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.



  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.