Low carb, HIIT circuits and portion control

Low carb, HIIT circuits and portion control

Take advice from these dietitians, nutritionists and fitness experts.

1. Go low carb

Research indicates that women who followed a low carb diet had a smaller waist circumference over a five-year period than those who didn’t.

Following a low carb diet also means that you’re likely to consume more protein and studies indicate that a diet rich in high protein foods such as eggs, fish, seafood, legumes, nuts meat and dairy result in overall less belly fat, more satiety and an increased metabolic function.

A protein rich diet also helps maintain muscle mass and will help provide the necessary fuel to power you through your workouts.

2. Add fibre to your diet

Secondly, adding fibre-rich foods to your meals is also key in keeping off the belly fat.

One study showed that eating 10 grams of soluble fibre per day was linked to a 3.7 per cent reduction of fat in the abdominal area as well as a 10 per cent decrease in calorie intake and a 2kg weight loss over a period of four months.

A good source of fibre is to eat foods such as legumes, oats, psyllium husk, chia seeds as well as vegetables and fruit.

3. Eat gut friendly foods

Other studies show that strains of Lactobacillus family can also make you lose belly fat. The research indicated that eating yoghurt with this strain reduced body fat by three to four per cent over a six-week period.

Taking probiotic supplements can also help. During the three-month study, women taking probiotics lost 50 per cent more weight than those taking placebo pills.

4. Eat more fat

Eating healthy fats is another key for reducing belly fat. One study linked eating avocado on a regular basis helped lower waist circumference and BMI.

Another study showed that fatty fish rich in omega 3 fats help reduce visceral fat. If you aim to get two-three serves of salmon, herrings, sardines, mackerel and anchovies per week then research shows you can significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat.

1. Portion distortion

Even if you’re eating healthy foods, it’s possible to go overboard and therefore struggle to lose weight and belly fat. That’s because all foods, regardless of how ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ they are, contain calories – so you can still rack up too many.

To give you a helping hand, here’s some of the most common traps people face when it comes to portion size:

  • Having a whole avocado smashed on toast, rather than the recommended quarter
  • Drizzling oil over everything like they’re a celebrity chef on a cooking show, rather than using just a teaspoon per person
  • Diving into a mountain of pasta or rice, instead of a more sensible cup of cooked grains per person
  • Digging into a whole bag of nuts for a snack, instead of sticking to 30 grams (a small handful)
  • Serving up huge slabs of steak and chicken, instead of the recommended 65 and 80 grams (respectively)

2. Liquid calories

A lot of people are surprised to hear just how many calories they’re consuming from fluids like soft drink, juice and of course, alcohol. So, even if you’re eating super healthily, your fluid intake could be sabotaging all of your effort and good intentions.

A glass of white wine, for example, contains about 100 calories per glass (150mL), and a schooner of full strength beer contains 160 calories. Cocktails pack a lot of calories, too, with a mojito having 170 calories and a daiquiri having 110 calories. Other calorie-rich drinks include fruit juice (with 55 calories per 200mL glass) and soft drink, which has roughly 125 calories per 375mL can thanks to all the sugar.

So, what’s the solution? Stick to water most of the time, and you’ll save yourself a heap of unnecessary kilojoules.

3. Excessive sitting

Weight management isn’t just about what you put in your mouth, but how you move your body, too. You see, your metabolism is made up of three components: your basal metabolic rate (that’s the energy your body uses just to keep you alive), the thermic effect of food (i.e. energy used for digestion) and energy used from physical activity.

It’s pretty simple. The more exercise you do, the greater the number of calories you expend. Hello, weight loss!

But that’s not all. By doing more exercise – and therefore building more muscle – your basal metabolic rate increases, too, because lean muscle takes more energy to maintain than fat. So, it’s easy to see why exercise is such a key component of any weight loss attempt.

Fitness expert Sam Wood says: “I think the world is finally waking up to the fact that burning belly fat and building six packs is not based on thousands of sit ups or running marathons. It is built on efficient, HIIT based training combined with maximising lean muscle for metabolic efficiency and of course, being smart in the kitchen.”

