No matter what algorithms your search history is triggering, you probably can’t go a few clicks through the internet without running into click-bait advertisements for ways to lose belly fat. From intense workouts and restrictive diets to holistic remedies or chemical-heavy supplements, every corner seems to cheer (loudly) for a different solution.
There may be many different strategies out there, but only a few are backed by actual science. Intermittent fasting is one of them.
An eating routine structured around when you eat rather than what you eat, intermittent fasting has been linked to loads of health benefits — like weight loss, reduced inflammation, and lower systolic blood pressure [1,2,3] — in addition to reduced body fat.
When it comes to answering “Does fasting burn belly fat?” it’s a two-part question of
- how intermittent fasting for belly fat works, and
- what fasting to lose belly fat actually looks like.
Spoiler alert: it works and looks a lot like regular intermittent fasting — i.e., it’s exactly the same process, though some schedules and practices may optimize fat burning.
So, what is the best intermittent fasting window to lose belly fat? Let’s get into it.
(If we lost you at “intermittent fasting,” you can brush up on your basics with our intermittent fasting for beginners guide.)
- Intermittent fasting may help you lose belly fat by creating a calorie deficit and triggering a natural metabolic state where you’re primed to burn fat for energy.
- No fasting schedule is better than any other in terms of creating more potential or momentum for belly fat burning.
- The most effective fasting schedule is the one that fits you and your needs, lifestyle, and preferences the best — and that you can stick to.
- You can’t control how quickly or where you burn fat, but there are some simple ways you can supercharge your fasting experience for fat burning.
- Fasting to lose belly fat — and fasting in general — isn’t right or safe for everyone, so make sure to run your plans by your healthcare provider before starting.
How does intermittent fasting affect belly fat
There are three types of fat in your body — and no, we don’t mean the triple B’s of “belly, booty, and breasts”:
- subcutaneous fat (the stuff under your skin);
- visceral fat (the stuff in your stomach around your vital organs); and
- intramuscular fat (the stuff that’s marbled into your muscles).
All these fats contribute to your health and well-being. You need just the right amount for your unique body — having too little or too much (especially where visceral fat is concerned) could raise your risk of heart disease, metabolic conditions, and certain types of cancer.
Intermittent fasting tackles body fat in two ways:
- Via a calorie deficit. Since intermittent fasting narrows the window where you’re consuming calories, it often leads to a calorie deficit — and eating less calories can reduce fat mass.
- Priming your body for fat burning. If given enough of a break from munching on calories (we’ll cover how long is “enough” shortly!), your body enters a fasted state where it uses fatty acids rather than sugar as fuel (also known as “ketosis”). This process can improve your glucose metabolism and ability to oxidize fat.[6,7]
Unfortunately, intermittent fasting isn’t a magic wand that you can wave over a certain area of your body and say “bibbidi-bobbidi-BYE” to whatever excess fat you may be carrying there. While it can reduce your fat stores, where you lose fat and how long it takes to see results varies from person to person. Plus, intermittent fasting isn’t safe or effective for everyone.
Even though there isn’t an exact, universal “intermittent fasting + belly fat” spell to cast, we’re here as your fairy godparent to help you figure out if intermittent fasting could meet your specific health goals. Pop over to our SIMPLE quiz to learn more about different fasting approaches, decide if intermittent fasting is a good fit for you, and get a personalized plan of action.
Make sure to speak with your healthcare provider before you make any changes to your eating habits or lifestyle, though — they have the big picture view of your health and medical history, so their sign-off is important.
What is the best intermittent fasting schedule to lose belly fat?
Intermittent fasting and belly fat can go hand-in-hand, but how do you know what intermittent fasting schedules are your best bet? If you’re on the hunt for how to fast to lose belly fat, focus on schedules that are most likely to:
a) get you into ketosis (when you start burning fat instead of sugar), and
b) create a calorie deficit.
