How to Lose Your Gut Without Dieting

A 20-Minute Belly-Fat Burning Workout

Lose 4 pounds of visceral fat without changing your diet and simultaneously build your legs. Here’s the quick, science-backed workout.

That title sounds like clickbait, right? Well, it is. I’m gonna go buy a Ferrari now.

No, seriously, a recent study shows that a certain type of workout does seem to preferentially “burn” belly fat – visceral fat deposits in fancy-talk. Here’s the exact workout used in the study:

The Workout

  1. Find a stationary bicycle or similar piece of cardio equipment.
  2. Peddle hard (sprint) for 8 seconds.
  3. Back off and peddle lightly (recover) for 12 seconds.
  4. Repeat for 20 minutes.
  5. Do this 3 days per week for 12 weeks.
  6. Start an OnlyFans account to show off those new abs. Show your pooper to really rake in the dough.

The Study Details

According to the study published in the Journal of Obesity, this workout above resulted in…

  • 4 pounds of fat loss, mainly in the abdominal area (measured by DEXA)
  • A 17% reduction in visceral (sub-abdominal) belly fat
  • A measurably smaller waist size (as early as 6 weeks into the study)
  • Significant muscle mass gains in the legs

The study was conducted on overweight men in their 20s who were instructed NOT to change their normal, crappy diets. That’s important. The researchers also noted that similar effects could be experienced by women, too, along with men in other age groups.

Chubby Guys Exercised and Lost Weight. So What?

Yeah, we could’ve guessed that sedentary dudes would lean up when they started doing tough metabolic conditioning workouts. But there are a few interesting things here and some info we can extrapolate and apply to our own workout plans.

  1. The participants didn’t change their diets, or at least they weren’t supposed to. Most probably didn’t, but the researchers speculated that some of them may have made unconscious dietary adjustments because HIIE (high-intensity intermittent exercise) may suppress appetite. (That’s what some rat studies show, at least.) Now, imagine their results if they’d also dropped a modest 200 to 300 calories from their daily intakes. Most would’ve probably lost 12 or more pounds.

  2. The guys built some muscle in their legs while losing fat. Sure, they were untrained, but simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain did occur.

  3. The participants trained only an hour per WEEK: three 20-minute workouts. In related studies, participants did steady-state cardio – jogging or light cycling – for an hour per DAY and experienced about the same results, minus the new fat-free mass in their legs. Seven hours per week versus one hour to get the same results? I’ll take the hour.

Why Did They Lose Mostly Belly Fat?

The researchers speculated that high levels of catecholamines produced by HIIE may “underlie its ability to reduce visceral fat.” Catecholamines appear to drive lipolysis and are “mainly responsible for fat release from visceral fat stores.”

Studies on overweight young women and older men who did this type of exercise also showed reduced belly fat. Remember, sub-abdominal fat is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease risk and other health problems. It also makes men look pregnant. Gross.

Likewise, the researchers said that post-exercise fat oxidation may have also played a role.

How to Use This Info

If your main goal is fat loss, this style of high-intensity intermittent exercise will save you a ton of time if you can hang in there for 20 minutes. Eight seconds of sprints paired with twelve seconds of “rest” is pretty brutal.

The subjects of this study kept their exercise intensity at a level necessary to produce a heart rate between 80–90% of peak. That was about 120-130 RPMs (revolutions per minute) for the sprint and about 40 RPMs for the rest/recovery part. They also did a 5-minute warm-up and cooldown.

Wanna try it? You could follow the same workouts given to the study participants but don’t sweat the details. Pick any cardio machine, go hard for a while, back off, catch your breath, and go hard again. You know, like when you’re doing sex.

Make any fat loss strategy work better:



  1. Heydari M et al. The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males. J Obes. 2012;2012:480467. PubMed.

can using a rower work with this as well?

Given the full-body nature of the rower, it might be a little tougher to get the sprint/rest intervals right, but sure, you could make it work.

I don’t think the specifics are that important. See the last paragraph of the article. This rower test is fun too if you prefer the erg.

Thanks for the write-up. I’d be interested to see what would happen if the experiment were repeated on regular exercisers…and/or whether beginners could get similar results from, say, three 30-minute workouts of strength training circuits per week.

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So swimming could work as well?

Seems similar to Tabata

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If you can roughly simulate the sprint\recovery periods, swimming should work.