Here are the best belly fat burning exercises to incorporate into your workout routine:

1. Boxing

Boxing is the ultimate fat burner because it engages your whole body and requires speed, agility, cardiovascular fitness, strength and power. There is a reason boxers are some of the fittest people in the world, not to mention some of the leanest.

2. HIIT Circuits

HIIT is undoubtedly the best way to burn fat. They’re short, sharp and challenging but the reason they are so effective is because they produce EPOC (excess post-oxygen consumption). EPOC raises your resting metabolic rate – the rate at which your body burns energy when at rest, for 24 hours or more post-workout.

3. Interval Running

Interval running is an epic fat burner. Similarly to HIIT workouts, a shorter interval session will lead to a higher EPOC than a longer, steady state cardio workout like a long run. These short bursts of max efforts pushes your body to the limit and makes it work harder to return to normal.

4. Resistance Training

It is still such a common misconception that the best way to burn fat and lose weight is to endless amounts of cardio. While cardio is definitely still a great way to burn calories, you will become a much more efficient fat burner if you incorporate resistance training into your routine. This is because the more lean muscle mass you have the more calories you burn at rest.


So, if you’re serious about burning belly fat better than ever before, you need to look at your weekly routine and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there some form of HIIT training at least three times a week?
  • Am I performing some kind of resistance training at least twice a week? Remember, this doesn’t have to be weights. Any form of resistance training to tone and build lean muscle will work.
  • Am I moving my body in some form every day?
  • And last but not least, am I working hard and doing all of this great training only to undo it all with crap nutrition?

Belly fat diets, explained

According to the CENTRAL trial, the Mediterranean diet is the best at getting rid of liver fat which is the most dangerous type of weight to store around the midsection.

Professor Iris Shai of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, led the team of researchers who studied 278 obese people.

The participants were split into two group; half followed the Mediterranean diet and the other half went low-carb, but both had a similar calorie intake. They stuck to their eating programs for 18 months, with an MRI scan measuring body fat distribution before and after.

The group on the Mediterranean diet ate small portions of red meat, moderate amounts of poultry and fish, and lots of fresh vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

The low-carb group’s only instructions was to limit their total fat intake to 30 per cent of daily calories, keeping to 10 per cent saturated fat max and no more than 300mg of cholesterol per day.

Both groups experienced overall weight loss, but the people following the Mediterranean diet had less fat around the liver, heart, and pancreas.

Not surprisingly, researchers also confirmed that exercise also helped melt abdominal fat. It’s the kind of fat you don’t want to carry, it’s linked to metabolic syndrome that can cause high blood pressure and cholesterol, stroke, peripheral artery disease and heart attack.

Those on the Mediterranean diet had an average 11 per cent decrease of fat around the heart and their visceral fat was down a whopping 25 per cent. There was a one to two per cent decrease of fat in, and around the pancreas, which was also significant for health outcomes.

The most important result was a 30 per cent reduction of liver fat. When you team that with overall weight loss, it means that group had significantly reduced health risks commonly associated with obesity such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“Reduction in liver fat is a better predictor of long-term health than reduction of visceral fat, which was previously believed to be the main predictor,” Shai explained in a press release.

“The findings are a significant contributor to the emerging understanding that for many obese individuals, excess liver fat is not merely a sign of health risks associated with obesity, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but is likely also a cause.

“Healthy nutrition, while also maintaining consistent, moderate weight loss, has a much more dramatic impact on levels of body fat related to diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular disease than we previously thought.”

From growth to digestion to reproduction, your hormonal system plays many important roles by sending messages to your body’s cells through your bloodstream. In conjunction with your immune and nervous systems, your hormones help your body to cope with many different stressors.