However, the most important principle to determine what fasting for belly fat should look like is you. Focus on finding the best plan for your needs, preferences, and lifestyle. Since sustainable results take time, it’s crucial to find a plan you can stick to without compromising your well-being.
If your healthcare provider has given you the all clear to give intermittent fasting a whirl, here are a few plans we’d recommend.
Time-restricted eating 16/8
16/8 intermittent fasting — fasting for 16 hours and eating as you wish for 8 hours — is the happy medium of fasting schedules.
Its fasting window is likely long enough to get you into that fasted state (most people take between 12 and 18 hours) and reduce your daily calorie intake (even if you’re eating normally during your eating window, you’ll likely skip a meal or at least reduce snacking).
But it’s also pretty flexible. It simply extends your natural overnight fast. You can choose if you skip breakfast or dinner, and any intermittent fasting side effects are usually short-lived and manageable.
In a study, after 3 months on 16/8, adults with obesity reduced belly fat by 0.2 kg (or about 0.4 lb.).
The 5:2 diet or alternate day fasting
If you’re a fasting pro, you prefer a more on / off fasting schedule, and it’s safe (and bearable) for you to endure a pretty hefty calorie restriction some days, the 5:2 intermittent fasting plan or alternate day fasting may help you lose some belly fat.
Both of these fasting schedules involve eating as you would normally for some of the week and eating only 500–600 calories on the other days. The 5:2 schedule involves two fasted days of the week. Alternate day fasting involves — you guessed it! — fasting every other day.
Women living with overweight who followed a 5:2 approach for six months lost 4 cm (or 1.5 in.) from their waistline. A similar result was seen in people with type 2 diabetes who followed 5:2 and lost 0.6 kg (or 1.3 lb.) after three months.
For alternate day fasting, short-term studies show that waist circumference decreases by 5–7 cm after 2–3 months [11,12,13], and longer-term studies demonstrate 0.8 lb. (2.7 in.) reductions in belly fat after 12 months.
Our bottom line when it comes to intermittent fasting is that the best schedule for achieving your goals is one that works for you. Take our SIMPLE quiz to learn about the options and what might be the best intermittent fasting fit given all the things that make you you.
Other time-restricted eating schedules
Depending on your schedule, commitments, and lifestyle, 16/8, 5:2, or alternate day fasting may not be the ideal balance.
A shorter fasting window (like 12-hour intermittent fasting or 14/10 intermittent fasting) may be a better fit or at least a better starting point. You may be less likely to reach ketosis (it’s slightly more likely with 14/10 ), but you’ll still probably be eating less than you normally would since the average person generally eats 15 hours per day.
If you’re an experienced faster, longer fasts (like 18/6 intermittent fasting or 20/4 intermittent fasting) could work, too. However, we don’t recommend fasts for 18+ hours without medical approval / supervision since they’re much more likely to be unsafe, lead to more side effects, and be challenging to manage and sustain.
There isn’t much evidence to suggest “more fasting” means “better results,” either, and the limited research available on these fasting schedules focuses on specific populations, like women with obesity.
Is intermittent fasting a good method for burning belly fat?
Intermittent fasting to lose belly fat may not be a magic wand, but it’s something even better.
Lots of research supports the idea that intermittent fasting may help you lose not only weight and fat in general , but belly fat specifically (especially in people living with obesity or overweight ). One recent review found that people who intermittent fast anywhere from a couple of weeks to a year lost an average of 1.5 lb. to almost 25 lb. of fat mass. Some research also links intermittent fasting to significant decreases in visceral and subcutaneous fat.
Furthermore, intermittent fasting can be helpful in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin levels.[25,26] Insulin is an important hormone for regulating blood sugar levels , and having too much insulin in your blood or being insulin resistant can lead to increased belly fat.
Although some studies suggest intermittent fasting may not be more effective than simply restricting calories (or may not be effective without other lifestyle changes ) , others associate fasting with slightly more visceral fat loss.
