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How To Get Rid Of Belly Fat
The Roles Diet, Stress,
And Exercise Play In Belly Fat Reduction
The time when fat was considered to be a simple storage organ is past. Though storage is by far the most visible aspect of fat, we know now that even "storage fat" has incredibly diverse functions, and in reality is a part of our endocrine system, the system of hormone-releasing glands which regulate everything from our moods and metabolism to growth and sexual function.
There Are MANY Types Of Fat In Your Body
Fat is also not so uniform as the catch-all term would imply--it exists in many forms in our body, some of which are extremely vital, useful, and not prone to expansion in the same way other forms of fat are.
The fat which is prone to expansion comes in two forms: subcutaneous ("under the skin") and visceral, also known as
. While both these fats accumulate in areas which can be seen and felt, it's the less visible effects of belly fat which make it so important to get rid of!
An Overview Of The Two Visible Types Of Fat
While both types of fat serve as a storage area for excess energy, they differ somewhat in the other functions they serve and their overall impact to health.
Subcutaneous fat is the type found visibly in most areas of the body, such as the butt, thighs, and arms. It may be visible, but the good news is that compared to belly fat, it does not carry much of a health risk. Subcutaneous fat can also be found on the belly (above the ab muscles), though the fat which gives people a "gut" tends to be belly fat, even if there is excess subcutaneous fat in that region as well.
Why Too Much Belly Fat Is Dangerous
Belly fat is the fat which serves to pad our internal organs from shock, and is found underneath the abdominal wall (under the ab muscles). While a certain amount is necessary, too much is a serious health risk, as it turns up the production of certain hormones and pro-inflammatory cytokines (hormone-like messengers).
By increasing the amount of pro-inflammatory messenger activity, inflammation in the body rises, leading to a number of health issues including chronic diseases like heart disease and even cancer. Increasing the release of hormones can also inadvertently make it harder to lose weight, as hunger becomes less well-regulated and you are more prone to cravings even when you are not in need of food.
The Good News Is That Belly Fat Is Easily Burned!
The good news is that
belly fat is more
, making it possible to lose it faster and improve health and other risk-factors quickly. Before we concentrate on how to lose the belly fat, however, why we accumulate belly fat in the first place should be examined.
Related PEERtrainer Article: The Six Things You Must Do In Order To Lose Weight
Why Do We Get Belly Fat?
Beyond gender (men are more prone to belly fat than women) and genetics,
. Insulin resistance, in a nutshell, is when your body no longer responds to insulin at an appropriate level, leading the body to release ever-increasing amounts of the hormone in an attempt to get the muscles, fat, and liver to take it up.
Why does this happen? The most common reason is diet,
especially diets high in fat and refined sugar and low in fiber
In a study featuring both healthy and overweight people, diets high in fat (but
, it should be noted) caused
, even in the otherwise healthy participants. When you eat a high-fat diet, your blood becomes loaded with free fatty acids, destined either for use by the muscles or storage as fat.
When You Reduce Sugar, Fat Becomes A GREAT Source Of Energy
This is not always a bad thing, as free fatty acids can be a wonderful source of fuel for your muscles, but only if you are currently in need of it (such as when you are exercising). Unfortunately, our body has learned to respond to this increase in free fatty acids in a way that, while beneficial if exercising, is less ideal in other situations.
Why Exercise Burns Fat
Glucose is the prime fuel for our brain, and it demands that it has preference over all glucose reserves, no matter how much is available. When we are sedentary and well-fed, there is plenty of glucose so the brain lets other organ use it as well. When we exercise, however, our brain starts to horde that fuel for itself. Our body reacts by releasing an alternate fuel for the muscles: free fatty acids.
to help save the glucose for the brain and to better utilize the fat.
Why Sugar Prevents Belly Fat From Being Burned
Insulin, on the other hand, works by turning up the glucose-transporters found in your cells, so it is actively antagonized by excess free fatty acids! When you are starving or exercising, insulin is naturally low, so it won't fight the free fatty acids.
After we have eaten, however, insulin is released in larger amounts to help control the elevated blood sugar from the meal.
