How to Burn Off Stubborn Belly Fat

How to Burn Off Stubborn Belly Fat

Question:

No matter how much exercising and dieting I do, I can’t get rid of a small “spare tire” I’ve had for years. Is there something I can do nutritionally to help burn off that fat? 

– David H.

Hi, What are the foods you recommend that can reduce belly fat (subcutaneous fat) and give a flat belly? Thanks.

– Karthik K.

What foods are the best to eat to get rid of your belly fat and keep it off?

– Shawn R.

Answer:

We are asked these questions a lot! Scan for previous Living Healthy blog articles on the topic and you’ll find no less than twenty. For those already at a healthy body weight or with only a few pounds to lose, fat around the midsection and abdomen seems to resist all efforts at reduction. 

Though you can’t target belly fat with specific foods or exercises, fine tuning your diet and workout program can help you lose weight and tone all over. Exercise including moderate intensity work at least 30 minutes per day plus strength training helps control weight and fight abdominal fat, both subcutaneous and visceral (around the organs).  

For diet, the goal is to reduce foods that are readily converted to fat and focus on those that require greater work to metabolize. Doing so reduces both actual fat storage and the signals/prompts that cause it to happen, such as insulin. As long as your overall caloric intake is less than your expenditure, of course! 

  • Avoid added sugars, particularly in beverages. 
  • Choose wholesome raw ingredients that you prepare yourself instead of processed foods that generally have less fiber and more salt, sugar and trans fat
  • Get a diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (from olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocados and fish). 
  • Include regular intake of active culture yogurt. 
  • Be sure you fill half your plate or bowl with vegetables at every meal, including a variety of colors.  
  • Reduce saturated fat from meat and cheese by substituting with beans, fish, poultry and egg whites.  
  • Keep alcohol intake below ‘moderate consumption.’

Sources: 

  1. Is There ‘One Trick’ to Losing Belly Fat? Rush University Medical Center https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/losing-belly-fat Accessed 9.23.2019 
  2. 8 Ways to Lose Belly Fat and Live a Healthier Life. Johns Hopkins Medicine https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/8-ways-to-lose-belly-fat-and-live-a-healthier-life Accessed 9.23.2019 
  3. 10 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away. Health https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20905682,00.html Accessed 9.23.2019 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

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Do Vegetarians Need Iron Supplements?

Do Vegetarians Need Iron Supplements?

Question:

If you are vegetarian, do you have to take iron tablets to compensate? 

Do you recommend any other foods or fruits? I drink a lot of milk (1% organic) and take the following pills daily:  

1. Move Free Ultra Triple Action
2. ‘C’ Vitamin 500 mg. 
3. MSM 1000mg 
4. Calcium 600 mg
5. Multivitamin Silver Centrum for men +50  

I am 81 years old and have a slight knee problem. Please let me know if you have any other recommendations. 

– Michael J.

Answer:

Your current nutrient supplements do not provide any iron (also known as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferrous fumarate). If you consume a good amount of non-heme iron from plant sources such as vegetables like spinach, beans, nuts, and fortified grain products, it’s possible to meet your daily iron need without supplementation. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vegetarian adults over 50 years of age is 14.4 milligrams of iron per day, which is 1.8 times higher than for people who eat meat.  

Vitamin C helps absorb iron so you should take it with your richest iron meal. Your calcium supplement, on the other hand, reduces the availability of iron so take it at another time of day. Consult with your doctor if you’re concerned about anemia. 

The Vegetarian Resource Group offers sample high-iron menus and a discussion with sample menu for seniors. Unless you have specific symptoms, complaints or health conditions, there is no need to focus on a particular food. I’d recommend a diet rich in legumes, grains, green vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit with 2-3 dairy servings if you wish. Choose whole foods and limit processed foods, added sugar and alcohol. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

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How to Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet

How to Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet

Question:

I want to follow a daily routine which will help me reduce weight. Currently, I am 129 lbs. I want to reduce it to 120 lbs; however, I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat eggs or meat. Please help. 

– Swapna A.

Answer:

Vegetarian diet or not, the same rules apply for reducing body fat to lose weight: eat less than you burn. Where vegetarians may have trouble is with concentrated sugars (in foods like smoothies, cereals, fruit bars) and excess fats (hidden oils in boxed/frozen foods). Restricting intake of processed foods while focusing on whole plant foods will ensure you control the amount of sugar and fat consumed. Basically, choose foods you need to chew! 

Consider a healthy vegetarian dish of lentils, mushroom, onion, chopped spinach, olive oil and carrot over sweet potatoes. Despite the correct balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein you still need to deal with volume. Do you fill a 10-inch plate, 20 oz. bowl or only a cup? Portion control is important, no matter the diet you follow. Just cutting back 50 calories a day can promote a 5-pound weight loss over a year.  

