Some people train hard and regularly but still have a large gut, which is very unhealthy. It is very difficult to get rid of belly fat, and that’s why we have the current obesity epidemic. However, it is not impossible. In this article, we will cover eight science-backed strategies to help you lose your karate belly and improve your health.

It’s important to note that while many people tend to store excess fat around their abdominal area, you can’t effectively target belly fat through spot-exercise or spot-dieting. To reduce belly fat, you need to create a calorie deficit, which lowers your overall body fat percentage. This, in turn, leads to a reduction in abdominal fat and a shrinking waistline.

Below, you’ll find 8 strategies to help you achieve this goal.

1. Eliminate or Minimize Carbohydrate Intake

Available evidence indicates that eliminating or substantially reducing your carbohydrate intake and going low-carbs is an effective way to help you lose fat.

In a randomized controlled trial, fifty-three healthy, obese female volunteers were randomized to 6 months of either:

  • A very low carbohydrate diet with a maximum intake of 20 g carbohydrate per day. On this diet, the participants could eat as much as they want, whenever they want; or
  • A moderately low-fat, calorie-restricted diet with a recommended macro-nutrient distribution of 55% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 30% fat.

Despite being allowed to eat as much as they wanted, the very low-carbs diet group was found to have consumed comparable amounts of calories compared to the low-fat calorie-restricted diet group. And, astonishingly, the low-carbs diet group lost more than double the body weight (8.5 kg vs 3.9 kg) and body fat (4.8 kg vs 2 kg) compared to the low-fat group. [1]

Even though no calorie restriction was imposed, the low-carb diet group reduced their calorie intake and lost weight naturally. This occurred because cutting out carbohydrate-rich food and replacing it with protein and fats helped them control appetite, resulting in a reduced total calorie intake and, consequently, weight loss. [2, 3, 4, 5]

This is what natural and effortless weight loss can look like. You can eat as much as you want and still lose weight.

So, what exactly is the problem with carbs?

The key problem with carbohydrate-rich foods (such as breakfast cereals, white bread, pizza, pasta, noodles, cookies, and pastries) is that they can be digested quickly, which may not provide a prolonged feeling of fullness. This lack of satiety can lead to overeating, as your body doesn’t feel satisfied. Furthermore, carbohydrate-rich foods also trigger the brain’s reward system by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This can create a sense of pleasure and comfort, making you more inclined to consume more of these foods. [6, 7, 8]

Therefore, replacing carbohydrate-rich foods with protein and fats which tend to be a lot more satiating than carbohydrates can help you control your appetite and reduce overall food consumption and lower your calorie intake. [9, 10, 11]

There has been a substantial body of evidence indicating low-carbs diets’ potential to help people lose weight effectively. [12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17]

In addition to weight loss, low-carb diets have shown promising potentials in treating many health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, liver disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, epilepsy, brain trauma, and cancer. [18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26]

Low-carb diets are also consistent with the dietary habits of our ancestors. For millions of years, they dined almost exclusively on the meat of large animals that they either hunted or scavenged. They may have eaten a bit of honey and seasonal fruits, and nuts but carbohydrates were a negligible part of their diet. In fact, multiple avenues of evidence suggest that they were hyper-carnivorous apex predators rather than generalist omnivores. It was only with the extinction of larger herbivores that, around 10,000 years ago, our ancestors needed to shift towards farming for survival, leading to a significant increase in carbohydrate consumption as a feature of the human diet. [27]

In summary, low-carbs diets have been proven effective in aiding weight loss and improving various health conditions.

On a low-carbs diet, it’s important to avoid all carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pasta, pizza, sandwiches, noodles, rice, wheat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, lentils, cereals, dried fruits, pastries, cookies, candies, cakes, and muffins.

Carbohydrates aren’t an essential component of the human diet. You can even adopt a zero-carbs approach if desired. However, if you prefer a low-carbs approach, aim to limit your carbohydrate intake to 20 to 50 grams per day. This helps ensure your body burns fat for fuel and taps into stored fat around your waistline. [28, 29, 30, 31]

After cutting out most carbohydrates, there are still plenty of healthy food options available, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese, full-fat plain yogurt, leafy green vegetables, and low-sugar fruits.

2. Eat Less Frequently

If you cut your carb intake significantly and replace it with good quality proteins (beef, lamb, goat, pork, chicken) and quality fats (animal fats, butter, and ghee), you are likely to feel fuller for longer periods. As a result, you are likely to eat less frequently. Two to three meals a day is aplenty and you are unlikely to need to snack in between meals. [32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37]

If you have the habit of eating three meals a day because you believe that eating many small meals increases metabolism and help you lose weight, you are wrong. There is no evidence suggesting that high-frequency meals help you burn more calories and promote weight loss. [3839]

In contrast, it is found that low-frequency meals coupled with intermittent fasting (leaving a long gap between meals) are in fact better for health and weight loss.

In contrast, research indicates that infrequent meals combined with intermittent fasting (creating longer gaps between meals) can be more beneficial for both health and weight loss. [4041

However, during periods of intensive karate training – such as participating in training camps, preparing for competitions, or getting ready for a major grading – you may find it necessary to increase your meal frequency to meet your heightened energy needs. On such occasions, consider packing a variety of healthy and low-carbs snacks, such as beef jerky, cheese sticks, avocado slices, boiled eggs, pork crackles, or macadamia nuts

Avoid all sugary snacks, such as crackers, biscuits, pretzels, muffins, donuts, bagels, popcorn, and dried fruits. This includes snacks marketed as “healthy” and “natural,” like granola bars, trail bars, veggie chips, multi-grain snacks, and yogurt-covered treats. These options can be exceedingly high in carbohydrates, laden with added sugar, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients.

3. Eat Early

If you’re aiming to lose weight, it’s advisable to consume the majority of your daily calories during the daytime, preferably around midday, and avoid eating late at night or very early in the morning.

During daytime, your insulin sensitivity is high and peak at around midday. This means around midday is the time when your cells respond best to insulin and most effective at absorbing and reducing blood sugar. [4243, 44]

Your metabolism tends to slow down as the day progresses, especially during the evening. Therefore, eating late at night may not give your body enough time to properly digest and metabolize the food, potentially leading to weight gain.

Furthermore, eating too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep cycle. Poor sleep quality and inadequate sleep are associated with weight gain and difficulties in losing weight. When you eat late, your body might be focused on digestion rather than entering the restful stages of sleep and carrying out critical restorative functions. [45, 46]

It is also a good idea to avoid eating very early in the morning when your melatonin level is high (due to the lack of sun exposure), your insulin sensitivity is low, and your glucose metabolism is not at its optimal. [47]

This recommended dietary pattern is also consistent with the lifestyle of our ancestors who, for almost all of the evolution history, followed the natural cycle of the sun. They hunted, gathered and consumed their meals during their active hours of the day in the natural sunlight. It is only since the invention of artificial light around 160 years ago that we form the habit of eating and entertaining late into the night, resulting in disruptions to our circadian rhythm. This misalignment can impair metabolism, adversely affect energy balance and weight loss, and increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. [48, 49, 50]

4. Increase Your Muscle Mass

Increasing muscle mass can help you lose belly fat and improve your overall body composition through several mechanisms.

Firstly, muscle requires more energy to function during exercise compared to fat. When you engage in activities that require muscle effort, such as strength training and high-intensity interval training, you burn more calories both during the exercise session and in the recovery period afterward. [51, 52, 53]

Secondly, muscle tissue is an active organ that burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissues. When you increase your muscle mass, your resting metabolic rate (meaning the number of calories your body burns at rest) also increases. This can contribute to a higher overall calorie expenditure daily, making it easier to maintain a calorie deficit, which is essential for fat loss. [54]

Therefore, resistance training (e.g. squats, push-ups, pull-ups/chin-ups, lunges, dips, planks, calf raises, bench press, dead-lifts, rows, leg press, shoulder press) should be part of your overall training program. It not only helps you become a better fighter but also greatly support your weight loss effort.

In addition to resistance training, you need to make sure you consume enough good quality protein (e.g. beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs) to provide your body with the material it needs for muscle building.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “to increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, it is recommended that a person that lifts weights regularly … eat a range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.” [55]

5. Drink Water

Replacing sugary and alcoholic beverages with water can make a significant difference to the outcome of your weight loss effort.

In addition to being vital to all life forms, water has zero calorie and is the only drink that humans and all other animals on the planet earth need.

