumference and improve your health.
Losing muscle mass is a common side effect of dieting.
This can be detrimental to your metabolic rate, as losing muscle decreases the number of calories you burn on a daily basis ().
Doing resistance exercises regularly may prevent this loss of muscle mass and, in turn, help you maintain or improve your metabolic rate (, ).
Moreover, resistance training may be especially effective at tightening your midsection and reducing your waist size (, ).
In fact, combining resistance training with aerobic exercise seems to be the most effective for slimming your waistline ().
Bottom Line: Resistance training may prevent the loss of muscle mass often seen with dieting, which may help maintain your metabolic rate and reduce your waist circumference.
Performing exercises while standing up may benefit your health more than performing the same exercises while sitting or using weight machines.
By standing, you activate more muscles to maintain balance and hold up your weight. Therefore, you'll spend more energy working out ().
A study comparing the effects of standing and sitting exercises showed that some standing exercises increased muscle activation by 7–25%, compared to sitting ().
Another study suggested that standing may improve your breathing, compared to sitting ().
Although this may seem like a minor alteration, it may strengthen your midsection and is worth a try.
Bottom Line: Doing exercises while standing instead of sitting may burn more calories, activate your muscles more and improve oxygenation and breathing ability.
Apple cider vinegar is linked to several impressive health benefits, most of which are mainly attributed to its content of acetic acid.
Several animal studies have suggested that acetic acid may reduce body fat accumulation (, , ).
Although human studies are somewhat lacking in this area, one study in obese men showed that taking one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar each day for 12 weeks reduced their waistlines by 0.5 inches (1.4 cm), on average ().
Bottom Line: Apple cider vinegar is mainly made up of acetic acid, a compound that may reduce body fat accumulation.
A combination of diet and exercise is probably the most effective way to achieve weight loss and improve your overall health.
Interestingly, studies have shown that you don't need to exercise vigorously to reap health benefits.
Regular, brisk walks have been shown to effectively reduce total body fat and the fat located around your midsection (, ).
In fact, walking briskly for 30–40 minutes (about 7,500 steps) per day has been linked to a significant reduction of dangerous tummy fat and a slimmer waistline ().
Bottom Line: Walking for 30 minutes daily may slim your waistline and prevent the accumulation of dangerous tummy fat.
Sugary soda, fruit juices and energy drinks are generally loaded with sugar and liquid calories.
It is also very easy to drink large quantities at a time, resulting in an abundance of empty calories.
The thing with liquid calories is that your brain doesn't register them like it registers solid calories. Therefore, you'll end up consuming these calories on top of everything else that you eat or drink (, ).
One study showed that each daily serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage increased the risk of obesity by a whopping 60% in children ().
These drinks are also generally loaded with fructose, which has been linked directly to belly fat gain (, , ).
Bottom Line: Your brain doesn't register liquid calories like it registers solid calories. Therefore, they're added on top of everything else you eat and contribute to weight gain.
The single best dietary advice you can give someone is to base their diet around eating more whole, single-ingredient foods.
Whole foods are loaded with nutrients, fiber, water, vitamins and minerals.
This makes it very difficult to overconsume these foods, some of which even have their own benefits for preventing weight gain (, ).
Try to eat plenty of whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish and unprocessed meat.
Bottom Line: Whole, single-ingredient foods are loaded with nutrients, and it's hard to eat too much of them.
There are at least three ways in which water may help you achieve a flat stomach.
First, it may help with weight loss by temporarily increasing your metabolic rate.
In fact, drinking water may increase your total energy expenditure by up to 100 calories per day (, ).
Second, drinking water before meals can make you feel fuller, so you'll ultimately eat fewer calories (, , ).
Third, it may help relieve constipation and reduce belly bloating (, , ).
Try drinking a large glass of water before each meal. It may help you achieve your goal.
Bottom Line: Drinking water may increase your metabolic rate, make you feel fuller and help relieve constipation, all of which may help you achieve your goal of a flatter stomach.
Mindful eating is a technique that helps you recognize and cope with your emotions and physical sensations regarding food and hunger (, ).
It involves slowing down, eating without distraction, focusing on your physical hunger cues and eating only until you feel full ().
Most studies agree that mindful eating helps you lose weight by changing your eating behavior and reducing stress-related behavior, such as stress eating and binge eating (, , ).
Also, it is more likely to help you keep the weight off in the long term, as it focuses on changing your behavior.