I wouldn’t advise a daily menu repeated over and over because you need a variety of produce, legumes, nuts and seeds to meet micronutrient requirements and provide beneficial phytochemicals. But, you can start with a few days mapped out for you! EatingWell® has a decent vegan 7 day 1200 calorie plan. For a week’s worth of lacto-ovo Indian meal suggestions, check out this traditional plan from Healthline. Also read the Living Healthy blog’s Ask Our Dietitian post How to Lose Fat as a Vegan for more meal and snack options. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Safely Reducing Your Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

Safely Reducing Your Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

Question:

Hi, I wanted to ask a question about dieting. What is the lowest number of daily calories for an adult woman (34 years old, 5’6”, 140 lbs.) that is safe but will also allow for weight loss? I’ve been even eating 1,200 or so per day, but I’m not sure if that’s accurate. Thanks!

– Jess S.

Answer:

First off, 140 pounds for a height of 5’6” makes your BMI 22.6, within a healthy range (18.5-24.9). In general terms, 1,200 calories for women and ,1500 calories for men have long been used as minimum recommended intake levels. Even at these amounts it’s difficult to meet vitamin and mineral requirements unless one’s diet is exceptionally nutrient-rich and balanced. 

Using personalized estimates based on standardized equations is more predictive of actual needs. Using your age, height, weight and gender, your calculated base energy requirement, called basal metabolic rate (BMR), is 1,352-1,376 calories daily*. Your body composition, genetics and physiology, among other factors, determine your true metabolic rate which may be higher or lower than estimated. 

It’s not advised to reduce intake to BMR minimum very long for successful fat loss. Restricting intake to that level creates such an energy deficit that lean mass starts to break down for fuel. The scale may show a weight drop – often significant – from the water released as stored glycogen is used to fill the energy gap. Neither of these conditions foster fat burning or improve body composition.  

My best advice is to increase physical activity which will help retain lean mass and allow you to get sufficient nutrients from a more generous diet. There’s a lot of nutrition you can pack into 150 calories of wholesome foods. A yogurt parfait or bowl of crunchy popcorn is worth a half hour of dancing, recreational biking or swimming in my book! 

*based on MifflinSt. Jeor and WHO equations. 

Suggested further reading: 

Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure It – And Raise It, Too https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/2882/resting-metabolic-rate-best-ways-to-measure-it-and/ 

Calories Burned in 30 Minutes For People of Three Different Weights https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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How to Calculate BMR and Calorie Limits After Weight Loss

How to Calculate BMR and Calorie Limits After Weight Loss

Question:

 Hello, I’m a male, age 37, my height is 5’11”, and I weigh 263 pounds. I’ve been sticking to a 1,400-calorie plan pretty strictly with a calorie counter app and weight scale, and I have lost about 32 pounds. This past month I’ve noticed that the weight loss has slowed significantly and is fluctuating much more than the months prior.
Now that I’m 32 pounds lighter, how can I calculate a new BMR? 

Along with the weight loss, I am significantly more active as well. I do work an office job 9 hours/day, 5 days a week. But I also get to the gym 6 days/week and do somewhere between 30-45 minutes of strength training and 30-45 minutes of cardio, as well as 6 personal training sessions a month. I usually finish my eating for the day around 8/8:30 pm, and fast until 10 am the next day, sometimes waiting until lunch at 12:30 pm.

I’m kind of lost on if I should keep going with what I’ve been doing, or adjust my nutrition routine? And if I should adjust it, what’s the best route to go? Keep fasting? Bump up my calories? More protein? Thanks for your help. 

– Steven M.

Answer:

You’re doing great on your own, Steven! Weight reduction exceeding 2 pounds per week is not considered solely fat loss but also lean and water weight. If your rate of loss has slowed after a couple of months, that’s expected. You don’t really reach a “plateau” until you’ve not lost for several weeks. As you gain muscle the scale may not reflect any change. How has your body composition changed? You’ll want to look at both your body fat % and circumference measurements to get a sense of true progress.  

Based on your stated anthropometric measures and physical activity, I estimate your energy needs to be about 2350 calories for weight loss; a fair jump from your 1,400 per day limit. Rather than use basal metabolic rate, I’d recommend using resting metabolic rate (RMR) which includes bodily functions as your base level of calories to consume. That figure is closer to 2100 calories per day, based on Mifflin-St. Jeor equation. Still a bit greater than your current intake. 

To answer your last questions, I’d recommend initially bumping up your calories to 1,600/day by adding nutrient-rich whole foods (think veggie salad, beans and avocado), continue your routine and track your changes for the next month before deciding on next course of action. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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