10 Best Ways to Get a Toned Flat Stomach

Whether you want to trim your tum to look good at the beach or to reduce your risk of developing chronic disease, you'll have to make some changes. A combination of lifestyle, exercise and dietary strategies is the key to making a toned, flat stomach a reality. Shrink belly fat while boosting the look of the muscles that lie underneath the fat to get the results you want.

Trim Calories


You can't crunch, twist or bend your way to a flat belly; you have to lose weight all over to shrink your midsection. When you consume fewer calories than you burn, you create a calorie deficit that can lead to weight loss. This means trimming between 500 and 1,000 calories per day to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. The extra padding at your belly will shrink along with the rest of your body. Cut portions, skip sweets and lose the saturated and trans fats to trim calories.

Intervals


Exercise helps you lose weight, but moving along at a moderate, steady pace isn't especially effective, notes a paper published in a 2011 issue of the "Journal of Obesity." You are better off doing intervals, which stimulate your body to oxidize more fat. Warm up for five to 10 minutes, then go at an all-out pace for a minute or two, immediately followed by an easy pace for an equal time. Repeat as many times as it takes to fill up your desired workout time -- 30 to 45 minutes.

Strength Training


Include strength training at least twice per week to reap significant benefits, including a leaner, more toned stomach. A paper published in a summer 2012 issue of “Current Sports Medicine Reports” notes that resistance training increases lean weight while decreasing visceral, or belly, fat. Train all the major muscles of your body, not just your abs, for best results.

Whole Grains


Skip the white bread, pancakes, rolls and rice. A study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010 found that a diet rich in whole grains was associated with lower levels of belly fat than a diet rich in refined grains. Replacing refined grains with smaller portions of 100 percent whole-wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa and barley could flatten your belly and reveal toned abs.

De-Stress


Stress increases your production of cortisol, a stress hormone, that causes you to store fat – especially fat in your stomach – according to a study published in a fall 2000 issue of “Psychosomatic Medicine.” Find ways that appeal to you to help you reduce stress. This could mean taking up yoga and meditation, indulging in a spa day or a nightly bath, or simply carving out time for yourself regularly to do something that you enjoy. Limit your obligations, learn to say “no” and delegate to further reduce burdens that will encourage a muffin top.

Sleep


Get your requisite seven to nine hours of sleep per night to encourage a flat belly. In 2010, Wake Forest University researchers found that irregular sleep -- too much and too little -- caused the body to store fat in the abdomen. The study, published in a 2010 issue of "Sleep," also found poor sleep habits associated with higher body-mass index levels and subcutaneous fat levels.

Protein and Dairy


Increasing your intake of lean proteins may help to help keep your belly slim. A study published in a 2011 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition" found that women who consumed 30 percent of their calories from protein on a low-calorie plan, with 15 percent of that protein coming from dairy, lost the most visceral fat when compared to participants who consumed less protein and dairy. Choose lean options, including egg whites and white-meat poultry, along with low-fat dairy, such as cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and milk.

Stop Smoking


You know smoking poses a risk to the health of your lungs and cardiovascular system, but it may also make you gain more visceral fat in your belly. A study published in a 2012 issue of "PLoS One" reported that smokers had a higher waist circumference -- indicative of more belly fat -- than nonsmokers.

Stabilization Exercises


Traditional crunches and situps only train the superficial muscles of your abdomen, explains trainer Alwyn Cosgrove in "Shape." For a truly toned mid-section, target all the muscles of your center -- especially the deep transverse abdominis which acts like a corset around your internal organs. A strong transverse abdominis also helps you stand taller, which automatically improves your pooch. To train this muscle, along with your rectus abdominis, the front "six-pack" muscle and the obliques at the sides of your waist, do exercises such as plank holds, bicycle crunches and towel drags.

Eat the Right Oils


Studies suggest that sticking to certain types of dietary oils may help you trim stomach fat. A study published in "Lipids" in 2009 found that women who supplemented their diets with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks while following a low calorie diet and walking 50 minutes per day lost more abdominal fat than women who supplemented with soy bean oil. Also in 2009, the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" published a study showing that obese women who consumed 8 grams of safflower oil daily lost more fat in their torso than women who had an equal amount of conjugated linoleic acid, or omega 6 fats. Note that neither study is definitive.