Hormones get the blame for a bevy of ailments, although sometimes, it’s not entirely their fault. To get you up to speed, here’s some of the most common hormones people like to talk about:

  • The female sex hormone, oestrogen, regulates mood and is important for bone health and cholesterol management. Oestrogen also plays a significant role in body fat distribution, with lower oestrogen levels (which naturally occurs after menopause) linked to belly fat.
  • Another female hormone, progesterone, which has a role in fertility.
  • The male sex hormone, testosterone, which is important for developing sperm.
  • The stress hormone, cortisol, is ramped up when you’re under pressure. A certain level is needed at all times to keep things in balance.
  • Insulin, which is secreted from the pancreas after you eat carbohydrate to help control blood sugar levels.
  • Thyroxine, which is released by the thyroid gland and is important for metabolism, brain development and digestion.

Can diet help with hormones?

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but if you’re experiencing a legit hormone issue (like diabetes, thyroid problems or menstruation abnormalities), your diet mightn’t fix it alone. You’ll probably have to head to the GP (or even an endocrinologist) for medications to help fix the problem.

But if you’re simply looking to support your hormonal health, a healthy diet (along with enough sleep and exercise, of course), can certainly help. The best part? It doesn’t involve expensive superfoods, supplements or exotic potions – at the end of the day, it simply comes down to balance.

Happy hormone meal plan

To give you a helping hand, here’s a healthy meal plan that will support happy hormones to help you lose weight, bust belly fat, improve your energy and help you feel your best.


  • Natural muesli with plain natural yoghurt and berries
  • Wholegrain toast with natural peanut butter, banana and cinnamon
  • Poached eggs on wholegrain toast with avocado and tomato


  • Chickpea salad with mixed leaves, tomato, cucumber and feta cheese, dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Wholegrain wrap filled with skinless BBQ chicken, salad and a slice of cheese
  • Tuna toastie made with mustard and a slice of cheese, served with veggie sticks and hummus


  • Monday: homemade roast veggie frittata with dressed leafy greens
  • Tuesday: BBQ’d chicken thighs served with roasted sweet potato and dressed leafy greens
  • Wednesday: pan-fried fillet of fish with sautéed peas and roasted veggies
  • Thursday: spaghetti bolognese made with extra veggies (like zucchini, mushroom and capsicum) and wholemeal pasta, served with leafy greens
  • Friday: homemade burgers made of a lentil patty, halloumi and salad served on a small grainy roll
  • Saturday: baked salmon with mashed potato, steamed broccoli and steamed carrots
  • Sunday: veggie-packed tofu stir fry served with long grain brown rice


  • Plain natural yoghurt
  • Fresh fruit
  • A handful of unsalted nuts
  • Plain, air-popped popcorn
  • Veggie sticks and hummus
  • Wholegrain crackers and hummus

When it comes to fat loss, lemon water has been promoted as the ultimate fix for belly fat for a long time now. So before you spend your hard earned money on another fat loss supplement, does it work?

Here’s what you need to know

The first thing to know when it comes to detox products is that there is no scientific consensus about what constitutes a detox product.

This means that they are not bound to deliver any specific outcomes or benefits, and as such, the term ‘detox’ is commonly associated with ritualistic type products that one would use daily such as a tea, tablet or supplementary drink that makes you ‘feel’ like you are doing something good for the body.

The other important thing to know is that the body does not need to be detoxed; rather the liver and the kidneys do a very good job in eliminating wastes and processing the toxins our bodies are exposed to each and every day. This means that products claiming to detox the body are more likely simply adding some extra fluid, vitamins, minerals or herbals that claim to have a vast number of benefits for the body. Rarely are these benefits proven.

The case for lemon detox drinks

In the case of lemon detox drinks – this means adding a little lemon juice (or citric acid) to glucose, along with other ‘detoxing’ ingredients such as with pepper to create a simple beverage – you are encouraged to drink each this each day to help ‘flush’ out toxins or even replace a meal (or all meals) with to induce rapid weight loss.

Indeed, if all you are eating and drinking is a little lemon and sugar with truckloads of water each day, you will lose weight pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, this weight loss is not being supercharged by any key detox ingredient, nor is belly fat preferentially being burnt. Rather some fat is being burnt as you are not eating anything else, and some of this may be belly fat.

The big problem

The primary issue with this type of program is that it is basically starvation.

