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Abdominal fat: what causes it and how to eliminate it

If you don’t suffer from this problem, you must have, at least, heard someone complain about the “tummy”, usually difficult to eliminate! Even some people who experience weight loss often complain that they have lost measurements in all parts of their body, but would still like to lose a little more “belly”.

The dreaded belly fat can bother anyone, regardless of age. It usually generates a little more discomfort in the most vain people.

Some people believe that women are more “prone” to accumulate this type of fat than men. But, according to Felipe Rocha, a physical education professional at Just Fit, this is not true. “Both men and women accumulate abdominal fat due to poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. The man, having an android characteristic, can locate more fat in the abdomen; and women, as they have the gynoid characteristic, can locate more fat in the hip and lower limbs. But the variety of human biotypes can invert or merge such factors,” he highlights.

Causes of fat accumulation in the abdomen

Functional nutritionist Helouse Odebrecht points out that, physiologically, the female body has a higher percentage of fat than the male body. “But this is a natural biological issue. This is because women have fat deposits, for example, for milk production, due to their body structures, hormones, pregnancy and other particularities that differentiate men from women. But what defines abdominal fat accumulation is habits and metabolic changes,” she says.

Helouse emphasizes that the accumulation of visceral/abdominal fat is linked to bad lifestyle habits, such as those mentioned below:

  • Sedentary lifestyle;
  • Excessive consumption of carbohydrates, sugar;
  • Caloric consumption greater than caloric expenditure;
  • Poor diet quality;
  • Metabolic imbalance (hormonal changes, sleep failure, stress);
  • Imbalance of the body’s biochemistry (altered cholesterol, diabetes, or high glucose, high triglycerides).

The good news, however, is that, by improving these habits and always being attentive to your health, it is possible to reduce abdominal fat and/or prevent its accumulation. Below you can see a series of tips from professionals to achieve these goals.

8 steps to get rid of belly fat

1. Merge cardiovascular exercises with weight training: Rocha emphasizes that merging the cardiovascular exercise routine with weight training will potentiate caloric expenditure and optimize the individual’s metabolism.

2. Fractionated food: “that is, having the three main meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner and intermediate snacks, not staying more than four hours fasting. Thus, your body receives nutrients needed for daily activities and does not store fat. However, the meals must be balanced and meet the needs”, highlights Helouse.

3. Avoid industrialized products: the nutritionist explains that they are rich in vegetable fat and/or sugar and/or sweeteners and chemical additives, such as preservatives and dyes, which are environmental toxins and can disrupt metabolism.

4. Avoid sugar: Helouse reminds you that it is essential to avoid the addition of sugar and also foods that contain it.

5. Consume fiber: “they reduce the absorption of glucose. Like oatmeal, chia, amaranth, quinoa, flaxseed, brown rice, assorted fruits and vegetables”, says the nutritionist.

6. Avoid alcoholic beverages and soft drinks: Helouse reminds you that it is essential to avoid these types of drinks.

7. Sleep well: “have a good night’s sleep and don’t sleep too late (until 11 pm is recommended)”, highlights Helouse.

8. Ingest liquid: “preferably, water or teas without sweetening”, says the nutritionist.

“To reduce the accumulation and excess of abdominal fat, it is necessary: ​​a balanced diet, with whole grains, fruits and vegetables distributed throughout the day; consumption of fibers such as oats, linseed, chia in preparations; drinking water, getting a good night’s sleep and doing frequent physical exercises”, summarizes Helouse.

Aerobic training or weight training: which is more effective?

Talita Moretti, personal trainer, specialist in Exercise Physiology and specialist in Cardiac Rehabilitation and Special Groups, highlights that both are important. “Aerobic exercise has greater caloric expenditure than weight training. However, weight training accelerates weight loss by increasing Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), that is, your body still maintains high energy expenditure even after you have finished your workout,” she says.

“It even helps to maintain (and even increase) muscle mass, further accelerating metabolism when you are at rest. Therefore, combining the two types of training makes weight loss much faster and more effective. The ideal is to achieve at least 220 minutes of exercise per week to achieve significant weight loss”, adds Talita.

Rocha emphasizes that the ideal is always to combine physical capacities, “creating a situation of conditioning gain, which will provide greater performance, greater caloric expenditure in activities, muscle mass gain, increased metabolic rate and, finally, an organism that uses better their energy sources (e.g. fat)”.