Now, whether intermittent fasting = visceral fat loss (or any fat loss) for your belly isn’t clear-cut. Things like physical activity, preexisting health conditions, what you eat and drink, and other lifestyle factors can impact your fasting results — and fasting in general impacts people differently. But there are ways you can optimize your fasting experience to make burning belly fat a more likely outcome, and we’ll dive into the what, why, and how of that shortly.
Who is intermittent fasting most effective for?
If fasting affects everyone differently, how do you know if it’ll be effective — and safe — for you?
We always recommend speaking with your healthcare provider before trying intermittent fasting or changing your eating habits. There’s no guarantee that the answer to “Does intermittent fasting burn belly fat?” will be a definitive “yes,” but they’ll tell you if fasting’s even on the table as a potential option.
Also, check in with yourself. Be as realistic as possible. Ditch the theory and aspirations for a moment and ask if intermittent fasting feels like a comfortable fit for your body, needs, preferences, and lifestyle. If you’re looking to lose belly fat but are tired of micro-managing your calorie intake or following strict meal plans, it might be a good time to try intermittent fasting. If you’re someone who needs to eat every few hours or your hunger hulk will emerge, it might be best to give this eating routine a pass.
Intermittent fasting can lead to health benefits, but at SIMPLE, we believe the best and most effective eating routine is one that’s safe, sustainable, and manageable for you. So put yourself at the heart of the process.
Intermittent fasting and losing belly fat for men vs. women
Women’s bodies tend to guard energy sources more rigorously, so sensing a more limited food supply can cause an increase in appetite and decrease the resources available for non-essential body processes.
To make sure everything stays balanced, we recommend women start with a more gradual approach to fasting — so maybe not jumping straight into a 16/8 fasting schedule and definitely not catapulting into 5:2 or alternate day fasting. Especially if you’ve recently finished breastfeeding and are hoping to get rid of “mommy belly,” intermittent fasting is something to ease into as slowly as possible so your body has time to adjust.
Regardless of your sex, intermittent fasting has been linked to fat burning in both women and men who are living with overweight or obesity. Some short-term studies suggest men might lose more visceral fat. It’s about finding a safe, effective fasting schedule that works for your unique body.
10 intermittent fasting tips for burning belly fat
If your healthcare provider has cleared you for intermittent fasting, here are some tips and tricks for making losing belly fat smooth sailing.
1. Start small
You can always build onto your fasting window, but treat your body like a ship: don’t rock the boat too much as you’re testing the waters and getting your sea legs. Gradually easing into fasting allows you to spot any potential waves before they turn into rapids and encourages lasting results. It’s particularly important to pace yourself if your body might be extra sensitive to changes, like if you have health conditions or you’re intermittent fasting for mommy belly.
2. Choose a fasting schedule that works for you
You’re the captain here. If you love going out to dinner, keep your evenings within your eating window. If you tend to work out late morning, don’t skip breakfast.
3. Stay hydrated
Your body is literally made of water, and it needs that water to help burn fat and regulate a whole bunch of body stuff. Water can also help you feel fuller longer and less hungry, plus help you eat less.[34,35] We explain more about it in our guide on what you can drink while fasting.
4. Brace yourself for some bumps
You’re going into uncharted waters here — it’s likely your body will need a minute to adjust. It’s totally normal to experience some growing pains, like headaches, hunger, and fatigue. Rather than abandon ship immediately, keep an eye on them. They may just be signs that you’re moving into deeper waters, not that you’re about to sink.
5. Build in both resistance and cardio training
Combining strength training with intermittent fasting can promote fat loss and lean muscle mass (the latter of which can boost your metabolic rate).[36,37] Cardio can help decrease abdominal fat and waist circumference.[38,39] You can learn more in our guide on exercising during intermittent fasting, but to keep your ship riding the waves, go slowly, start with fewer reps, and give your body time to recover to prevent fatigue and burnout.