Bottom Line: By eating mindfully, you can focus on your physical hunger and eating only until you're satisfied. That reduces the risk of stress eating and binging.
The biggest source of gas in the diet is carbonated beverages such as soda.
The bubbles in it contain carbon dioxide, which is released from the liquid in your stomach. This may cause stomach distention or bloating.
This can also happen when you chew gum, drink through a straw or talk while eating.
Eating in silence, drinking from a glass and swapping carbonated drinks out for water may help you achieve a flatter stomach.
Bottom Line: Carbonated drinks and gum may both cause stomach distention and bloating in some people.
One popular way to do high-intensity training is to perform intervals of very intense activity, such as sprinting, rowing or jumping, with short breaks in between.
This way of exercising makes your body burn more fat and increases your metabolic rate, even long after you've finished your workout (, , , ).
High-intensity training has been shown to have superior effects on fat burning, compared to other types of exercises, and is especially effective for slimming the waistline (, , ).
What's more, this type of exercise takes up way less of your time than other types of exercise, as it usually can be done in 10–20 minutes.
Bottom Line: High-intensity training increases fat burning and metabolic rate, even long after your workout is over. It is especially effective for slimming the waistline.
Stress and anxiety are very common, and most people experience them at some point in their lives.
Stress is linked to the development of many diseases, and it is also a common reason why people tend to eat or binge eat, often without being hungry in the first place (, ).
Also, stress triggers the body to produce cortisol, a stress hormone. It has been known to increase appetite and lead specifically to belly fat storage (, , ).
This may be especially harmful in women who already have a large waist, as they tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress, which further adds to belly fat gain ().
Try to add some stress-relieving activities to your daily routine, such as yoga or meditation.
Bottom Line: Stress triggers the production of cortisol, which increases appetite and drives belly fat storage.
Protein is the most important nutrient when it comes to weight loss.
Your body burns more calories digesting protein than fat or carbs. Therefore, a high-protein diet may account for an extra 80–100 burned calories per day (, ).
High-protein diets also reduce your appetite, make you feel full and help you retain your muscle mass during weight loss (, , , ).
Furthermore, studies have observed that people who eat more protein have slimmer waistlines than those with lower protein intakes (, , ).
How much protein you need depends on many factors, such as your age, gender and activity level.
Generally, you should aim to get 20–30% of your calories from protein on a daily basis. This can easily be achieved by incorporating a protein source in every meal.
Bottom Line: High-protein diets may increase your metabolic rate, reduce your appetite and help you retain muscle mass during weight loss. They are also linked to lower abdominal obesity rates.
When you're trying to lose weight, it can be helpful to track your food intake.
There are several ways to do this, but the most popular and effective ones are counting calories, keeping a food diary and taking pictures of your food (, , , ).
You don't have to do this all the time, but it may be good to track your intake for a few days in a row every few weeks. This will make you more aware of your calorie intake and allow you to adjust your weight loss diet if needed.
Studies generally agree that people who track their food intake are more likely to reach their weight loss goals ().
Here are five free apps or websites that allow you to easily track your nutrient and calorie intake.
Bottom Line: Tracking your food intake once in a while may help you lose weight by making you more aware of your calorie intake.
Eggs are healthy, high in protein and have a few unique weight loss properties.
A large egg is very nutritious and contains only about 77 calories ().
Studies have shown that eating eggs for breakfast as part of a calorie-restricted diet may cause up to 65% greater weight loss over eight weeks, compared to other types of breakfast foods (, ).
An egg breakfast has also been shown to significantly reduce calorie intake for the next 24 hours, automatically and without effort (, ).
Moreover, eggs have been shown to be more effective at reducing waist size than other foods with the same calorie content (, ).
Bottom Line: Eggs have well-established weight loss properties and may be more effective at reducing waist circumference than other foods when matched for calories.
Getting a sufficient amount of good sleep is very important for weight loss.
Studies have repeatedly shown sleeping less than five hours a night for adults and less than 10 hours for children is linked to an increased risk of weight gain (, ).
In women, short sleep duration is consistently linked to increased waist size, compared to those who get a good night's sleep (, ).
Similarly, sleep-deprived people are up to 55% more likely to become obese (, ).
Luckily, shifting sleep duration from shorter lengths to healthier lengths has been shown to help eradicate these effects ().
Bottom Line: Those who sleep too little are much more likely to gain weight and have increased waist circumference, compared to normal sleepers.
Intermittent fasting is an eating method in which you rotate between eating and fasting for specific amounts of time.
