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What Is Muffin Top, And How To Get Rid Of It?

8 min read
a woman is standing with her back to the camera, illustrating muffin top - fat accumulated in the abdominal area
Natasha Caleel post Reviewer Natasha Caleel post Reviewer
Verified by Natasha Caleel
MS in Occupational Therapy, BS in Kinesiology, Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Coach

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Love handles, belly flab, muffin top: these are just a few of the names we use to refer to abdominal fat. This type of fat overflows beyond the waistband and can make us feel uncomfortable when wearing tight-fitting clothing. 

Luckily, there are various ways to eliminate the excess fat on your torso and improve your shape.

Read this article to learn how to get rid of your muffin top via lifestyle changes and targeted exercises. 

What is Muffin Top?

Muffin top is the name given to the excess fat around the waistline. It gets more visible and pronounced when wearing tight-fitting trousers, underwear, or skirts. 

What Causes Muffin Top?

Muffin tops result from excess visceral and subcutaneous belly fat, usually caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise. 

How fat is accumulated and distributed is led by genetics and hormones, which also influence metabolism and regulate appetite. [1] [2] 

Health Risks Associated with Excess Abdominal Fat

As we’ve established, muffin top is a result of excess abdominal fat. As such, it can risk your health and potentially lead to serious chronic diseases. 

Here are some of the main health implications linked to high levels of abdominal fat. 

Cardiovascular Disease

Excess belly fat, especially visceral fat that gathers around the organs, has been linked to high blood pressure and, consequently, to cardiovascular disease. [3] 

Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers believe intra-abdominal fat can cause insulin resistance in the liver through direct circulatory communication with this organ. In turn, insulin resistance makes it difficult for the body to process carbohydrates effectively, leading to high blood glucose levels, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. [4]

Metabolic Syndrome

Both intra-abdominal fat and visceral fat were found to be linked to cardio-metabolic impairments, such as dyslipidemia, diabetes, systemic inflammation, hypertension, and heart disease. When paired together, these health problems can lead to the development of metabolic syndrome. [3] [5]

Hormonal Imbalances

Excess adipose tissue stored around the midline can also pose a risk to your endocrine system, which is the system that regulates hormones.

This is because some hormones are produced within the fat stores and because high-fat levels lead to increased oxidative stress, which is correlated to abnormal secretion levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and insulin. [6]

How to Determine if Your Muffin Top Poses Health Risks

After we discussed the chronic conditions and health issues linked to high levels of abdominal fat, it is now important to understand whether you should be concerned about your belly fat. 

Below you can find some ways to assess whether you should start worrying about your muffin top.

Calculate Your Body Mass Index (BMI)

The simplest thing you can do to roughly assess whether your muffin top is a risk to your health is to check your BMI score.

To achieve this, you simply need to divide your body weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared, as shown in the example below.

  • Height: 160 cm
  • Weight: 65kg
  • 65 / 1.60² = 25.39 = 25

Depending on your body composition, a BMI score above 25 indicates that your body weight might be too high for your height, and hence dropping some fat might be required to prevent health issues. [7] [8]

BMI score can vary with differing body types, so it is not always the most accurate measure of health. For example, a person with a lot of muscle mass leading to extra weight may present as obese, even though they are very fit individuals, so interpret these results with caution. 

Measure Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR)

Even if you have a healthy BMI, calculating your waist-to-hip ratio allows you to determine whether you carry too much fat around your waist. 

If you have a WHR of 0.5 or more, you’d be better off getting rid of your muffin top, as it might pose a risk to your health. [7] 

To determine your WHR, simply use a tape measure and take the circumference of your waist and your hips, then divide your waist by your hip measurements. 

Figure Out Your Body Fat Percentage

Below, you can find the most common methods to evaluate body composition that can be carried out at home or through professional assistance.

At home: Scales with impedance, skinfolds, and visual comparisons.

These methods might be less accurate in calculating body fat as they are carried out using non-calibrated tools and are performed by non-professionals. 

Professional: DEXA scan, BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis), hydrostatic weighing (underwater weighing), skinfold measurements done by a trained professional, or air displacement plethysmography (Bod Pod).

