Having extra abdominal fat can be frustrating and hard to change. It’s overwhelming to sort through the conflicting information out there about detoxes, fad diets, and ab exercises that promise to give you a flat stomach by Sunday.
In this article, we’ll bust those belly fat myths by exploring what actually causes a “muffin top” in the first place. Then, we’ll give you a comprehensive, realistic plan to get rid of excess belly fat—including a workout that will blast fat using HIIT-style exercise. Read on!
What Causes Muffin Top Fat?
Having excess abdominal fat (sometimes referred to as a “muffin top” or “love handles”) can be caused by a variety of factors. The most obvious cause of a muffin top is simply carrying extra fat all over. But here are four other factors that can contribute to belly fat, too.
- Genetics: If you’re carrying a little extra fat all over, some of it will logically be carried around your waistline. But the truth is, where your body naturally tends to store the most fat is mostly due to genetics. But don’t use your genetics as an excuse to feel defeated. If you have excess belly fat, you can start by losing fat all over and then toning your abs.
- Poor diet: Consuming a lot of sugary sodas, high-sodium foods, and artificial ingredients will naturally lead to belly bloat. Different foods also trigger bloating in different people; try keeping a food log for a week to write down what you ate for each meal and how your stomach feels afterwards.
- Stress: Not only does chronic stress contribute to storing excess visceral fat (fat stored within your abdominal cavity), but being stressed can naturally make you reach for more salty and sugary snacks as a coping mechanism.
- Hormones: If you’re entering perimenopause or menopause and finding you have more fat around your middle, it could be a change in hormones. If you are estrogen dominant, you can store more belly fat than you want. Check out this article to learn how to balance your hormones for weight loss.
Related: The One Diet That Actually Works
How To Get Rid Of A Muffin Top: 4 Proven Solutions
Now that you know a few main causes of excess belly fat, we’ll cover 4 proven ways to reduce belly fat and get rid of that muffin top:
1. Clean Up Your Diet
You’ve probably heard this phrase by now, but if you haven’t, listen loud and clear: You can’t work off a bad diet. In an editorial by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers say excess sugar and processed carbs— not physical inactivity— are primarily to blame for the growing obesity epidemic.
Excess calories, especially those in the form of sugar and unhealthy fats, end up as fat on your body and that includes your belly. The goal is to expend more calories than you take in to lose weight. One way you can do this is by eating clean.
Eating clean doesn’t mean intense dieting! The key is to choose primarily whole foods, and eat small meals regularly. Whole foods means fiber-filled vegetables, fruit, lean protein and healthy fats. Walk the perimeter of your local grocer or visit a farmers market just to see your options.
And for some inspiration, try these high-protein, low-calorie breakfasts that kickstart your metabolism and prevent overeating later in the day.
2. HIIT Exercises
High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is a form of cardio that has you work as hard as you can for short periods of time (20-30 seconds) with short periods of rest in between.
HIIT training, or similar styles like Tabata intervals, are more efficient at burning calories and keep your metabolism elevated long after you are done exercising. So calories will continue to burn even as you move throughout the next part of your day.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. This includes a mixture of cardio, High Intensity Interval Training, and strength training.
3. Get Enough Sleep
You may not immediately connect the dots between sleep and your weight, but research can prove it: study participants who were put on a sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55% reduction in fat loss compared to their well-rested counterparts.
A lack of sleep can change your fat cells by disrupting your body’s ability to properly use insulin. Excess insulin can cause your body to store fat in unwanted places, like your waist, which can cause weight gain and even diabetes.
Adults should regularly get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep to stay healthy, regulate their mood, and help them meet their weight loss goals.
4. Strengthen Your Core the Right Way
Eliminating the fat around your midsection with better eating and proper exercise is crucial. The next step to achieving a flatter belly is to work on strengthening your Transverse Abdominus (“TVA”). This is the muscle that sits deep and low in your belly.
By taking time to strengthen this muscle properly, you create a built-in corset that will pull your tummy in, protect your low back and promote better posture—something that will also make you look leaner. Exercise methods such as Pilates are excellent for learning how to make this muscle rock solid.
8 Exercises to Get Rid of a Muffin Top
Now that you know the proper steps to lose a muffin top, try these fun moves in your home or at the gym to start targeting belly fat.
This HIIT-style muffin top melter workout for beginners combines high intensity cardio training with real core exercises to help you tone and tighten your tummy while blasting calories.
Instructions for a 16-minute workout:
- Do each move for 20 seconds. 10 seconds rest in between.
- Repeat each exercise three times for a 16-minute workout!
How to do skaters:
- Start with your legs slightly wider than shoulder distance apart and arms at the sides.
- Bring one leg behind at a slight angle into a reverse lunge. The front knee will come to a 90-degree angle.
- Swing the arms in front of that bent knee and leap the back leg forward to switch sides in a skating motion. Arms alternate as you switch sides like a speed skater.
2. Sweeping scissors
How to do sweeping scissors:
- Start lying on the mat with arms over your head and legs long.
- Sweep arms out to sides and bring head, neck, and shoulders off the mat reaching arms long and lift one leg up and in towards the chest. Reaching arms forward on the sides of the leg. Roll back to mat lowering the leg, and repeat on the other side.
3. Lateral Shuffle
How to do lateral shuffle:
- Start standing with feet hip distance apart and sink into a deep knee bend. Bring both hands in front of the chest in guard position.
- Start with right foot moving right and left foot following. Shuffle right for four right-left steps, then move left for four left-right steps. Continue shuffling right left for the desired amount of time.
4. Plank Side Lift and Lower
How to do plank side lift and lower:
- Start by laying on your right side with forearm below shoulder, body lifted and legs long and feet stacked. Keep body straight, abs tight and place left hand on hip.
- Dip your hips down towards the mat and lift back up using your obliques and core muscles.
5. Split Jumps
How to do split jumps:
- Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart. Hands are in front of the chest hand on fist. Take a large step forward with one foot and lower your body toward the floor. Both legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.
- Lower the back knee slightly and jump to switch the feet. While in the air front foot comes back and back foot comes to the front. Land in a bent knee lunge. Repeat.
6. Bend Extend Ab Tuck
How to do bend extend ab tuck:
- Start seated on mat with arms behind you, hands on the mat and fingers facing your backside. Sit back on your hands and lift up your feet off the mat keeping the knees bent.
- Keep abs tight and press your legs out long and lower back down slightly. You should feel your lower abdominals working, then push yourself back up and pull your knees in to return to your starting position.
How to do burpees:
- Start in a plank position with arms and legs long, hands shoulder distance apart.
- Walk or jump both feet between your hands coming into a low squat. Jump straight up as high as possible, land, and come back to your plank position.
8. In In Out Out Plank
How to do in in out out plank:
- Begin in a forearm plank position with your body in a straight line and abdominals contracted.
- Step your left foot out to the left.
- Step your right foot out to the right.
- Step your left foot back to center.
- Step your right foot back to center.
You’re now equipped with the tips you need to get rid of that muffin top: eating right, combining strength training and cardio, getting enough sleep and using moves specifically designed to target your core. Now get ready to burn off belly fat and work towards a healthier you!