As the body will not be getting the protein it needs, nor any essential fat, overtime metabolic rate will slow to manage this starvation, meaning you burn less calories overall.

Then when you start to eat regular food again, you are more likely to regain the weight you have lost, and then some. This scenario is common for chronic dieters who repeatedly lose large amounts of weight on restrictive diets only to regain it all again as soon as normal eating resumes.


While adding a lemon detox drink into your daily routine will do very little to help you burn belly fat, it will also do you no harm.

Indeed, starting with day with a glass of water and lemon will help to hydrate you. Just remember that adding lemon to the water does increase the acidity of the water, which is not great for tooth enamel.

Bottom line

So, when it comes to detox drinks I would suggest saving your money as they will be doing little more than a standard glass of water will, and if you really want to reduce your belly fat, start your day with a brisk walk or run instead along with a protein rich breakfast.


Keto, or extremely low carbohydrate diets, are extremely effective in inducing fast weight loss, if a) ketosis is maintained, and b) if people can follow them. Anecdotally, in my experience they work better for males and for those who have large amounts of weight to lose (>20kg).

For females, keto is not always the best option as, a) they tend to prefer carbs over fats and therefore may have difficulty achieving and maintaining ketosis, and b) may find that hormones are influencing where fat is stored in the body specifically resulting in stubborn belly fat. This is not to say that keto will not work. Rather for keto to work, you have to be able to adhere to it long term and that hormonal issues such as insulin resistance may be influencing whether or not belly fat is likely to be mobilised.

Intermittent fasting

Fasting can be extremely effective in inducing fat loss as it can dramatically alter eating patterns and metabolism.

When it comes to targeting particularly stubborn areas of body fat – as is often the case with belly fat – change to regular routines is the key. For someone who has had little success achieving fat loss with regular diet and exercise, incorporating regular periods of fasting can give metabolic rates a boost, resulting in subsequent changes in body shape, composition and body fat when nothing else seemed to work.

The thing about fasting is that unlike keto, the results are relatively slow (1-2kg a month versus 1-2 kg a week on keto) but of course you have to have this much extra weight on keto to actually lose to see these results.

Belly fat burning foods

1. Roasted chickpeas

The perfect healthier alternative to savoury snacks like crackers and chips, roasted chickpeas are full of fibre and muscle-building protein to keep you feeling full. You can make your own at home or buy them from the health food section of your local supermarket.

2. Wholegrain bread

Despite all the hoopla surrounding carbs, wholegrain bread is actually super nutritious, providing long-lasting energy, gut-loving fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals. You’re looking for a dark, dense bread with visible grains and seeds (so long, fluffy white rolls!).

3. Fish

A fillet of fish is the perfect choice for lean protein to round out a meal. Not only is it low in calories (and therefore perfect when you’re trying to lose weight), but it’s associated with a raft of health benefits, too. Hook, line and sinker.

4. Tinned legumes

Chickpeas, beans, lentils – they’re the underdog of the superfood world. Cheap, easy to use and economical, legumes are everything that modern hyped up superfoods aren’t. Not only do beans, chickpeas and lentils make for a tasty addition to meals, they’re also rich in fibre and protein to keep you feeling satisfied (and less likely to cave into a chocolate bar later).

5. Yoghurt

Another high protein snack choice, yoghurt is rich in calcium to support strong bones and teeth. My best advice is to opt for a plain, reduced-fat variety and add your own sweetness with fresh fruit.

6. Nuts

A small handful of nuts a day is a good habit to get into with a healthy waistline in mind. Although they’re rich in fat, research has actually shown that eating nuts regularly reduces your risk of being overweight. You’ll be pleased to know that peanut butter counts, too.

7. Rolled oats

The perfect way to start your day, rolled oats are a superstar when it comes to good quality grains. Not only are they rich in hunger-busting fibre, but they’re higher in protein compared to other grains – and both of these qualities keep you feeling satisfied.