These methods are more accurate as they rely on more sophisticated technology and are carried out by professionals with plenty of experience handling these machines and tools. 

Body fat distribution is led by genetics and affects the way fat accumulates around the waist. Likewise, the higher your body fat percentage, the greater the chances of having a muffin top.

As per ACE guidelines, you can find below the average body fat percentage norms for men and women. [8] 

Essential Fat2-5%10-13%

How to Get Rid of Muffin Top

In this section, you can find some tips that teach you how to lose your muffin top and get a toned midsection

Balanced Diet

Changing your eating habits and eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods and high in protein helps you lose belly fat whilst boosting your health. A high-protein, whole-food diet slows digestion, promotes longer-lasting satiety, and provides plenty of nutrients.

Protein also triggers fullness signals and boosts metabolism by requiring greater employment of energy to be digested. [9] And don’t forget to include healthy fats in your diet to promote brain and cellular health and support metabolic pathways. [10]

You may also like: How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb?

To foster better digestion and prevent overeating, ensure to:

  • eat slowly,
  • savor flavors,
  • listen to hunger cues,
  • avoid distractions while eating,
  • practice portion sizing. 

Calorie Deficit

Maintaining a calorie deficit through diet and exercise is essential to allow your body to use the excess fat to produce energy and get rid of your muffin top. [9]

Targeted Exercises for Core Strength

Core workouts are helpful if you want to achieve a tight belly. Working the muscles underneath your muffin top can help you burn calories while making your core toned and strong.

Remember, it is difficult to spot-treat fat, so you should combine exercise with a healthy diet and other full-body movements. Here are some of the best core exercises you can try out:

  • Plank
  • Crunches
  • Russian twists
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Leg raises
  • Mountain climbers
  • Dead bug
  • Bridge
  • Flutter kicks
  • Side plank

You might also benefit from this set of ab exercises that don’t hurt your lower back.

You can also train your core and get rid of your muffing top through compound weight lifting exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, or lunges. 

Cardio Workouts

Cardio workouts can help you lose your muffin top by increasing your energy expenditure and improving your body’s efficiency in burning fat. [11]

Walking, running, cycling, or rowing are all great ways to get your aerobic activity going and shed fat.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT training can help you shed fat and improve your body composition by raising your metabolic rate, promoting lean mass growth, burning calories, and improving fat metabolism.  [11] [12] HIIT workouts allow you to burn a good amount of calories in a short period; therefore, they are ideal for those who are working out on a time crunch.

Sleep and Stress Management

Quality sleep and stress reduction are vital to support weight loss. These factors affect metabolic adaptations that can promote fat gain. 

A lack of sleep can negatively affect the secretion of hunger hormones while also elevating stress levels and thus leading to increased cortisol secretion. Decreasing cortisol levels is crucial to lose weight, as high circulating levels of this hormone stimulate intra-abdominal fat accumulation. [13] [14]


Keeping hydrated can aid fat loss by curbing appetite, reducing water retention, and improving the absorption of nutrients. [15] [16]

Wrapping Up

Having a muffin top means you might carry excess fat on your torso. Although this can make you feel uncomfortable, there are several ways to lose weight and shrink your waistline. Here are the key points about abdominal fat and how to get rid of muffin tops:

  • Muffin tops are a result of excess intra-abdominal and visceral fat caused by a lack of exercise and poor nutrition.
  • The way we accumulate fat is due to genetics as well as hormonal activity.
  • High levels of abdominal fat are linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hormonal imbalances.
  • You can assess whether your muffin top poses a risk to your health by calculating your BMI and hip-to-waist ratio or finding out your body fat percentage.
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in protein and whole foods to support fat loss and boost your health.
  • Perform cardio or HIIT workouts to improve fat metabolism and burn excess calories. Core exercises, at the same time, allow you to achieve a toned and strong belly.
  • Ensure to keep hydrated to support weight loss and improve overall health.
  • Managing sleep and stress is essential to regulate the secretion of hunger hormones and cortisol.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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