Figuring out the best approach to losing belly fat can be frustrating and exhausting. First off, spot-reduction, [working out a particular area of the body in hopes to lose weight there], is scientifically proven ineffective. So doing thousands of crunches and holding planks during every commercial break while watching television just isn’t going to do it for you. And unfortunately, any generic article about flattening your belly likely isn’t going to help either. The problem with the one-size-fits-all approach is that every body is unique and will respond differently to changes in diet and various fitness regimens. Scientifically, there are 3 different body types: ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. These body types are more of a spectrum than 3 completely separate categories of human, so you may even find a mixture of tips from 2 of the categories is helpful for you. Regardless, identifying where you fall on the spectrum will help you determine your most effective approach to fat loss in your middle. Below are 7 tips for each unique body type to lose belly fat.
What Body Type Are You?
Ectomorph: “long and lanky”; have difficulty building muscle mass.
Mesomorph: “muscular”; “athletic”; muscles are responsive to training and metabolism runs high.
Endomorph: “big-boned”; heavier through the hips and thighs; tend to add fat mass easily.
7 Tips for Ectomorphs to Lose Belly Fat
- Don’t Skip Breakfast
Resist falling into the trap of skipping meals to restrict calories. You have the body type that, as a kid, you could eat whatever you wanted without gaining an inch. This means your metabolism is great at burning calories! Excess caloric intake, [energy], can be stored as muscle or fat; but in your youth your body always just burned excess energy away! It was nice not to store fat, but the issue with lacking muscle is that muscle mass is essential for weight maintenance and fat burning… lo and behold that stubborn pouch that appeared as you got older and your metabolism slowed. Working out, specifically strength training, is the key to your success. If you’re not fueling your body regularly, especially after fasting through the night, there’s no way your body will have enough excess calories to gain the muscle mass that will burn that belly away.
- Stop Obsessing Over Carbs
Genetically, your body is amazing at breaking down and then using carbs for energy. They are not your enemy! Be mindful of your portion sizes and eat good quality, complex carbs like oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes. These foods will properly fuel you for the workout regimen you need to commit to in order to change your body composition.
- Careful Not to Overdo Cardio
Stick to 30-45 minutes of cardio conditioning, 2-3 days a week max! Your metabolism runs super fast already, so engaging in too much cardio will burn too much energy. Again, that energy is essential for hypertrophy, [building muscle] – burning it away with too much cardio will make it impossible to change your physique.
- Strength Train At Least 3 Times A Week
In order to successfully build muscle mass and change your body composition, you need to strength train often and with discipline.
- Keep Strength & Cardio Workouts on Separate Days
As we’ve already gone over, spending copious amounts of time at the gym just isn’t going to work for your body type. Fit in a solid 3 days of strength training and alternate that with 2-3 days of cardio, which will leave you 1-2 rest days.
- Recover Between Exercises
For the same reason as you want to keep strength and cardio days separate, you’ll also want to recover for 30-60 seconds after every set when you’re strength training. Lack of recovery time brings an aerobic component into strength workouts that can sabotage an ectomorph’s aspirations to gain muscle mass.
- Avoid Only Doing Isolation Exercises
Compound exercises – exercises that work multiple muscle groups in the same movement – like squats and deadlifts are often very effective with ectomorphs. Sprinkling isolation exercises like hamstring curls and shoulder raises into your workouts is necessary for hypertrophy, [muscle growth], but making compound exercises the foundation of your program is certain to give you the most dramatic results.
7 Tips for Mesomorphs to Lose Belly Fat
- Watch Your Portions
The thing about mesomorphs is that, genetically, your body is incredibly responsive to seemingly small changes in both diet and fitness regimen, [though changes will have to be more dramatic the older you get… ahh, the perils of aging!]. Admit it though – you never had to try that hard for your physique – your naturally athletic build allowed you to eat at you pleased in your younger, more active years. So, simply put, all you need to do is approach your diet with more discipline and your workouts with more intensity. Yes, when you were 17 that extra chicken breast did you no harm… but if you don’t need the fuel, put the fork down!
- Fill Up On Protein
Mesomorphs generally respond well to a high protein diet… but not well to an only protein diet. Yes, your body will likely lean out when the majority of your calories come from protein, but stacking bacon strips on top of a greasy burger is not going to help you lose the spare tire. To lose belly fat, on an average day, around 40% of your calories should be consumed from lean proteins, approximately 30% from nutritious fats and the last 30% should be from plant-based and complex carbohydrates.
- Eat Good Quality, Nutritious Foods
More often than not, mesomorphs lack discipline with their diet because they didn’t need to practice discipline when they were young. Conscientiously making better choices will go a long way for your body type. Simple swaps like topping a protein with avocado, which is loaded with healthy fats, instead of consuming the fat in a side of greasy french fries, is often all your metabolism needs to kick into gear.