8. Fruit

Fresh fruit is the perfect low-kilojoule snack to satisfy your sweet tooth while keeping your calorie budget in-tact. And before you ask – no, fruit does not have too much sugar, and all fruits can be on your menu (yep, even bananas, mangoes and watermelon).

9. Eggs

Another high protein option to keep hunger pangs at bay, eggs are a nutrient-rich food for any time of day. Poach and serve them with toast at breakfast, boil and slice them for a salad at lunch, or bake them in a frittata for dinner – there’s endless egg recipes that are light on calories for weight loss.

10. Water

Okay, so not technically a food, but something that’s very important to consider. When your goal is weight loss (and therefore a trim tummy) – minimising your intake of liquid kilojoules is a game changer. Instead of loading up on juices, energy drinks and soft drinks, make the switch to water, and your waistline will thank you.

An easy way to start improving the quality of your sleep and boosting your weight loss is by drinking a cup of pre-bed tea. We’re not talking about the kinds of dubious diet teas that promise to help you shed a stone in a week. Instead, try these herbal teas to satisfy sweet cravings, calm the mind and prepare the body for rest.

1. Cinnamon tea

Cinnamon has tonnes of health benefits. It’s naturally anti-inflammatory, meaning that it’ll help you de-bloat and reduce your overall physical stress load. It’s also said to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar – both of which are vital for losing weight. The spice is also thought to boost metabolism because your body uses more energy to process it. “Though it has a slight metabolism/thermogenic effect, it is more about balancing blood sugar and insulin resistance, which in turn aids weight loss and can lessen food cravings,” nutritionist Helen Bond told The Sun.

Cinnamon can also be added to desserts or hot drinks as a healthy alternative to sugar, as it can have a subtle sweetness. So, if you want something sweet after dinner, a cup of cinnamon tea might be the ideal solution.

2. Chamomile tea

Chamomile is probably the best known “sleepy tea”.

The Romans, Greeks and Egyptians all used the herb as a dressing for wounds to help them heal quicker. Nowadays, it’s known to help soothe muscle spasms, which makes it the perfect post-meal drink.

It can help to relieve belly cramps, IBS, indigestion and gas. It’s also been used for centuries as a sleep aid, thanks to healing ingredients like apigenin and bisabolol.

3. Peppermint tea

Feeling tired and groggy inevitably leads to snacking through the day or reaching for calorific foods. But peppermint tea has been found to awaken the senses in a variety of ways.

It relieves tension headaches, clogged sinuses, improves energy, may improve sleep and it might help to aid weight loss.

A small study got 13 people to take a peppermint oil capsule each. Scientists found that this reduced appetite compared to not taking peppermint oil.

But it may just be that it’s a really satisfying tea that leaves you feeling really refreshed and less likely to snack.

4. Rooibos tea

Rooibos is a South African tea made from the fermented tea leaves of the Aspalathus linearis shrub. Sweet and earthy, it includes plant chemicals which have been directly linked to combating obesity.

A 2014 study found that the tea may speed up weight loss by increasing levels of leptin – our appetite hormone.

It’s the hormone that tells the body we’ve had enough food.

5. Pu-Er tea

This is traditionally drunk black and has actually been directly linked to weight loss.

A 2016 study found that the fat-burning effect of daily tea drinking helped 59 overweight or obese people to reduce their BMI and shift a significant amount of weight. In just four weeks, they were found to have cut fat from their arms, legs and bellies.

And they also reported having a smaller appetite after drinking it.

1. Fruit juice for fresh fruit

There’s nothing like a glass of freshly squeezed OJ in the morning.

But how often do you have juice that you’ve made yourself, rather than stuff from a bottle?

Fruit comes with heaps of health benefits but by juicing it, you’re stripping out the fibre and just leaving sugar behind. And if you buy juice, you’re almost guaranteed to be drinking added sugar.

In fact, a glass of apple juice can contain as much sugar as a can of soft drink – even if they’re different types of sugar.

Dr Sarah Brewer said some people believe that juices are a good way to consume vitamin C, however juicing strips fruit of its fibre content.

“Eating the whole fruit will ensure you get the nutrients as well as the fibre which has been linked to helping maintain a healthy gut microbiome,” she says.

