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8 Tips How To Lose Belly Fat Without Losing Weight

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 28, 2022

Not everyone with the goal of losing belly fat wants to get to an overall lighter and slimmer body.

As a personal fitness and strength coach, I often deal with clients who want to shed fat around their belly and bulk up at the same time.

This combination of weight loss from fat and building lean muscle is difficult to achieve.

That’s why I teamed up with a few colleagues and a dietitian to research scientific papers and see what kind of diet and exercise routine you’d need for such a goal.

Quick Summary

  • The type of diet and exercise you need to follow to lose weight and abdominal fat is different from toning muscles.
  • Understanding how the body handles fat and muscle loss is a vital part of coming up with the right routine for a fully toned body.
  • Switching from cardio to weight training is just one way you can improve your chances of retaining and building lean muscle tissue, but there’s a lot more to control.

How Do You Lose Belly Fat And Maintain Weight?

A woman stretching outside

You can lose belly fat without losing weight elsewhere by paying careful attention to your calorie intake and the types of training routines you do.

First of all, losing fat to achieve a flat stomach will require you to eat fewer calories than you burn in a day [1].

For extreme weight loss efforts, that would mean achieving a calorie deficit of 20% or more.

The problem is that such a calorie reduction will impact your body weight in other areas, including muscle mass.

Studies on this have shown that the right type of exercise can reduce the risks of muscle wasting [2].

Fat Vs Muscle Weight

A man measuring his belly muscle fat

People tend to look at overall weight gain as a generally negative thing.

But when you understand that muscle tissue and fat have different densities, then you gain a better understanding of your body weight.

While a pound of muscle and fat weigh the same, it’s important to understand that muscle tissue is denser than fat [3].

Even a modest increase in muscle can more than make up for the fat you lose. And this often catches people out as they see the scales aren’t changing much, but they are ignoring their BMI.

So, when we’re talking about weight loss, what we want is a fat reduction and an increase or maintenance of muscle tissue.

OK, it’s time to turn to some tips on how to lose belly fat without losing muscle mass.

8 Tips For Losing Only Abdominal Fat

A muscular male measuring his abdominal fat

These are the tips that should help you lose belly fat without affecting muscle mass.

1. Pay Attention To Your Calories

Depending on who you ask, dietitians and nutritionists will tell you that at least 70% of your efforts have to come from dieting to lose fat [4].

So, losing weight around your belly will require a healthy diet with a calorie deficit. Just don’t push it to extremes and start with a 10% deficit to avoid impacting your muscles.

2. Get Your Macros Right

Losing weight is also about counting calories from protein, fat, and carbs. The more simple and refined carbs you eat, the more stomach fat you’ll likely gain [5]. 

So, cut out all sugar, and eat more protein to gain control over fat and help boost muscle protein synthesis [6].

3. Start Lifting Weights

You might think that to lose belly fat effectively, you need to do an intensive abs workout on a daily basis. But research suggests that focusing more on ab exercises won’t help [7].

Instead, focus on free weight training to build up muscle mass. Not only will your muscle mass increase, but the workouts could help you burn fat more effectively.

“Another benefit of muscle, it is significantly more vascular [better blood supply] than body fat and will cause you to burn more calories at rest than body fat.”

- Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD at WebMD.com

4. Don’t Forget Stretching

A woman stretching on a yoga mat

Stretching can help with weight loss in two ways.

First of all, it can have a significant impact on your stress hormone levels, and those could have a big impact on your weight [8].

But it can also improve your range of motion which would help you perform better during workouts.

5. Turn Down The Cardio

While cardio is great for fat loss, you need to balance it carefully with your strength training [9]. You’ll need to do some cardio like running to reduce belly fat and get a flat stomach, but don't let it take over your weekly training plan.

6. Turn Up The HIIT

In my experience, doing high-intensity interval training for losing weight is one of the best ways for consistently losing weight. The great thing with HIIT is that you can combine resistance training and cardio to remove that stomach fat and boost your muscle growth.

7. Control Water Retention

One of the main reasons that people experience water retention is excessive sodium intake and a lack of hydration. Yes, not drinking enough can cause the body to retain water and store it [10].

8. Keep A Good Desk Posture

You don’t have to resort to desk exercises to lose weight, but good posture while sitting and standing could have a big impact on how much your gut sticks out. Keep your back straight and shoulders back, and feel how your core automatically pulls in.

FAQs

Should You Only Do Ab Exercises For A Flat Stomach?

No, you shouldn’t only do ab exercise for a flat stomach. While this can help strengthen your core, it won’t help to burn enough fat to reveal a flat and sculpted stomach.

Can You Have A Curvy Figure And Flat Stomach?

Yes, you can have a curvy figure and a flat stomach. It will require doing a combination of cardio to lose fat reserves and some strength training to tone the muscles for a curvy appearance.

Take A Planned Approach To Managing Your Body Weight

To achieve only belly fat loss and avoid losing curves and toned muscles, you have to take the approach of not cutting out too many calories and doing more resistance training.

The other thing you can do is boost your fat metabolism with some natural supplements. We have tested dozens of these to find the ones that work best:

They still require a strict diet and workout routine, but you could find that you’ll get more consistent results for your body composition.


References:

  1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/diets-weight-loss-carbohydrate-protein-fat/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5161655/
  3. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20030731/dont-fall-for-fitness-myths
  4. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/a19982520/weight-loss-80-percent-diet-20-percent-exercise/
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110606092532.htm
  6. https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/32/1/article-p49.xml
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21804427/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25127084/
  9. https://www.coachmag.co.uk/fitness/3313/will-cardio-ruin-my-muscle-gains
  10. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/weight/how-recognize-reduce-water-retention-edema/

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