Many people want that perfectly toned, sculpted beach body – but it’s more than that; obesity has been linked to shorter lifespan and numerous health conditions. While a flat tummy is certainly easy on the eyes, it’s not an easy feat to achieve – but it could be important for health reasons and not just fashionable appearances.
There are many ways to slim down and tone your abdomen but here are 11 of the best tried and tested tips to get your beach-ready body. Note that none of these involves dubious pills, surgeries or other drastic, potentially harmful methods. The usual rules apply though – this is not medical advice and consult your doctor about a new exercise, diet or supplement regimen, especially if you have other health conditions or are on medications.
#1: Drink A Glass Of Water Before Eating
Before it was further studied, drinking water before a meal was advised because it helped fill up your stomach, reducing your food and caloric intake. Recent studies have actually supported this theory, with one published in 2013 revealing that consuming 500 ml of water before a meal (alongside a hypocaloric diet) led to greater weight loss compared to the diet alone. Another study in 2014 found that water intake helps maintain the balance between energy intake and expenditure, leading to weight loss. Of course, there are contraindications when it comes to drinking water – e.g. people affected by congestive heart failure kidney disease.
#2: Eat Five Small Meals A Day
Small frequent feedings is typically encouraged for patients with metabolic problems, particularly people with diabetes because it encourages weight loss, smaller blood sugar spikes and a reduction in total caloric intake. There have been studies that show how increase in meal frequency has actually contributed to significant weight loss, specifically loss of fat, among overweight and obese adults. When a person eats frequently but in small amounts, it prevents overeating, which is one of the causes of weight gain and excess caloric intake. Five small meals a day is ideal – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus two snacks in between.
#3: Eat Slowly
It may seem like weird advice but eating slowly, or at least chewing your food thoroughly, contributes to curbing your appetite and losing weight. A study published in 2013 found that eating slowly increases the body’s gut hormones responsible for reducing appetite. An older study in 2008 found that eating slowly reduced a person’s energy intake and increased satisfaction after eating a meal. This tip will surely help with the path to a flat tummy!
#4: Know Your Serving Sizes
When watching your weight, you will need to learn how to look at (and understand!) the nutrition facts on the packaging of the food you buy. However, food like meat and vegetables are different — you would need to understand the meaning of serving sizes. Serving sizes vary for each food item, but for meat it is typically the size of a matchbox. Always look at the serving size of a food item you are about to consume, because nutritional facts are usually based on a single serving. It can be easy to overeat if you are unaware of how big a single serving is, so be careful!
#5: Do 30 Minutes Of Cardio A Day, Five Days A Week
Moderate activities like brisk walking, cycling (slower than ten miles an hour), and sports like tennis are recommended by the American Heart Association at 150 minutes a week – thirty minutes in five days is the easiest way to remember this. The recommendation for vigorous activities like running and jogging is less, 75 minutes in a week. Always take time to exercise – it improves your cardiovascular health and help keep the pounds off.
#6: Good Posture
Good posture is a great way to keep tension in the abdominal muscles, much like a continuous exercise. Without correct posture, the body experiences more strain, which can lead to musculoskeletal problems. While good posture alone isn’t enough to contribute to significant weight loss, it does make sure that our musculoskeletal system is functioning at an optimal level. Sometimes, a flabby stomach is actually the result of bad posture and not excess weight! Keep your head, back, and shoulders aligned to maintain the three natural curves in the back. You might be interested to know that lack of activation of the hip flexors can also cause the lower abdomen to be pushed forward, causing people to appear fatter than they actually are.
#7: Core Strengthening
Core strengthening exercises is one of the most effective ways to get a flat stomach. This type of exercise targets the specific muscles in the abdomen that make up a person’s “abs”. While cardio exercises like running will help keep the pounds at bay, core strengthening exercises focus on giving you the perfect set of abs. Leg raises, and bridges are some examples of effective core strengthening exercises.
#8: The Plank
The plank is actually considered a core strengthening exercise, with various modifications that allow just about anybody to perform it. The plank without any modifications is pretty tough to pull off – you lie on your stomach first, then bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and use the tip of your toes to balance and lift your torso and lower extremities off the ground. It’s like a push up but you balance on your forearms instead of your hands. Modified versions include balancing on the knees instead of the toes, and doing the plank sideways. The side plank is done by balancing on one hand and one foot (the modified version, again balancing on one forearm instead).
#9: Cut Down On Sweets, Sodas And Junk Food
Pretty obvious but your diet is one of the best ways to get your stomach in shape for summer! Cut down on excessive sweets and junk food that do not contribute any nutrients to the body and instead add empty calories to a person’s diet – leading to weight gain. According to the US Department of Agriculture, empty calories are calories from solid fats and sugars in junk food – they contain calories but do not have any vitamins or minerals. These “empty calories” can be found in soda, cookies, pizza, candy, and other similar snacks. Eat “real food” instead.
#10: Cut Down / Give Up Alcohol
A “beer belly” is caused by the excess calories found in alcoholic beverages and the conversion of alcohol to sugars. This is considered “science fact”: In two studies done separately on men and women, weight gain was positively associated with an increase in alcohol intake. Both studies showed that the greater the alcohol intake, the more likely a person is to gain weight and become obese. Both studies state that drinking up to 30 grams a day is fine (considered light to moderate drinking), but anymore will cause you to gain weight.
#11: Give Up Refined Sugar
If you could point one finger to a substance that can single-handedly dash your hopes for the perfect abs, it’s refined sugar. Not only does excess sugar intake contribute to heart disease and metabolic disorders, it is positively associated with weight gain and eventual obesity. According to a study in 2013, the average American barely eats any vegetables and fruits, getting the majority of their caloric intake from refined sugar and flour in junk and fast food. Excess glucose is easily converted into fat. Another study in 2014 advises people to cut down on sugar-sweetened beverages, wherein reducing consumption has positive effects on weight loss.