For a really healthy, filling snack, why not have an apple dipped in protein-rich nut butter?

Or make a fruit salad of orange and grapefruit at home and take it with you as a mid-morning palette cleanser.

2. Ice cream for Greek yoghurt

Nutritionist Lily Soutter told us that you don’t have to ditch sugar completely to reduce your muffin top – you just have to be mindful of free sugars.

“We don’t usually crave bags of white sugar. What we crave is a combination of fat and sugar, which comes with the hyper-palatable qualities we’re searching for,” she says.

“If you’re looking for healthier sugar alternatives, focus on healthy options such as Greek yoghurt with grated apple and a pinch of cinnamon.”

Why not swap your regular tub of Ben & Jerry’s for a bowl of frozen yoghurt mixed with cinnamon and berries?

Yoghurt is also protein-rich, and a 2014 study found that eating high-protein yoghurt can help to keep hunger at bay for longer.

3. Chips for nuts

Chips are obviously heavenly and a little of what you fancy is fine. But if you can’t say no to eating a whole family bag, then it’s probably best to just stop buying them.

They’re often packed with salt – which can increase the risk of bloating – and they contain high levels of saturated fats.

Nuts, on the other hand, are full of protein and good fats and keep you fuller for longer.

One study found that people who included nuts in their diet for 12 weeks improved the quality of their diet without putting on any extra weight.

Another study looked at the diets of 8,865 men and women over 28 months. It found that those who ate two or more portions of nuts a week had a 31 per cent lower risk of weight gain, compared to those who never or rarely ate them.

They are pretty high in calories, however, so just be mindful about how many you eat at one go.

4. Processed meats for oily fish

We all know bacon and burgers are bad for our waistlines and our health, if we eat too many.

But processed meats can also be inflammatory.

Inflammation in the body can cause all kinds of havoc – one of them being that they cause you to layer on fat around the gut.

Trans fats, in particular, can cause inflammation. They’re found in many foods, including fast food and baked goods.

Go instead for oily fish like salmon which contain high levels of heart-healthy omega 3s.

5. Swap granola for eggs

Back in 2017, a study by the New York Times found that nutritionists and the American public couldn’t agree on whether granola and cereal bars were healthy or not.

Around 70 per cent of Americans thought that granola bars were healthy compared to just 30 per cent of experts.

As for granola itself, less than half of the nutritionists surveyed thought it was healthy.

While it can be nutritious, many granolas contain lots of sugars and not much fat or protein – meaning that you could sink a big bowl of the stuff at 8am and be pining for a snack a few hours later thanks to a dip in blood sugar.

“A very high-carb breakfast with little fibre and protein to slow the digestive process can lead to short-term energy as well as hunger, often within a couple of hours,” nutrition consultant Ian Marber says.

He recommended having an egg with avocado and a small piece of toast for the perfect breakfast.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can help to keep us feeling satisfied – with studies confirming them as great appetite-regulators.

6. Lattes for green tea

Not everyone is lactose intolerant but many people do have a hard time digesting dairy.

Undigested lactose isn’t great for the gut and that can lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria which in turn, results in belly fat.

Green tea, on the other hand, is packed with antioxidants.

And some claim that green tea can help with weight loss.

A 2012 paper review found that supping the stuff could lead to small but consistent weight loss in overweight adults.

7. Booze for kombucha

If you want to shed belly fat, then it’s time to stop reaching for that post-work glass of vino.

Just two glasses of wine an evening can clock up an extra 72,000 calories over the course of a year – which translates as 9kg of fat.

Empty calories like the ones in booze are really easy to store because our bodies have no nutrition to use.

So what you drink goes straight onto your belly if you’re a guy, or hips, thighs and arms if you’re a woman. While you don’t have to go totally teetotal, why not try to swap out your weekly drinks for something healthier?

Kombucha is a gut-loving fermented tea, which is both sparkling and refreshing. Full of lots of good bacteria, it’ll be a lot better for your belly.