How many rounds are there in 20 minutes? I would lose track easily.

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My sentiments exactly. 20 mins would be an eternity to a person who has the attention span of a rabid squirrel :rofl:


When I see these types of prescribed workouts, I feel like “sprint” is a term that means different things to different people. This would be 60 8-second sprints in 20 minutes. That’s like doing 60 40 yard sprints in 20 minutes (really even further than that, since even a slow person could sprint 40 yards in less than that). That would be literally impossible. This is more like “Go a bit faster for 8 seconds, then go a bit slower for 12”, which is very different. I’m not doubting this protocol would work, but it would only be for untrained individuals who are likely quite plump. A more conditioned athlete would need more recovery time and could only do maybe 5-10 8 second sprints in a given training session.


Here’s another similar one, where they used “experienced” test subjects.


Download any free tabata timer or interval timer on your phone. I uave one i use that lets your program prep, work, rest, cycles and sets. Makd it really easy.

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Yep. That’s why I wrote that in the article. :wink:

With some machines and some athletes, I’d also expect this to be a “sprint” for 12 seconds and “stop completely and suck air” for 8 seconds.

I think it’s a bit easier on a bike because you’re basically just keeping your legs moving during the “recovery” portion. That would be tougher on a rowing erg or a stairmill where more muscle and/or more body weight is involved. Would not try this with actual running sprints for obvious reasons.

Something like the old “run the straights, walk the curves” track workout would be good with different parameters of course (fartlek).


My wife really likes the one from SmartWOD:

Yeah, that’s a lot of focus for 20 minutes, for sure.

In the study, the workouts were supervised and “HIIE was coordinated with a prerecorded compact disc counting down each sprint in a 3-2-1 manner.” Sorta like the WOD timers discussed above.

I’d like to see that too.

You’d assume most regular exercises wouldn’t have a lot of visceral fat to lose, but I’m not so sure. Seems to be a lot of “big arms + beachball bellies” in most gyms, especially in the middle-age population. If the catecholamines theory is true, it should work for them, with adjusted exercise parameters.

I think these adjustments would come in the interval times. Untrained people, ironically, can sometimes go longer because they don’t neurologically know how to go harder. And they’re using less muscle mass because, well, they don’t have a lot of muscle mass to use. And muscle eats up oxygen (in layman’s terms).

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I was thinking this, too.

I agree, although I’m continually surprised at just how hard you can push it on the Airdyne. As an example, a really hard track workout I do (from Tactical Barbell) is doing 600m “sprints” and then fully recovering. If you keep a 600m pace at a sub-6 minute mile you will finish each 600m in 2:15 or less. Then recover for about 3-4 minutes and repeat a total of 6 times.
On the Airdyne, if you set it for 1 mile and go as hard has you can, this will take about the same amount of time. I’ve been surprised to find that it is about as equally taxing and takes a similar amount of time to recover as the track run.

All this said, I do think sprint-style training (or hard, hard running if you prefer) is the very best way to get lean and lose your gut. The caveats are that many people are not able to run hard because of their weight or having not done it for decades, and these only really work if you push it hard. Another thing - I personally think people get lean from this type of athletic sprint work in a way that looks aesthetically natural and healthy, as opposed to those that do it by highly restrictive dieting, carb manipulation, and hydration levels.


I’ve done these on a Lifecycle. My RPMs are a little high on the recovery part just because 40 doesn’t seem natural. Keeping the RPMs above 120 for sprints is easy for the early ride, but obviously, is a bit of challenge toward the end. I keep the resistance the same (changing that too at such quick intervals is impossible). The biggest challenge is keeping the focus locked with such quick intervals.

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exercise is always a good healthy thing, BUT controlling your diet NOT going on a diet WORKS!! dr sten ekburg a former olympian has lots of great info to get healthy which is the ultimate goal IMO!! i cut my carbs + “cleaned” up my eating + all health markers got better, little fat to loose but BP was getting a bit high + cutting carbs + 2 meals daily NO eating or drinking anything that stimulates insulin which IS the issue! just turned 75 + feel good, lots of supplements BUT NO drugs that are only bandaids treating symptoms + NOT the causes!

Could this work with a regular training regimen? Or would the recovery burden be too high? I guess it depends on the ability of the athlete, but as has already been pointed out, the stronger you are, the harder your sprints will be, which will cause higher recovery burden than the 8 second recoveries provide, right?