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Drinking Habits to Speed Up Abdominal Fat Loss as You Age, Say Dietitians

Getting older often means growing a bigger belly; here’s how to fight back.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

You can accelerate the loss of belly fat as you age by changing some of your drinking habits, according to registered dietitians, and there's scientific research to back up their advice.

But first, it'll help to understand why we tend to put on abdominal fat as we age. It'll show how much control you have over your physiology and it may motivate you to adjust your drinking lifestyle. This is what happens as the years go by:

  • Our fat-burning metabolism slows down at the rate of about 1 to 2 percent per year.
  • Our muscles start to shrink, which further slows down our metabolism.
  • Hormone changes (a decrease in estrogen) in women after menopause cause fat to be deposited in the abdomen.
  • We tend to continue the same patterns of eating and drinking despite the slowing of our metabolism. We eat and drink the same number of calories as we have for many years (if not more) while our resting metabolism burns fewer and fewer.
  • We exercise less. Read about why You Should Get Serious About Exercise after Age 30.

In a 2010 study in the International Journal of Body Composition Research scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham presented data showing that all those factors contribute to increases in the most dangerous type of fat, a deep belly fat known as visceral fat that surrounds our organs. The researchers found that visceral fat increases over 200% in men and 400% in women between the 3rd and 7th decades of life.

That's the reality we face with aging. The uplifting news is that those Alabama researchers showed that exercise—increasing calorie burn—in particular, can slow that shift to visceral fat that tends to come with the passing years. Now consider how reducing calorie consumption in combination with exercise might speed up the loss of your belly fat. One of the easiest ways to significantly reduce calories is by changing long-practiced drinking habits.

Read on for the changes you should make to your drinking habits to lose abdominal fat as you age, and for more, don't miss Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.

1

Start your day with water, and carry a jug.

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The calories in beverages are easy to forget because they are not dense like food is and they go down so easily. But drinks can be large contributors to calories in the diet when you consider all the "luxurious coffee drinks, sodas, juices, homemade drinks, shakes, and protein shakes we consume," says registered dietitian Blanca Garcia, RDN, nutrition specialist at Health Canal.

She suggests starting your day by drinking a tall glass of water and keeping a bottle or jug of water handy to sip on throughout the day. "By constantly drinking water you will reduce the desire to consume calorie-rich drinks," she says.

And if you drink a glass of water before every meal, that belly-filling ritual will likely help you consume less food, suggests a study in the International Journal of Obesity. Researchers found that participants gained an average of 3 pounds every four years, but those who replaced one serving of sugar-sweetened beverages with a cup of water daily experienced less weight gain by an average of 1 pound every four years.

2

Drink your coffee black.

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Drinking coffee without sugar or cream is a good fat loss habit to adopt for two reasons. First, the stimulant caffeine in coffee can in some cases increase your resting metabolism and blunt your hunger by decreasing levels of hunger hormones.

Secondly, a cup of unadulterated coffee contains only about 2 calories. Compare that to the 200+ calories in some flavored specialty coffees available at cafes.

"When you add high calorie and fat sweeteners and creamers, you are increasing the likelihood of your regular coffee habit causing weight gain," says Trista Best, RD, a professor of nutrition and registered dietitian at Balance One. Watch out for these 5 Drinks Secretly Increasing Inflammation in Your Body.

3

Learn to love green tea.

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For many people, green tea takes some getting used to. But once you learn to love it—unsweetened, of course—it can be a powerful habit for speeding up abdominal fat loss. Why? "It contains caffeine, a stimulant, and phytochemicals called catechins; both may enhance fat burning," says registered dietitian Rachel Dyckman, RDN, owner of Rachel Dyckman Nutrition LLC. And those components may target visceral fat, in particular, studies suggest.

4

Learn to dislike artificially sweetened beverages.

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If you've been in the habit of drinking diet drinks made with artificial sweeteners, wean yourself off of them and learn to love unsweetened drinks. "Sucrose (Splenda) causes gastrointestinal irritation and bloating and reduces the healthy gut bacterium (a factor in weight gain and inflammation)," says nutritionist Lisa Richards, author of The Candida Diet. In addition, artificial sweeteners have been linked to overeating. Studies suggest that your body expects extra calories when you have something that super sweet but contains no calories. As a result, you crave the calories that you're missing.

5

Significantly limit those happy hours.

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Happy hours and parties are occasions when we tend to overindulge in alcohol. Even a glass or two of wine with dinner every night can easily extend to more. And calories from alcohol can quickly add up. "As a dietitian focusing on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), I've watched women struggle to lose weight or get an edge on their insulin resistance until they've cut back on drinking alcohol," says women's health dietitian Bess Berger, RDN, owner of Nutrition by Bess.

Berger points out that alcohol slows one's metabolism, so cutting out drinking or significantly limiting your imbibing may speed up tummy fat loss. Following the health recommendation to not exceed one drink per day for women and two a day for men may not be enough to affect your weight and abdominal fat. "Calories from alcohol add up without you realizing it," Berger notes. "And if you enjoy mixed drinks, remember that the calories and sugars in the mixers can add up even more quickly." For more motivation to cut back, read What Happens to Your Body if You Drink Every Day.

Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff