One of the most common questions I received is how do I get rid of my Belly Fat! I came across this article in IDEA’s Fitness Journal, which basically explains the method behind getting rid of that stubborn belly fat. It is a very detailed article with practical steps, and I’m going to try my best to share as much important information as possible.
So let’s start by understanding what makes up belly fat. There are 3 layers of fat to recognize.
1. Visceral Belly Fat, which also known as the deep fat. This lies around the organs under the abdominal muscles and can’t be pinched
2. Superficial Subcutaneous belly fat, hangs over the waistline and can be pinched.
3. Deep Subcutaneous belly fat, a hybrid of both.
So in this video, we will be focusing on the 1st 2 fats. Let’s get to know them!
The visceral Belly Fat is rich in beta-receptors, it has higher blood supply and is easier to burn.
Superficial Subcutaneous Belly Fat is rich in Alpha-receptors, has lower blood supply and is harder to burn. This is the fat most of us are concern about because we can visual see it hanging over our waistline.
The 2 enzymes, which are responsible for holding onto belly fat and also burning, it are:
1) Lipoprotein Lipase (LPL) – this enzyme is responsible for fat storage.
2) Hormone-Sensitive Lipase (HSL) – this enzyme is involve in fat release, which is what we want.
So to Beat Belly Fat, is not just about creating Calorie Deficit, it is a combine of calorie deficit with Hormone Balance.
The main hormones that impact LPL activity are your insulin and cortisol.
So to simple put, Insulin + Cortisol = Belly Fat Bullies
Insulin & Belly Fat
So how does insulin causes belly fat? When it comes to the brain, muscles and liver, you want the body to be Insulin sensitive and not resistance.
Being insulin resistance in these areas makes a person unable to burn fat and sugar or to feel satisfied after eating. This is why many overweight people who are insulin resistant in these tissues tend to overeat because they are hungry all the time.
Cortisol & Belly Fat
How does cortisol causes belly fat? Well, excess cortisol in our body can drive us to eat more of the wrong foods more often, which means higher daily calorie intake and fat gain. This also causes smaller, immature fat cells to become larger, mature fat cells, which is not a good thing when you try to lose belly fat.
Diets Don’t Work
In order to burn fat, we want to make sure that these hormones are well balanced in our body.
Let’s just start by making it clear that “Diet’s Don’t Work!”. Dieting makes belly fat fatter.
The common “Eat less, exercise more” approach is only a short-term success.
This approach only accomplishes the calorie deficit but makes the hormone balance worse.
Remember To Burn Belly Fat = Calorie deficit + balanced hormones
Hence, hormonal consideration must be addressed with calories to burn belly fat.
The Belly Fat Fix
Just think of Insulin as a “starch & sugar” hormone
And Cortisol as a “sleep & stress” hormone
I’m sure you’ve heard about the “low carb, high protein” model to reduce belly fat.
This would work, however, a diet too low in carbs, which can cause low blood sugar, which stresses the body and raises cortisol levels.
Hence, you do not want a diet too low in carbs, instead choosing the right carbs, which are lower in glycemic load can help with belly fat and also to reduce weight gain overall. Increasing protein intake also decreases the potential for weight regain.
To apply this, think of a combination of protein and vegetables as they help to suppress hunger with minimal insulin production. This results in fewer calories consumed and a good hormone balance.
Please visit this link below for a comprehensive list of Glycemic Load in foods. http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm
As for dealing with the cortisol hormone, sleep and stress management is essential. Aim for a good 7-8 hours of sleep every night and practicing meditation or calming exercises would help as well. You need to give time back to yourself mentally and physically.
So to sum up, when dealing with:
1) Visceral Belly Fat, the deep fat, which has better blood flow and easier to burn, exercising, stress management and reducing carbs in moderation will help.
It is important to know that even if you are thin, you can still have too much visceral fat. This comes down to your genes, and your lifestyle, especially how active you are. Visceral fat likes inactivity. Even if you do watch over your diet and maintain a slim figure, but do not exercise, you are more likely to have too much visceral fat and these can also cause dangerous health problems. The key is to be active, no matter what size you are.
2) When it comes to burning Subcutaneous belly fat, the “love handles” fat, which is the stubborn fat as it has lower blood flow, exercising on its own is not enough. Reducing carbs intake to low levels is usually the major focus when addressing this matter. Hence, the “low carbs, high protein” model would help.
How or what should you eat?
So how or what should you eat?
We have spoken about how the traditional method of “eat less, exercise more” model won’t work.
There are two methods to burn belly fat:
1) “Eat less, exercise less” approach
2) “Eat more, exercise more” approach
Both these methods generate low-calorie intake and naturally reduce starch intake in a way that provides enough fuel to keep hunger, energy and cravings stable, but not enough to slow fat loss.
The 3:2:1 Plan
For the “Eat less, exercise less” approach, let’s look at the 3:2:1 Plan.
3 stands for 3 meals per day
2 means two of those meals should be mostly protein and fiber with less starch
1 means one meal in a day should have heavier starch. This meal is best consumed as your post-workout meal.
So to visualize this method on a plate:
3 parts should be vegetables
2 parts protein
1 part starch
You can also think of this in terms of bites, for every 3 bites of vegetables, you have 2 bites of protein and 1 bite of starch.
This 3:2:1 approach works well for those of you who are not heavy exercisers. I would say if you training 3 times a week or less, or you perform light gentle workouts.
The 3:2:2 Plan
As for the “Eat more, exercise more” approach, let’s take a look at the 3:2:2 Plan.
This plan is for people who exercise regularly.
3 stands for 3 meals per day.
2 means 2 snacks per day
Another 2 means you should double the starch intake once meal per day, again go for post-workout meal as well.
To visualize this on a plate or as bites, the meals and snacks should be
How to Measure Success
How do you know if you are successful in your plan to reduce belly fat?
Well again, you well need to check the both calorie deficit and hormone balance.
For hormone balance, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being high and 1 being low, assess your:
1) Hunger and cravings – it should be less than 5
2) Energy level – it should be more than 6
Do this assessment at the end of each week, and if your hunger and cravings are less than 5, with your energy level more than 6, then your hormone balance is good.
Next step is to assess our body shape using the waist-to-hip ratio. Take your waist measurement – the smallest part and divide it with your hip measurement – the widest part.
For women this ratio should be about 0.7 and for men the optimal number is 0.77. Always keep it below 0.8 for a healthy waist line.
If it’s moving up towards 0.8 or it hasn’t changed, then you want to look back at your food intake, exercise plan and hormone balance – which one of these are you not approaching the right way.
Again remember that to Beat Belly Fat = Calorie Deficit + Hormone Balance
Not one or the other.
The key to beating belly fat include a higher-protein diet, lower carbs, choosing the right carbs along with stress management techniques.
I hope this video has helped you to understand the causes of belly fat and steps to burn it.