Lose Upper Belly Fat Effectively: 11 Proven Strategies for a Flatter Stomach

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan Petitpas | Updated on 2 July 2024

In the background, a woman with tummy fat is seen running alongside a food pyramid, while a fit woman in a bikini stands proudly in the foreground.

If you’re wondering about strategies for reducing upper belly fat for a bikini-perfect stomach, you’re not alone. Year after year, people struggle with crash diets promising to teach them to shed weight in a few hours, intense workout routines, and the burden of guilt, shame, and frustration in their pursuit of achieving a flat stomach within weeks.

Consider the possibility of a healthier and simpler approach to reducing upper belly fat—one that involves developing sustainable (and fun!) habits so that sticking to your goals feels like second nature.

Why is it Important to Lose Upper Belly Fat?

Many people start dieting and exercising because they don’t like the way their belly looks. While that’s a powerful reason, there are bonus health benefits to eliminating stomach fat. 90% of fat is called subcutaneous. That’s the fat that you can poke and pinch with your fingers. The other 10% is called visceral fat. It surrounds your organs.

The good news is that subcutaneous fat releases some beneficial chemicals into your body. However, visceral fat releases more harmful chemicals. Since you can’t see visceral fat, it’s also a bit harder to calculate exactly how much you have.

A good test is to put a tape measure around your stomach to measure the circumference. You want the tape measure to sit at the top of your hip bone (not the point of the hip). It may help to inhale and exhale deeply a few times to make sure that you’re not “sucking in”. This will give you a more accurate measurement. A measurement of more than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men can indicate that you have visceral fat. It is important to note that this is a rough estimate. Factors such as overall weight and ethnicity can affect your results.

Too much visceral fat increases your risk for type II diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, and heart disease.1 But there’s good news! Visceral fat responds very quickly to changes in diet and exercise which in turn builds your immune system, cardiovascular health, and overall strength.2 Even before you can see your weight loss, your visceral fat is already shrinking and while that’s great for overall health, you’ll also be one step closer to being bikini ready!

11 Tips to Start Building a Bikini Perfect Stomach

The most important aspect of any weight loss or diet plan is to make it something that you can stick with long term. So find what you can build into your lifestyle, and get started on your perfect bikini stomach today.

  1. Drink lots of water. Not only is it vital to keep your body running efficiently, but it also helps keep you from getting hungry in between meals.
  2. Eat foods high in fiber and protein. Both take a long time to digest, which means that you feel full longer.
  3. Add exercise. Stick to it for 4-6 days a week -jogging, walking, biking, boxing, rowing, swimming, etc., for at least 30 minutes/day.
  4. Meditate, read a book, take a bath, or box it out at the gym. Your mood has a big impact on the amount of hidden fat your body retains. So if you reduce your stress levels, you’ll be able to keep yourself from adding extra visceral fat.
  5. Build a plan to stop smoking. Smoking can cause increased fat deposits in your stomach instead of your thighs or arms.3
  6. Get more sleep. If you’re under 40, the amount of sleep you get matters.4 Less than 5 hours or more than 8 means you’re going to put on more abdominal fat. If you’re over 40, you can get more than 8 hours, but you’ll still be affected by having too little sleep.
  7. Move throughout the day. In addition to exercise, think of creative ways you can move more. You can add a quick yoga routine to stretch out in the morning, or you can give yourself a little dance break if you’ve been sitting (or standing) at your desk for a few hours. All of these things will help keep you less stiff and burn calories.
  8. Drink less booze. Think of it like a dessert – something special to have on occasion. Even if you drink in moderation (1-2 drinks a day), it still dramatically affects your weight loss efforts. Plus, you tend to be less conscious of your food choices when you’re drinking. If you can remove alcohol completely, you’ll see results faster.
  9. If you’re short on time, try a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. A study done at the University of New Mexico found that HIIT gives you the same fat burning results in half the time of traditional training.5 Another study published in The Journal of Obesity found that even 20 minutes of HIIT resulted in 17% fat loss over 12 weeks.6
  10. Build calisthenics into your routine. Since they’re full body exercises, they help burn loads of calories, build lean muscle, and tighten up that middle! Plus, you can do them anywhere. If you want to start more slowly, try adding one or two exercises at a time to your daily routine.
  11. Eat the right kinds of foods. Blueberries and beans are both high in fiber. Eggs, Greek yogurt, and chicken are chock full of slow-to-digest protein. All that means you feel full longer and eat less throughout the day. If you want to kick your metabolism into gear, try cinnamon, chilies, or black pepper.

Remember that it’s ok to start slowly.

Figuring out how to get rid of upper belly fat is a process, and it takes time to build better habits. It’s better to walk for 10 or 15 minutes, for example, than not at all. If eating all fresh fruit and veggies sounds daunting because you don’t know how to cook, then start by learning one or two simple, healthy recipes for them or make (or buy) a tasty salad.

Dieting to Get Rid of That Excess Abdominal Weight

Losing upper belly fat can be easy if you know how to diet appropriately. Eating “healthy” foods may seem straightforward in controlling abdominal weight gain, but some foods are better at fighting abdominal weight gain than others.

Whole grains such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and even boiled white potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates. You can get even more fat-burning power from your white potatoes by cooling them before you eat them. Cooling the potatoes changes the starch inside into a resistant variety that takes longer to digest. That means you stay fuller, longer.

Certain commercially available cereals are also effective in aiding weight management.

Whole eggs, beans, and fatty fish such as salmon are excellent sources of protein. Increasing your protein intake can be one of the best ways to get rid of excess belly fat since protein takes so long to digest. It leaves you with that happy “full feeling” longer. If you follow a vegetarian diet or are concerned about meeting your protein needs, protein shakes can serve as a valuable supplement.

It’s important to make sure you add healthy fats to your daily diet. Small portions of avocados and nuts help keep you full, and avocados may even help control where fat gets distributed in your body.7 Spices such as chilies, cinnamon, and even black pepper can also help you lose fat – even at small doses because of their fat-fighting compounds (capsaicin, cinnamaldehyde, and piperine.8, 9, 10

If switching to a whole food type eating plan seems daunting, it’s ok to start small by adding more leafy green vegetables, swapping your beef for fish a few times during the week, or eating more whole fruits instead of juice. Some people find it difficult to completely change their lifestyles overnight, but instead of changing everything all at once, many people try eliminating a few things first.

Eliminating Unhealthy Foods

Some people don’t want an entire overhaul on the way they eat, so they start small by simply avoiding calorie dense foods. By Making smaller changes now that you can easily stick to can lead to big changes over the long term.

For example, drinking juice every day isn’t ideal since juice is loaded with sugar and doesn’t have the fiber (so doesn’t keep you full or help your digestion) whole fruit does. Instead, you could drink flavored sparkling water (0 calories), drink a smaller portion of juice, or even cut it with water to help you get that bikini perfect stomach faster.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is eating food and drinking beverages that do something to help you. Coffee is a low-calorie drink that gives you energy, antioxidants, and may even reduce your risk of heart failure.11 As long as you don’t load it down with creamer, sweeteners, and other additives, it can be a healthy addition to your daily life.

If you’re craving something frozen and sweet, eat frozen blueberries instead of ice cream. Ice cream is loaded with saturated fats that will pack those pounds back into your middle. Blueberries, on the other hand, have tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. So you’re satisfying your cravings with an alternative that works towards your goals instead of against them.

One of the most critical rules to follow is calorie deficit. It can sound overwhelming to track your calories at first, but the truth is that if you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. To help you quickly and accurately calculate how many calories you should be eating in a day, you’ll want to think about how active you are.12

Breathing, eating, and moving blood around the body all use food calories to operate. The calculator takes those functions into account as well as your activity, so you may actually need to eat more calories than you think! To lose weight, a good target is 500-800 calories under what you burn. Once you understand the method for shedding upper belly fat by eating right, you can add more movement to achieve that bikini perfect stomach.

5 Exercises to Help You Lose Upper Belly Fat

Exercising doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym. In fact, for belly fat weight loss, full-body exercises are very effective. Many body weight exercises can easily be done from home. When thinking about body weight training (calisthenics), many people think of push-ups and crunches. Both are excellent exercises for reducing upper belly fat, but side planks, burpees (we’ll explain how to do these in a moment), jumping jacks, bicycle crunches, and leg lifts are also powerhouses when it comes to a bikini perfect belly.

If you want to burn the same amount of calories in half the time, turn your calisthenics workout into a HIIT (high intensity interval training) or Tabata (a type of HIIT) workout. In a tabata based workout, you perform as many repetitions as possible (also called an AMRAP) within a set training period, rest for a set period of time, and repeat. A good way to start is to choose your favorite exercise (so it’s fun and you want to do it again), set a tabata timer (there are many free tabata timer apps), and go!