The health risks of belly fat

It is important to understand the differences between subcutaneous and visceral fat. “The subcutaneous fat is under the skin, being a source of physiological energy. It protects our organs, it is a thermal insulator, all this under normal conditions (non-obese individual). Visceral fat, on the other hand, is that ‘encrusted’ in the organs, preventing their proper functioning, generating several problems in the medium term (such as, for example, diabetes)”, explains Rocha.

Helouse points out that subcutaneous fat is that which is not directly associated with the organs, as in the case of visceral fat, which is directly linked to the organs (for example, intestine, liver, pancreas), which is the case of the abdominal fat that is below of the abdominal muscle. “There is no bone or muscle that separates the fat from the organs. Different, for example, from hip fat, which despite being harmful is still less than abdominal fat”.

According to the functional nutritionist, the importance of determining patterns of body fat distribution was established in 1956. “The abdominal location of fat (called central obesity) is shown to be associated with metabolic disorders and cardiovascular risk. And this is serious, it goes far beyond aesthetics, it is a health risk,” she highlights.

“The abdominal distribution is associated with cardiovascular risk factors, such as dyslipidemia, arterial hypertension and diabetes mellitus”, adds Helouse.

The nutritionist reminds you that measurements and monitoring of waist circumference or the ratio between waist and hip should always be evaluated. “These measurements are able to provide an estimate of abdominal fat, which, in turn, is correlated with the amount of visceral adipose tissue,” she says.

“For women, a result of a waist measurement below 88 cm is expected. And, for men, below 102cm. The waist/hip ratio (WHR) must be less than or equal to 0.85 for women; and less than or equal to 0.95 for men. There is a recommendation that obtaining these measures be part of the clinical routine for health risk assessment”, highlights Helouse.

The nutritionist also points out that visceral fat deposits have faster mobilization than that of other regions, “increasing the supply of free fat, in the portal system (liver), which can increase blood glucose, insulin and lead to resistance to obesity. insulin (prediabetic condition)”.

Food: the bad guys and the good guys in the story

Helouse cites the main types of foods that contribute to the accumulation of abdominal fat:


  • Sugar;
  • Bad fats, like margarine;
  • Vegetable and hydrogenated fats present in industrialized products;
  • Fried food;
  • Too much butter and oil;
  • Poor quality carbohydrates, such as cookies, cakes, white flour, white bread, snacks, snacks, etc.

On the other hand, there are foods that, if associated with healthy habits, can help reduce or prevent the accumulation of abdominal fat. Helouse cites what they are:

good guys

  • Chia: “excellent source of soluble fiber, in contact with water it forms a gel that helps to reduce glucose absorption, reducing the glycemic index of meals. Recommended use of 1 to 2 tablespoons a day added to fruits, juices, vitamins and preparations”, highlights the nutritionist.
  • Thermogenic herbs and spices: “the thermogenic action of food is characterized by increasing the body’s caloric expenditure and promoting the breakdown of fat cells. Foods such as ginger, cinnamon and pepper, when used in food, help in this process. It can be used in preparations, juices, salad dressings, etc.”, explains Helouse.
  • Foods rich in omega 3: “such as fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), chestnuts, flaxseed, quinoa, algae, olive oil, which have anti-inflammatory power, acting directly on the fat cell, which is an inflamed tissue”, highlights the nutritionist.
  • Avocado and Coconut Oil: “these are excellent quality fats, which act to improve the levels of triglycerides in the blood, helping in the process of reducing abdominal fat. It is essential to consume them in the natural way, avoiding the addition of sugar in the avocado, as many do”, explains Helouse.
  • Green tea (white, red and black): the nutritionist explains that, with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, green tea is one of the most studied herbs when it comes to obesity and fat. “The action is due to its phytochemicals, capable of improving the metabolism of glucose and fat in the blood. The ideal is to consume the herb and not sweeten it so as not to lose this effect. Yerba mate can also be mentioned here as one of the auxiliary foods with properties very similar to green tea”, she highlights.

6 questions about belly fat clarified

Below, professionals clarify the main doubts about the accumulation of abdominal fat (or the “dreaded belly”).

1. Is it normal for some people to have a tendency to accumulate fat in the belly while others accumulate it in other parts, such as butt and culottes?

Felipe Rocha: Totally normal, because the human being has an infinite diversity.

2. Does using reducing creams before exercising help?

Felipe Rocha: No, nothing scientifically proven worth the financial expense!

3. Is it true that abs are not recommended for those who want to have a flat stomach?

Felipe Rocha: This is a myth, because it is essential to strengthen the abdominal muscles for proper muscle balance and a very stable spine.

4. Do I need to put aside my weekend beer to lose my belly?

Helouse Odebrecht: to “lose belly” a combination of factors is needed. Balanced diet;…

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