Many of us can likely attest to how uncomfortable it feels to have extra belly fat hanging over our pants every day. It can leave you feeling heavy, bloated, and sometimes even embarrassed around others.
It seems that people of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels share this common issue, begging the question: Why can’t we beat the belly bulge?
In his article “Are These the Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat?,” Dr. Mercola tackles this highly convoluted issue, pointing out that belly fat isn’t just an aesthetic problem, but a health issue as well, and it can lead to other, more serious conditions. “Abdominal fat actually produces inflammatory molecules, and high inflammation levels in your body can trigger a wide range of systemic diseases linked with metabolic syndrome. This is why carrying extra weight around your middle is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and other chronic diseases,” he says.
To help get to the bottom of our belly fat problems, let’s cover the often-overlooked reasons why many of us can’t seem to shed extra weight in our abdominal area.
Exercise Choice: Opt For HIIT Instead of Lengthy Cardio
As Dr. Mercola points out, running on a treadmill is probably the most commonly chosen defense mechanism against stubborn belly fat, but the least effective.
The majority of your training should be anaerobic (strength training/interval training) as opposed to aerobic (traditional lengthy and low-level) in nature.
If cardio is your go-to form of exercise, opt for high-intensity, short-interval training instead. Several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session.
HIIT workouts improve muscle energy utilization and expenditure due to their positive effects on increasing muscle mass and improving muscle fiber quality.
Muscle tissue burns three to five times more energy than fat tissues, so as you gain muscle, your metabolic rate increases, which allows you to burn more calories, even when you’re sleeping.
And really, why do a cardio workout in 45 minutes when you can do one effectively in 15?
One 2009 study showed that as little as six sessions of HIIT performed over two weeks — a total of fifteen minutes of all-out effort — increased maximal activity of the cell factory (mitochondria) and improved performance during tasks that previously relied on aerobic energy activation. HIIT increased the potential for glucose and fatty acid oxidation
To reap maximum results, you need to work out at maximum intensity, with rest periods in between spurts.
It’s also important to remember to keep upping the intensity as you get fitter.
Strength Training and Core Exercises
Strength training is rewarding because you see the results of your hard work every day as you continue to beat your previous weight or repetition number. It is also one of the most effective ways to increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH), the hormone responsible for fat metabolism and muscle growth.
If you are completely new to weight training or haven’t been able to see results with the weight training you’ve done thus far, I recommend starting with this extremely easy-to-follow routine. It’s called the 5×5 strong lifts routine, and it’s effective at teaching you the proper form for compound exercises that will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of results.
Sit-ups don’t work, so stop doing them. Opt for planks instead, which use far more muscles and do not strain the neck or back if done properly.
Diet Is Your Saving Grace, So Listen Up
This is the bottom line, so it’s crucial to get this right above all else: “Refined grains like white bread, crackers and chips, as well as refined sugars in sweetened drinks and desserts increase inflammation in our bodies,” says Registered Dietitian Kate Patton. “Belly fat is associated with inflammation, so eating too many processed foods will hinder your ability to lose belly fat.”
Most people are not aware that leptin plays an enormously important role in the development of obesity.
Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat cells that is just as important as insulin in determining your risk for type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
It also impacts how much you eat and how much fat you burn, and leptin resistance specifically causes your body to produce and accumulate visceral fat around your midline.
So how do you become leptin resistant? In short, by:
- Eating a diet that includes too many sugars and refined grains (which turn to sugar once you consume them).
- The sugar metabolizes (turns into) to fat and is stored in your fat cells.
- This activity in turn causes a surge in leptin.
- Your body becomes resistant to leptin just as it can become resistant to insulin.
When you’re leptin-resistant, your body no longer hears its own signals to stop eating, burn fat, or pass up sugary foods.
As a result, you feel hungry and crave sweets, and your body continues to store fat even though it already has more than enough. When your body routinely stores this excess as visceral fat, you increase your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, vascular disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries), and an increased thickness in the walls of your heart.
Two Dietary Changes You Should Implement Right Away
Dr. Mercola makes an inarguable case — these two factors should be implemented in the diet of anyone looking to keep their stomach slim.
1) Swap processed foods (including restaurant or fast food) for whole, ideally organic fare, focusing on raw vegetables.
- Cooking them will destroy many of their valuable micronutrients and biophotons.
- Juicing can help you boost your vegetable intake if you’re having trouble getting enough of them into your diet.
- By removing processed foods, you automatically cut out most of the refined sugars and carbs (grains) from your diet, along with a whole host of other health-harming chemicals and additives.
- If you opt for organic, you’ll also automatically avoid hazardous pesticides and herbicides, as well as genetically engineered ingredients.
2) Replace the missing carbs with healthful fats.
- Fat is actually the preferred fuel of human metabolism, and this can be traced back to our evolutionary roots.
- Avoid highly processed and genetically engineered omega-6 oils like corn, canola, and soy, however, as they will upset your omega 6:3 ratio.
- All trans fats should be avoided, but contrary to popular advice, saturated fats are a key component of a healthy diet that will promote weight loss.
- These recommendations appear to be useful for most that are struggling with insulin or leptin resistance (overweight, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol ratios, or diabetes).
- Healthy fats include: coconut oil, organic grass-fed butter, raw nuts, egg yolks, avocados.
Cutting processed carbs, increasing your healthy fats, and sticking to an effective HIIT or strength training routine will surely lead to the results you desire, but it will take commitment.
Some people may see results immediately, while with others it may take months, so it’s crucial to stay consistent and have patience. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic pill that will zap your belly fat.
Lastly, try to find a way to get inspired by eating well and working out, whether that’s putting together a motivational playlist, having a picture of your goal in front of you, or something more creative. Being inspired by fitness will lessen the feeling of it being a chore, helping you look forward to getting your sweat on.
Do you have any helpful tips for shedding belly fat? Share with us in the comment section below!
Source: Dr. Mercola
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