You’ll give your maximum effort for 20 seconds, rest for 10, and then repeat. 8 rounds equals 4 minutes of effort. You can easily stack these as your endurance and strength builds. If you count your reps in the first set, you’ll have a goal to reach in sets 2-8 as well. Plus, you’ll be able to easily see your progress as you get stronger.

More traditional HIIT sessions give you longer rest periods in between sets (up to a few minutes). It’s difficult to sustain 90% effort (the target range for a true HIIT workout) for very long, even with rests in between. So if you start with a goal of doing a HIIT workout even for 5-7 minutes, you’ll still be burning fat.

If you’d like a good starting HIIT circuit to try, this one is a full-body workout. Start with a 10 minute workout with a 1 minute break after 5 minutes. Count how many times you get through the circuit in the time given. That way, it will be easy to see your progress as you’re able to get through more and more reps with consistent practice. To really help reduce belly fat, be sure to engage (contract them) your abdominal muscles throughout the exercise.

1. Jumping Jacks (20 reps)

Jumping jacks are a great way to warm up because they get your whole body moving. They also help get your heart rate up, so that you’re ready for the next exercise. If you’re a heavier weight person, don’t be discouraged if you’re lightning quick. Remember that you’re burning more calories because you’re lifting more weight.

  • Start with your legs straight and your arms by your side. Do a quick check of your lower back. Many people have a tendency to stand with their lower back arched.
  • Here’s a little test. Put the back of your hand on the upper part of your glutes. If you can easily push your glutes forward without moving your upper back, they’re not engaged. To engage them, focus on pulling your glutes down slightly. This will help protect your lower back from injury.
  • With explosive movement, bring your arms together over your head at the same time you jump your legs apart.
  • Jump back to the starting position.
  • That’s 1 rep.

2. Push-ups (10 reps)

If you need to start on your knees, that’s ok. Be careful not to cross your ankles as that can stress your knees.

  • You want your elbows at about a 45 degree angle to your shoulder.
  • As you lower down, your elbow should be straight over your wrist.
  • Keep your eyes on the ground and your neck straight as you lower yourself down and back up.
  • That’s 1 rep.

3. Leg Raises (10 reps)

Fight the temptation to pull your lower back off the floor for these. Leg raises will build muscle throughout your abdomen, but they’re also helpful to target lower belly fat. If you can’t lift your legs up without your lower back pulling up off the floor, then do these with bent knees parallel to the ground.

  • Keep your legs straight (or bent at the knee) and together.
  • Then, engage your lower abs and use them to start pulling your legs up. This may be a smaller movement than you’re expecting at first.
  • Raising your legs up and returning them to your starting position is one rep.
  • Repeat.

4. Burpees (10 reps)

The target here is effective energy. These are a true full body workout, so don’t worry if you’re much slower at these than any other exercise.

  • Start with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Drop down into a wide squat, and put your hands on the ground.
  • Lean into your hands so you can jump your feet back into a plank position. Make sure your upper abdomen is engaged.
  • From your plank, jump your feet back up to the squat.
  • Finally, jump up with as much power as you can back to standing.
  • Pro tip: If you want to make these more challenging, take a push-up from the plank position. If you want to make them easier, drop to your knees in the plank.

5. Bicycle Crunches (10 reps)

  • Lie on your back, and put your hands behind your head with your elbows flared out.
  • Be careful of your shoulders. Many people have a tendency to raise them, but it’s much safer to draw your shoulder blades down and your back together.
  • Then engage your abs and raise your legs parallel to the floor at 90 degrees.
  • Focusing on keeping your core engaged and starting the motion from your abs (not your shoulders), pull your right elbow towards your left knee. It’s ok if they don’t touch.
  • Repeat for the other side. That’s one rep.

HIIT and tabata are excellent ways to burn tummy fat fast, but traditional weight training and moderate cardio are also effective to help you lose weight.

Cardio doesn’t have to be fast and hard to benefit weight loss. Researchers have found that exercising longer is more helpful than working out harder in reducing belly fat for lower-intensity workouts, such as walking. Weight training also helps reduce upper-belly fat by engaging your abdomen to support you during your lifts. For those just starting with strength training, we offer an excellent beginner’s guide to weight lifting. Understanding how exercise can help you lose upper belly fat is a crucial step towards achieving a flatter stomach.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve tried some of these things before but quit after a few days, how do I stay motivated?

The more deeply you understand why you’re trying to lose belly fat, the better you’ll be able to keep working when it gets hard.