- Strategically Mix Strength Training With Cardio
Interval training was made for your body type. Intervals of power lifts, plyometrics, battle ropes, sled pushes, sprints and other athletic drills is the intensity your body craves.
- Keep Workouts Short & Intense
Short duration and high intensity is your body’s preference. Lift heavy. As few as 4-6 reps – so long as the weight is heavy enough to max you out on that last rep – is all you need to stimulate muscle growth and torch fat. Follow that heavy lift with an intense “sprint” on the battle ropes or some explosive, power movements, like box jumps. With this variety and intensity, your body will shift into optimal performance mode, where it will burn as much energy, [fat], and gain as much strength, [muscle mass], as it needs to get the job done.
- Train Like An Athlete
As you likely figured out from the 2 points above: your athletic body type responds best to athletic-style training. Makes sense, right?! Your ideal gym should have turf and sports training equipment like prowlers and battle ropes. You’d also see great results joining a sport specific facility like a boxing gym.
- Rest Days Are Essential
Because your body is built for it, you likely excelled in sports, which engrained a special work ethic into you. This is usually a great thing, but your desire to always do and achieve more could end up sabotaging your results. Exercise, especially your ideal training style, is ultimately a stress on your body, and lack of recovery will lead to overtraining, over-exhaustion and possibly injury. You’ll figure out your best approach, but 3-5 intense workouts a week is all you need to see results and maintain a great quality of life.
7 Tips for Endomorph’s to Lose Belly Fat
- Eat Your Greens
Researchers have found that diets high in fiber, where the majority of carbohydrates are coming from vegetables, are super effective for fat loss in in endomorphs. If you’re an endomorph, you likely don’t even need to be told that your discipline when it comes to your diet has to be of the highest level. Spinach and other leafy greens are chuck full of energizing nutrients and fiber, so blend them into your morning smoothie and incorporate them into a side salad for dinner – consume them whenever and however you can!
- Avoid Foods & Beverages With a High Glycemic Index
High glycemic index carbohydrates are food and drink that cause a dramatic rise in blood glucose, and endomorphs struggle with the task of balancing blood glucose levels far more than other body types. Not only does this put endomorphs at higher risk for developing diabetes, but the stress it causes wreaks havoc on your body hormonally, making fat loss next to impossible. Do some research on what foods you should swap out of your diet for options with a lower glycemic index. Hate to break it to you, but giving up alcohol is one of the best and most effective things you can do.
- Get Enough Sleep
As was touched on above, genetically, endomorph body types just don’t cope with physical stress well. If you’re trying to lose the jiggle in your middle, you should definitely be working out more, and recovery is essential for you. Your body does most of its recovery from workouts while you’re sleeping, and if you’re not sleeping enough, again, your stress levels will spike and your body and excess fat will attach to each other like teenage lovers.
- Steady State Cardio Is Ineffective
The treadmill and elliptical are not going to challenge your body enough to trigger much, if any, metabolic response. Your workouts could look a lot like that of the mesomorph’s, just lower impact. You probably call yourself “big-boned”, and your joints definitely don’t feel the love during high impact exercises like running and jumping. You certainly need to incorporate regular cardio workouts in to your routine to lose excess fat; heavy sled pushes, battle rope drills and heavy farmer’s carries are the types of movements that will jack your heart rate up with little to no impact.
- Strength Train for Hypertrophy
The more muscle mass you’ve got, the more efficient your body is at burning away fat. Hypertrophy is the fancy word for muscle growth. If you focus on adding muscle, in response, your body will melt extra fat away. For endomorphs, lifting heavy for rep ranges of 8-10 for 3-4 sets usually initiates the seemingly magical state where your body builds muscle and burns fat at the same time. Just remember to switch it up! The same program will only work for so long before your naturally strong physique will adapt and results will dwindle.
- Build Mass In Your Upper Body
After the last tip, you’re likely thinking, “But my hips and legs are already big! I don’t want to add any mass there, even if it is muscle!”. That’s fair. Here’s how you can compromise: dedicate 2 hypertrophy workouts a week to your upper body. Build muscle mass in your chest, shoulders, arms and back. Use your, [already incredibly strong!], trunk for 2-3 conditioning workouts per week. Boom, problem solved.
- Body Weight Strength Training Will Kickstart Your Metabolism
Use your strong figure to your advantage! Being heavier means that your body moves itself less efficiently than other body types that are the same height as you. Being “less efficient” is usually not great performance-wise, but when it comes to fat loss, requiring more calories to move your body is only going to help you! Adding body weight exercises to your fitness regimen, like walking stairs, push-ups and pull-ups, is incredibly advantageous.