It’s impossible to target belly fat specifically when you diet. But losing weight overall will help shrink your waistline; more importantly, it will help reduce the dangerous layer of visceral fat, a type of fat within the abdominal cavity that you can’t see but that heightens health risks, says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D. , director of Clinical and Research Physiology at Johns Hopkins.
Once your muscle glycogen stores are full, they’ll remain this way for days, as long as no other strength training is performed (because muscle glycogen is burned only during high- intensity exercise). Carbing up on Wednesday also gives you time to make adjustments. If you feel you look flat and small on Thursday or Friday, increase your carbs a bit. Bloated and soft? Cut them back a bit. Make adjustments by 25–50 grams at a time.
There’s one caveat, though: Don’t train your abs. (You’re welcome.) While you need to work abs most weeks, the point of workouts at this stage is to get the muscles that pump up well to swell further with increased glycogen storage. Since abs don’t get pumped like biceps or shoulders, it doesn’t make sense to drive glycogen into them—in fact, doing so can cause them to inflate too much, blurring definition.
You should already be following a diet to get lean, and should therefore be aware of how much you’re eating. But to remove any guesswork, we’ll give you some numbers to hit for the week: Consume one gram of protein and 10–11 calories for every pound of your body weight; 20% of those daily calories should be from fat, and the remainder from carbs. (Remember to first subtract the protein calories you’re also eating from the total allowed before you calculate the number of carbs.)
Not much of a coffee drinker? Tea is also a natural diuretic, and types of herbal tea such as dandelion or fennel root can also lend a hand. In fact: When a recent study compared the metabolic effect of green tea (in extract) with that of a placebo, researchers found that the green-tea drinkers burned about 70 additional calories in a 24-hour period.
6. Eat a little less. When your body gets smaller, it requires fewer calories to function properly. A 165-pound woman who works out three to five times a week may require 2,300 calories per day to maintain her weight, but the same woman at 125 pounds may only need 2,000 calories for maintenance. Trying to lose additional pounds in your lighter body means cutting back a little more. You do not need to make radical changes, however; if you’re already increasing the intensity of your workouts and eating a clean, whole-foods diet, you could probably see the scale move with a modest 100-calorie reduction per day.
9. Relax. Believe it or not, you may be trying too hard to lose weight. If your workouts are very intense and your diet is too strict, you could over train and burn out. Your mind and body will just not respond in the same way when they’re tired. Muscles need rest to repair and grow, and sometimes your brain needs a break from constant calorie counting and worrying about the last few pounds. Instead of becoming frustrated and diving into a box of cookies, try to relax and reduce the intensity for a little while. You may be surprised to find the scale moving again when you give your mind and body a rest.
In other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.