These days belly fat is indeed one of the most widely targeted areas of the body among men and women alike. Walk into any gym and you’ll find countless people spending a large majority of their workout time engaging in ‘belly fat boot-camp’ on “ab” prefixed machines while simultaneously downing placebo meal replacement shakes that promise to ‘melt away’ the fat.

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Belly fat (visceral and subcutaneous fat) is a multifaceted problem that’s linked to a variety of uncontrollable factors (genetics, gender, and hormonal status). However, by incorporating a focused exercise regimen with the right combination of foods, you can effectively overcome many of the uncontrollable factors and successfully lose the pooch for good. Here are five ways you can do this.

1. Get Adequate Amounts of Protein

Adequate protein intake is extremely important for ridding your body of unsightly belly fat, as it’s critical for preserving muscle and maintaining a healthy metabolic rate. Protein also burns stored belly fat by increasing the rate at which it is mobilized and used for energy. To ensure sufficient intake for losing the pooch, it’s best to consume at least 0.55-0.82 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. The more active you are the more protein you’ll need.

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When it comes to choosing protein-rich foods, low-fat dairy products or dairy substitutes, fish, poultry and/or lean meats are best as they are relatively lower in unhealthy fats and high in essential vitamins and minerals. You can also get an adequate supply of protein from whole soy products (tofu and tempeh) or a combination of other food sources like nuts and seeds, beans, and dried peas.

2. Eat Sizeable Amounts of Healthy Fats

Healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids) have been shown to prevent excess accumulation of visceral fat while greatly promoting weight loss. Visceral fat is closely linked to elevated blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone responsible for lowering blood sugar. By eating 2-3 daily servings of healthy fats, you can control insulin levels in the body, thereby reducing belly fat. Healthy fats are primarily housed in olive oil, avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds.

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3. Burn Away Stored Fat with Cardio Exercise

To really slim the midsection and lose the pooch cardio exercise is an absolute must. But, I’m not talking about those long, drawn-out hours of repetitive exercise on machines. Believe it or not, when it comes to losing the pooch, cardio is most effective when it’s performed at a high-intensity for a relatively short amount of time (20-45 minutes). Belly fat responds especially well to exercises that exceed the normal demands you place on your body.

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In addition to fat burning, when performed intensely and for shorter periods of time, cardio exercise also induces muscle tone in the abdominal muscles promoting the appearance of the coveted ‘six pack’. Cardio exercises classified as ‘intense’ include stair climbing, running or very brisk walking/running intervals, and cardio kickboxing. You can perform such exercises anywhere between 4 and 5 days a week.

4. Boost Your Intake of Fiber-Rich Foods

Eating foods rich in dietary fiber (whole grains, vegetables, and fruit) can greatly reduce the presence of belly fat. Fiber helps regulate blood glucose and insulin levels in a way that beneficially prevents visceral fat accumulation and overall weight gain. To substantially boost your daily fiber intake thereby reducing belly fat, make an effort to consume 4-5 or more servings of non-starchy vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, and 3-5 servings of whole grains or other natural starches.

Related Article: How Different Types of Fiber Affect Your Health

5. Incorporate Regular Weight Training

A lack of weight training is a primary culprit in the development of belly fat, especially among women. Lifting weights builds muscle, elevates the metabolic rate, and fuels the fat burning process that’s necessary for ridding your body of stubborn fat in the midsection. In fact, weight lifting has been scientifically proven to substantially reduce waist circumference, which is indicative of a slimming midsection.

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To really lose the pooch, perform at least 2-3 days of full body weight lifting each week. Start with about 2-3 sets using loads (weights) that fatigue your muscles within 8-12 repetitions. With some exercises, this can be achieved by using your own body weight (pull ups, push ups, and dips). It’s also good to perform simple abdominal exercises on alternating days of the week. By simple I mean planks, crunches, and bicycles. That’s it!

So there you have it! Five of the most effective ways to lose the pooch. In addition to implementing these exercise and eating strategies for fighting belly fat, it’s also important to avoid consuming foods rich in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats whenever possible. Besides inhibiting weight loss and promoting unnecessary weight gain, a high intake of these foods greatly increases the risk of numerous chronic diseases.