Here’s another trick. It’s a way to “program” your brain. Close your eyes and see yourself sitting on your couch or chair completely unmotivated to eat healthy or exercise. Now, see yourself getting up and going to the kitchen to eat a healthy meal or putting on your sneakers to head to the gym. If you’ve already told yourself what steps you’re going to take, you’ll be prepared to take action when you don’t have any motivation.

I’ve skipped a few days of exercising, and I’ve eaten horribly. Is it even worth trying again?

YES! It doesn’t matter how many days have passed since you were “on track” with your goals. Start again today. Everyone has days, weeks, or even months when they aren’t eating as well as they could or aren’t exercising. Be kind to yourself, and start again.

I’ve learned the techniques for shedding upper belly fat, but where do I start?

That’s easy! Start with what excites you the most. This isn’t like dinner where you have to eat your peas before you can have your cake. If you start with the step you’re most excited about, then you’ll give yourself positive, fun energy that can carry you on to some of the harder steps.


1Woods, M. (n.d.). The dangers of hidden abdominal fat. Winchester Hospital. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from <https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=40480>

2Vorvick, L. J., Zieve, D., & Conaway, B. (2020, January 23). Exercise and immunity: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia202. MedlinePlus. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from <https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm#:~:text=Physical%20activity%20may%20help%20flush,system%20cells%20that%20fight%20disease.>

3Kim, J. H., Shim, K. W., Yoon, Y. S., Lee, S. Y., Kim, S. S., & Oh, S. W. (2012). Cigarette smoking increases abdominal and visceral obesity but not overall fatness: an observational study. PloS one, 7(9), e45815. <https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0045815>

4Hairston, K. G., Bryer-Ash, M., Norris, J. M., Haffner, S., Bowden, D. W., & Wagenknecht, L. E. (2010). Sleep duration and five-year abdominal fat accumulation in a minority cohort: the IRAS family study. Sleep, 33(3), 289–295. <https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/33.3.289>

5Zhang, H., Tong, T. K., Qui, W. et al. (2017). Comparable effects of high-intensity interval training and prolonged continuous exercise training on abdominal visceral fat reduction in obese women, Journal of Diabetes Research, 9 pages <https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/5071740>

6Heydari, M., Freund, J., & Boutcher, S. H. (2012). The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males. Journal of obesity, 2012, 480467. <https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/480467>

7J.A. Paniagua, A. Gallego de la Sacristana, I. Romero, A. Vidal-Puig, J.M. Latre, E. Sanchez, P. Perez-Martinez, J. Lopez-Miranda, F. Perez-Jimenez (2007). Monounsaturated Fat–Rich Diet Prevents Central Body Fat Distribution and Decreases Postprandial Adiponectin Expression Induced by a Carbohydrate-Rich Diet in Insulin-Resistant Subjects. Diabetes Care, 30(7), 1717-1723. Monounsaturated Fat–Rich Diet Prevents Central Body Fat Distribution and Decreases Postprandial Adiponectin Expression Induced by a Carbohydrate-Rich Diet in Insulin-Resistant Subjects <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17384344/>

8Snitker, S., Fujishima, Y., Shen, H., Ott, S., Pi-Sunyer, X., Furuhata, Y., Sato, H., & Takahashi, M. (2009). Effects of novel capsinoid treatment on fatness and energy metabolism in humans: possible pharmacogenetic implications. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(1), 45–50. <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916523239052?via%3Dihub>

9Jiang, J., Emont, M. P., Jun, H., Qiao, X., Liao, J., Kim, D. I., & Wu, J. (2017). Cinnamaldehyde induces fat cell-autonomous thermogenesis and metabolic reprogramming. Metabolism: clinical and experimental, 77, 58–64. <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2017.08.0>

10Shah, S. S., Shah, G. B., Singh, S. D., Gohil, P. V., Chauhan, K., Shah, K. A., & Chorawala, M. (2011). Effect of piperine in the regulation of obesity-induced dyslipidemia in high-fat diet rats. Indian journal of pharmacology, 43(3), 296–299. <https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7613.81516>

11Stevens, L. M., Linstead, E., Hall, J. L., & Kao, D. P. (2021). Association between coffee intake and Incident Heart Failure Risk. Circulation: Heart Failure, 14(2). <https://doi.org/10.1161/circheartfailure.119.006799>

12U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Body weight planner. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from <https://www.niddk.nih.gov/bwp>

About the Author

Nathan Petitpas

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.