The most popular intermittent fasting approaches are doing a 24-hour fast two to four times per week or a 16:8 fast, where you restrict your eating window to eight hours each day, often between lunch and dinner.
Generally, this makes you eat fewer calories overall without having to consciously think about it.
While intermittent fasting has only been shown to be as effective as regular, daily calorie restriction at reducing tummy fat, many people find intermittent fasting to be easier to stick to than traditional weight loss diets (, , , ).
Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting generally makes you eat fewer calories with little effort by restricting your "eating window." It's effective at reducing tummy fat and may be easier to stick to than traditional weight loss diets.
It is generally recommended to eat fatty fish once or twice per week.
Fatty fish is very healthy and rich in essential long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and good-quality protein (, ).
Protein has been shown to help with weight loss, and studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver and abdominal cavity (, , , ).
If you don't like eating fatty fish, you can get long-chain fatty acids from fish oil or fish oil supplements.
Bottom Line: The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish may help reduce the accumulation of fat around your waist.
Added sugar is linked to most of the common diseases in society today, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease (, , ).
The intake of added sugar is way too high in most societies, and Americans eat about 15 teaspoons of added sugar daily ().
Studies have shown a direct link between high intake of added sugar and increased waist size, especially in people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages (, , ).
Added sugar is hidden in various foods, so it is very important to read the ingredient lists on foods.
Bottom Line: Added sugar has a direct link to increased waist circumference, especially in those who regularly drink sugar-sweetened beverages.
Studies have shown that replacing some dietary fat with MCTs may increase energy expenditure and make you feel fuller (, , , ).
What's more, coconut oil has been shown to more effectively reduce waist size than other types of fat (, ).
Keep in mind that coconut oil is still fat with 9 calories per gram. Therefore, it is important not to just add coconut oil to your diet, but rather replace other sources of fat with it.
Bottom Line: Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides. Replacing other fats with coconut oil may increase your energy expenditure, make you feel full and reduce your waist circumference.
Crunches and other abdominal exercises can benefit both your overall health and appearance.
By doing regular core exercises, you strengthen and add mass to your abdominal muscles, which may prevent back aches that result from weak posture.
A strong core will also improve your posture and prop up your spine, allowing you to appear taller and more confident.
Furthermore, core exercises help you strengthen the muscles that ultimately hold in your belly, making you appear leaner.
Aim to do core exercises that engage all your core muscles, such as planks or Pilates roll-ups.
Bottom Line: By strengthening your core, you are training the muscles that hold your stomach in. By having well-trained abs, you will appear taller, more confident and leaner.
Drinking coffee has been shown to increase the number of calories you burn by about 3–11% (, , ).
Similarly, drinking tea or taking green tea extract supplements has been shown to increase fat burning up to 17% and calorie expenditure by 4% (, , , ).
This includes green tea, black tea and oolong tea.
Most importantly, studies in animals and humans have shown that drinking coffee and tea may reduce the risk of accumulating belly fat, helping you reduce your waist size (, ).
Bottom Line: Drinking unsweetened coffee or tea may increase your fat burning and reduce your waist size.
Alcohol contains seven calories for each gram, which partly explains why alcoholic drinks tend to be loaded with liquid calories.
Ounce for ounce, beer contains a similar number of calories as a sugary soft drink, while red wine contains a whopping twice that amount (, , ).
Although moderate drinking is unlikely to affect weight gain, heavy drinking is linked to increased weight gain, especially around your midsection (, , ).
If you want a flat stomach, you should aim to reduce or skip the alcoholic drinks.
Bottom Line: Heavy alcohol consumption may contribute to weight gain, especially around your midsection.
You can easily sneak extra activity into your day by increasing the amount of non-exercise activity you do.
This involves walking, standing, fidgeting, moving around and basically everything other than exercise training, sleeping and eating ().
Studies have shown that just standing, fidgeting or walking around can increase the calories you burn by five- to six-fold, compared to sitting still (, ).
One study suggested that fidgeting, walking and standing could burn up to 2,000 extra calories per day, depending on your weight and activity level ().
Make it your goal to walk around while talking on the phone, stand up regularly, work at a standing desk or take the stairs whenever possible.
Bottom Line: Increasing the amount of non-exercise activity you do may significantly increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.
As you can see, there are many strategies that can help you achieve your goal of a flat stomach.
By incorporating some of the tips mentioned above into your daily routine, you may get to see your six pack sooner than later.
Keep in mind that it may take some time and effort, but will all be worth it in the end if done properly.