You work out regularly and follow a clean, healthy diet, so why is your belly fat refusing to budge?
Firstly it’s important to understand that there are 3 types of abdominal fat:
- Visceral fat: This protects and supports the organs within the body and makes up the majority of your belly fat. It is the type of fat that, in excess, can lead to cardiovascular disease.
- Subcutaneous fat: This is deep below the skin; usually found in large amounts on the hips, thighs and buttocks. This is the second most dangerous fat as it poses a much lower risk of chronic health problems than visceral fat.
- Intramuscular fat: This is not common in the abdominal area, but can be found within the abdominal muscles. Excessive amounts of this can be linked to a higher risk of diabetes.
Three steps are required to burn fat:
- Release: fat has to be released from a fat cell (also called lipolysis)
- Delivery: Fat travels through the blood to get to a cell that will burn it
- Burning: Fat enters the cell to be burned, and used for energy (also called lipid oxidation)
Two enzymes regulate the flux into and out of fat cells: LPL (lipoprotein release) and HSL (hormone sensitive lipase).
Several hormones impact LPL and HSL; insulin, cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), oestrogen and progesterone (female hormones) and testosterone (male hormone).
It is important to understand that the steps of fat burning are directly impacted by these hormones in order to figure out how to lose the stubborn belly fat.
Now you understand how belly fat is burned, here are 5 reasons why your belly fat won’t budge:
1. You’re stressed
Yes it is possible for stress to prevent you from losing belly fat! It’s not just because feeling stressed can make you reach for the Ben & Jerry’s either.
When you feel stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol (commonly known as the stress hormone); this can not only influence your brain to crave “bad” foods (explaining why we reach for the ice cream), but it also causes immature fat cells to become mature. This means that they become harder to get rid of.
2. You’re doing the wrong exercises
Many people assume that the quickest way to burn belly fat is by doing insane amounts of crunches or sit ups. This won’t work. Yes crunches will strengthen your abs, but you will still be left with the layer of fat over them.
A combination of cardio and weight training is the best thing for burning fat and, although it’s very difficult to spot reduce fat, weight training will make your metabolism speed up resulting in your body burning fat at a quicker pace all over.
3. Your workout isn’t challenging enough
This applies to all fat. When you first start a workout regime your body will struggle to complete the exercises, but, in time, your body begins to find them easier and once you are no longer struggling with a workout you are not going to be burning as much fat as your body will not be working as hard as it previously was.
It is important to regularly change your workouts so that you continue to push yourself. Hiit workouts are perfect for this because you go all out for up to 20 minutes, then stop. This gets your heart racing and boosts your metabolism, which will help to burn your stubborn belly fat (as well as the rest of your body fat).
4. You aren’t getting enough sleep
We are all guilty of this one. With busy lives it’s often difficult to get as much sleep as we know we should, but our bodies need it! Sleep deprivation can cause you to pile on the pounds, and there has even been research that has found that the biggest spike in fat burning hormones occurs during deep sleep.
Sleep deprivation is also well known to increase stress levels, resulting in increased cortisol levels, which affect your fat loss (as explained earlier).
5. Your diet contains too much salt
If you are truly following a clean, healthy diet then this shouldn’t be the case, but salt contributes to a large amount of bloating, so check that you aren’t consuming too much.
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