Top belly fat questions, answered

Poor old carbs – they are demonised on many a weight loss diet. But according to dietitian Susie Burrell, carbs do not directly cause belly fat – it is not as if you eat a muffin and your body stores it around your belly. Metabolism and weight gain are a lot more complex than that.

When we eat carbs, processed carbs in particular, that contain a lot of added sugar and are made using refined flour, our fat storage hormones tend to kick into gear.

Carbohydrates rich foods such as white bread, rice, cakes and biscuits as well as sugary foods such as soft drink, juice, lollies and chocolate result in high amounts of glucose being released into the bloodstream after eating.

In order to get this heavy load of glucose out of the bloodstream as quickly as possible, the hormone insulin is secreted by the pancreas. This is the direct link between carbs and belly fat.

Insulin is the number one regulator of glucose and fat metabolism in the body. High levels of insulin over time result in fat storage, specifically fat storage around the abdomen. This means that if you consistently eat a high carb, high sugar diet then over time your insulin levels will gradually increase and there’s a higher chance you’ll store belly fat.

While this is not the case for everyone – it largely depends on age, exercise, genetics and cultural background – there’s a greater chance of fat deposition around the abdominal area when your diet is high in carbohydrates.

Carbohydrate load takes into account not just the glycaemic index or how quickly glucose is released into the bloodstream after we consume carbs, but also the total amount of carbs we eat at any one time. For example, a cup of white rice may have be low GI but as the rice contains a lot of carbohydrates overall – a cup is the equivalent of three to four slices of bread – the carbohydrate load is high.

If your goal is fat loss, and in particular belly fat loss, a diet that with a low glycaemic or carbohydrate load is the way to go.

This means that you can eat some carbs, but stick to controlled portions of just ½ – ¾ cup serves of wholegrain, low GI carbs such as legumes, vegetables or fruits. It’s the key to avoiding extra belly fat build-up.

It also means that the fewer high GI, sugary carbs we consume- think via white rice, Turkish bread, lollies, rice noodles and crackers, juices and sweet drinks – the better it is for our insulin levels and ultimately belly fat.

High insulin levels develop over time, which means that the carbs we choose to include in our day to day diets are ultimately what will influence our belly fat stores long term.

An occasional high carb treat is no cause for concern, rather it’s keeping an eye on the portions of cereal, rice and pasta we eat on a regular basis that will help keep belly fat at bay.

Firstly, what are probiotics and why are they important? Simply put, your gut bacteria can improve many aspects of your health from energy levels, to immunity, to clear skin. But can they also affect your waistline? Yes.

Your body contains trillions of bacteria, with the majority of these bacteria being located in your intestines (gut). Your focus should be on optimising the amount and the diversity of your good gut bacteria (probiotics), as the more you have, the more likely you’ll achieve these outcomes, including weight loss.

Many scientific studies are proving this to be true. Taking a probiotic supplement to boost your good bacteria count may help if your lifestyle isn’t naturally supporting a healthy gut.

So, how does having many beneficial gut bacteria affect your weight?

They can actually affect how different foods are digested and can produce chemicals that support you to feel full. As a result, they can definitely affect your weight.

Since your bacteria line your intestines, the food that you eat comes into direct contact with them. This may affect what nutrients you absorb and how energy is stored in your body.

One study examined the gut bacteria in 77 pairs of twins, one of who was obese and one of whom was not. The study found that those who were obese had different gut bacteria than their non-obese twins. In particular, obesity was associated with lower gut bacteria diversity.

Other studies have shown that if the gut bacteria from obese people are put into mice, the mice gain weight. This suggests that gut bacteria could affect weight.

This may be due to the effect of bacteria on the digestion of different foods. For example, humans can’t digest fibre, so it’s not absorbed into your blood, but instead travels to your intestines where certain gut bacteria do the digesting. By digesting fibre, these gut bacteria produce a number of chemicals that benefit gut health and possibly promote weight loss.

Finally, your gut bacteria can influence how dietary fats are absorbed in the intestines, which may affect how fat is stored in the body.