6. Prioritize health-promoting food choices
Protein is often linked to lower body fat and more fat oxidization.[40,41] Whole grains are connected to a smaller waist circumference. Fiber from fruits and veggies is associated with reduced belly fat , and healthy fats like nuts and seeds can help you ditch body fat.
Focusing on these foods also helps you get all the nutrients you need (no scurvy in sight!).
7. Eat food you actually enjoy
You’re not stranded on a desert island, so put the luxury of choice to good use and focus on nutrient-dense foods that you enjoy — and don’t skimp on seasoning! Life is too short to waste on bland meals like chicken and steamed broccoli. (Unless, of course, that’s your fave, in which case, enjoy!)
8. Get enough sleep
Sleep is a powerful weight loss tool, and poor sleep may not only increase your appetite but also contribute to weight / fat gain.[45,46] Everyone has different optimal sleep requirements, but we recommend around 7 or more hours a night.
9. Reduce stress
Chronic exposure to cortisol, the hormone produced during periods of stress, is linked to belly fat and enhanced cravings for sweet and fatty foods.[48,49] Especially if you’re trying intermittent fasting for stress belly, make melting that stress iceberg a top priority through techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided visualization.
10. Check in with your body regularly, not obsessively
Constantly taking body measurements or photos is very much giving “watched pot never boils” energy. Keep track of how you feel and the progress you’re making, but be kind to yourself and remember that results take time. You may just not be able to see the shore on the horizon yet.
If you’re concerned that you’ve hit a rock or are stuck in a whirlpool, speak to your healthcare provider or have a look through our intermittent fasting mistakes and intermittent fasting not working troubleshooting guides.
Have more burning questions about how to boost your fat loss? Check out our complete guide to the fastest way to burn fat.
SIMPLE’s expert opinion and final thoughts
Looking to zap that belly fat? Intermittent fasting may be a great way to make it happen.
There are plenty of things you can do to power up the fat-burning process, but finding the best intermittent fasting routine to become a belly fat-burning machine is all about what works — and feels — best for you. No fasting schedule is “one size fits all,” and you also need to double-check with a healthcare professional that it’s safe for you to try in the first place.
If you’re ready to give intermittent fasting for belly fat a trial run, start by taking our SIMPLE quiz, and let us show you the ropes. We’ll help you figure out your best first step, how to maintain your grip, and what to do if you find yourself tied up in knots.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I lose my belly in 14 days?
Does intermittent fasting reduce belly fat? Yes, it can, but safe, long-lasting body transformations take time. We recommend shifting the “Can I lose my belly in 14 days?” mindset to “What sort of transformation can I expect in 14 days?” You may start to see reductions in waist circumference in just two weeks but don’t expect (or aim for) sudden magic eraser results.
Why is 16 hours the magic number for fasting?
16 hours is the magic number for fasting because it’s often roughly the amount of time it takes for you to achieve ketosis, where the body starts burning fat over sugar as its primary fuel. Bodies react to fasting differently, though, so how long it takes you to reach that stage can be anywhere from around 12 to 18 hours.
How much fat is burned in a 16-hour fast?
How much fat is burned in a 16-hour fast isn’t an exact science — it’s dependent on individual body and lifestyle factors — and you shouldn’t expect results overnight. It can take a couple of weeks for any fat burning to show up, but keep track of progress by measuring waist circumference (plus other sites, like hips, legs, arms, and chest) and taking front, back, and side photos once a month.
How do I know I’m burning fat?
How you know you’re burning fat isn’t as simple as stepping on a scale because weight loss and fat loss aren’t the same thing. Take regular measurements of areas where fat gathers (like your waist, arms, shoulders, hips, and legs) and look for reductions. You can take monthly full-body photos and play spot the difference, too.
Is belly fat the last to go?
Whether belly fat is the last to go will vary from person to person. Typically the belly is one of the hardest areas to lose fat, but thighs or arms are candidates, too. You can’t control the timing or target specific spots for fat loss, so try to focus less specifically on intermittent fasting to get rid of stubborn belly fat and more on letting your body do its thing.
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