Sugary beverages like sodas, fruit juices, and energy drinks are often loaded with calories from added sugars. Alcoholic beverages can also be calorie-dense. By replacing these drinks with water, you eliminate those extra calories from your diet, which can create an even bigger calorie deficit and accelerate fat loss. [56]

6. Vary Your Exercises

If you train in karate regularly, you are probably physically active enough. But if you want your physical activity to help you lose your belly fat, doing more of the same thing may not help. This is because, over time, your body becomes a lot more efficient at carrying out the same activity and don’t burn a lot of calories performing routine tasks. This is why we see a lot of out-of-shape martial art instructors who are clearly very physically active but still have a large amount of abdominal fat and a big gut. [57]

However, if you vary your exercises and provide your body with new types of physical challenges regularly, you can boost your calorie expenditure significantly (at least initially until these new challenges become new routines). This is because by changing your exercises, you introduce new challenges to your muscles as well as your brain (which uses more energy than any other human organ, accounting for up to 20 percent of the body’s total energy expenditure). As both your muscles and brain need to work harder, they consume more calories, helping you create a calorie deficit and supporting your weight loss effort. [58]

Simply varying walking speed, for example, has been found to increase calorie expenditure by up to 20 percent compared to maintaining a steady pace. [59]

There are many ways to switch up exercises to burn more calories, for example, add interval training, incorporate weight lifting, change reps and sets, vary intensity, try new exercise equipment, or engage in outdoor training.

7. Reduce Stress

Practicing stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can help prevent stress-related weight gain by breaking the harmful cycle involving stress, hormonal responses and fat storage.

Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with the body’s fight-or-flight response. Chronic stress can lead to consistent elevated cortisol levels, which, over time, can contribute to the accumulation of belly fat. High cortisol levels are linked to increased appetite, cravings for unhealthy foods (especially those high in sugars and fats), and a preference for storing fat around the abdomen. [60, 61, 62]

Chronic stress can also lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which cells become less responsive to insulin’s actions. Insulin resistance is associated with fat storage, particularly around the belly. Reducing stress can improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for weight loss. [63]

Moreover, chronic stress can disrupt the balance of various hormones, including those related to hunger, metabolism, and fat storage. Reducing stress can help restore hormonal balance, making it easier to manage weight. [64, 65]

Effective stress reduction strategies include regular exercise, deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, engaging in hobbies, socializing, and getting adequate sleep. By incorporating these techniques into your lifestyle, you can improve your overall well-being as well as create a more supportive environment for belly fat loss.

In addition, if you train in karate or any other martial arts, it’s crucial not to over-train, as more is not always better. Providing your body with adequate recovery time after extended and intensive training sessions is important to avoid over-stressing your body

8. Get Enough Sleep

You should aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, as poor sleep can lead to weight gain and increased belly fat due to its impact on hormones, insulin sensitivity and energy level.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and less leptin (the satiety hormone). This can result in feeling hungrier, even if you’ve consumed enough calories, leading to overeating. [66, 67]

Lack of sleep can also affect insulin sensitivity negatively, which may contribute to increased fat storage, especially around the abdominal area. Even a single night of partial sleep deprivation has been found to induce insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy individuals. [68, 69, 70]

In addition, when you’re tired due to lack of sleep, you’re less likely to engage in physical activity or exercise. This reduced activity level can contribute to weight gain or stall weight loss.

Below are some tips to promote better sleep for weight management and overall health: [71, 72]

  • Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal your body that it’s time to wind down
  • Make your sleep environment comfortable, dark, and quiet
  • Remove all electronic device from your bedroom
  • Limit screen time before bed, as blue light from screens can disrupt sleep
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large meals close to bedtime that can make it hard for you to fall asleep
  • Engage in regular physical activity, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime
  • Manage stress through relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or gentle yoga.


Getting rid of belly fat takes time and requires consistent effort and a holistic approach, along with the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.

We hope that by incorporating the science-backed strategies mentioned above, you’ll be able to successfully achieve your weight loss goal.

Don’t look for quick fixes, shortcuts, extreme measures or crash diets that promise overnight transformation as they’re not sustainable and can be harmful to your health. You will most likely regain the lost weight in a short amount of time anyway.

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