How they affect your appetite

Your body produces a number of different hormones that affect your appetite, including leptin, ghrelin and peptide.

Studies have shown that different species of bacteria in your gut can affect how much of these hormones are released and whether you feel hungry or full.

How? When certain species of gut bacteria break down fibre, short chain fatty acids are produced. One of these fatty acids is called propionate and it shows promising effects in studies.

One study in 60 overweight adults found that taking propionate for 24 weeks significantly increased levels of the hormones PYY and GLP-1, both of which influence hunger. People who took propionate also had reduced food intake and reduced weight gain.

Can probiotics help with belly fat?

Maybe… Firstly, when you lose weight, it’s really hard to target areas specifically. Your body just loses weight overall – so run from products that promote the burning of belly fat because they’re lying.

But, like previously mentioned, having optimal gut health (aka having lots of good gut bacteria) and a wide diversity of them can assist with weight loss, and so if this comes off your stomach then of course they can help with that.

However, if we are talking about preventing stomach fat accumulation – this deserves attention. Certain physiological states can actually promote the storage of belly fat around the stomach, in particular high sugar levels and too much cortisol (from stress). So, it’s really hard to control the fat on your stomach unless you reduce your sugar intake and manage your stress. Additionally, having ample healthy gut bacteria has also been linked to positive moods and reduced sugar cravings, so you can see how they would indirectly assist with belly fat control.

1. Bloated belly

Unlike belly fat that has been stored overtime and develops gradually, a bloated belly will start reasonably flat at the start of the day and gradually distend as a greater volume of the offending foods causing the gas and fluid build pass through the digestive tract. Abdominal bloating and distention that result from a number of different foods but dairy, gluten, wheat and fructose can be some of the common offending items. If you regularly suffer from bloating and discomfort as the day progresses, try a probiotic supplement to help relieve your symptoms and if that does not prove fruitful, see a dietitian who specialises in irritable Bowel Syndrome and low FODMAP diets.

2. Beer belly

Unfortunately a beer belly does not just impact men, and perhaps should rather be named a wine belly instead. Over time a regular high intake of alcohol (>3-4 drinks most days) for many big drinkers is associated with a hard packed fat which sits relatively high in the abdominal area. Beer (or wine) guts are generally hard as it is caused by an accumulation of visceral fat, which is packed very tightly in the abdominal wall giving the stored fat very little room to move. Of all the types of fat, visceral fat is the worst as it sits very close to our essential organs and the best way to get rid of it is to seriously reduce your alcohol intake long term.

3. Muffin top

Indicative of hormonal disturbance, thickening of the lower waist with a soft, jelly like fat can suggest that a number of hormonal issues including insulin resistance and PCOS may be gradually driving up insulin levels over time leading to this distinct pattern of fat deposition. While sedentary lifestyles are predictive of insulin resistance, high carbohydrate diets as well as genetics can drive this fat storage pattern as we get older. The best thing to do if you notice this pattern of weight gain is to act quickly and target the carbohydrate content of your diet to help keep the hormones that drive this weight gain under control. Specifically if you cannot lose weight from this area, and are already exercising and eating well, it will pay to visit a GP or endocrinologist to get your hormones sorted.

4. Stress induced belly

If you are not a big drinker but have noticed that fat is depositing around the top of your stomach, stress could be somewhat to blame. Thought to be the result of elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, a lack of sleep along with a poor diet and lack of exercise can result in an increase in visceral fat not related specifically to a high intake of alcohol. While diet and exercise is important, this type of fat storage suggests that your lifestyle needs more balance as your body is storing fat in places it should not be. More cardio exercise will help, as will more sleep, relaxation and lifestyle balance.

5. Mummy tummy

Most women who have been blessed with children are all too aware that their tummy is not quite as it once was. Ranging from a general skin sag to a significant fatty pouch the good news is that this type of subcutaneous fat is not harmful and the issue with it tends to be more aesthetic than a health issue. If there is actual fat present, high intensity exercise will help to budge this rather stubborn fat but in many cases it is more an issue of loose skin than significant fat stores.