Why High Fat Diets Prevent Belly Fat From Being Burned
If that meal was a high-fat meal, then the blood also becomes loaded with free fatty acids, which work against the insulin causing the pancreas to release even more insulin to achieve the proper effect.
It's interesting that excess sugar creates essentially
the same problem
, and that it is not the blood glucose itself which appears to be the direct problem. Rather, the problem with excess sugar is that
it too will cause the blood to be loaded with fatty acids
, which over time can contribute to insulin resistance.
Related PEERtrainer Article: The RIGHT Way To Do A Low-Carb Diet
While sugar may not be the direct agent in the formation of insulin resistance, it should be noted that control of blood glucose is the direct victim once insulin resistance sets in.
How Fructose Prevents Belly Fat From Being Burned
Of even more worry than glucose in the modern diet is fructose. Most refined sugars contain a significant portion of fructose in addition to glucose. Many people revile high-fructose corn syrup as being a great evil in the world of food, but the truth is that even regular table sugar is 50% fructose (the aforementioned high fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose, a scant 5% higher--realistically speaking, table sugar is just as bad).
Agave nectar is even worse, running as high as 85% fructose in some batches! As with fat, fructose is not truly the enemy here--overconsumption of that sugar is.
The issue with fructose is that our body cannot use it
as energy, vastly preferring glucose as its sugar fuel source. While glucose will begin circulating in the blood almost instantly after absorption, providing energy to our brain, muscles, and other organs,
instead, first into glycogen (a form of short-term storage) if it is needed, and then into fat.
Key Point: If too much fructose is consumed at once, our liver is overloaded, and more fructose will end up as fat.
When we consume processed food, the sugar content is usually significantly higher than what is found in nature, and is released much faster (as a result of low to no-fiber content). The average can of soda contains more sugar than two apples, and the sugar it contains is
completely absorbed by our small intestine within 5 minutes.
A small cake or cookie can be completely broken down and absorbed in twenty minutes once it enters the small intestine. Even if the food is low-fat, the end result is still a rise in free fatty acids in the blood, as the sugars get metabolized into fat to be stored!
Why You Must Avoid Processed Foods To Burn Belly Fat
To make matters worse, many processed foods tend to be high in both fat and sugar, a nightmare for insulin resistance. Now, free fatty acids are being elevated from two ends of the spectrum, and there is a good chance that much of the excess energy (especially from the fat)
, leading to obesity as well.
This extra weight will then play its own role in the formation of insulin resistance, creating a dangerous cycle.
Stress And Belly Fat
Stress is another factor which can induce the body to store more fat as belly fat, and does so through two primary mechanisms.
The first is by playing a factor in insulin resistance. Cortisol, the stress hormone, causes a couple of things to happen when it is present. First, cortisol turns down glucose uptake by the muscles, allowing the brain to horde the sugar. Second, cortisol increases the release of free fatty acids from our fat, giving the muscles an alternative fuel.
If you are stressed because you're about to be eaten by a tiger, this provides your body with a quick source of energy to run away. Most stress doesn't come in this form today, however, but rather in forms which do not require either a mobile response or an increase in fuel.
When you become aware of your emotions, it really is possible to "let them go." Make a decision to become aware of them and then release them. If you do this,
. It takes a little practice, but this works.)
When cortisol runs too high too often,
, which then impair the action of insulin. The end result can be decreased insulin sensitivity, and increased belly fat.
How Stress Leads To The Creation of Belly Fat
While stress may possibly play a role in increasing belly fat through insulin sensitivity, the more insidious way and common way which stress influences the production of belly fat is through selective deposition of free fatty acids.
Cortisol actively selects for fat to be
instead of subcutaneous fat!
We are not certain why cortisol has this effect, but a well-regarded theory is that it serves the body well, when stressed, to store its excess energy in a readily available form.
There Is Some Good News Here, Really!!
Belly fat is easier to release and burn than subcutaneous fat, so storing excess energy as belly fat favors a quick energy response to stress, allowing us to escape a future stressful situation better. But when the stress is constant, we just keep storing more and more fat in the belly, and since our response to stress is usually not running or climbing, we never give the body the opportunity to burn it back off!
The "Chicken And Egg" Problem With Belly Fat
The involvement of insulin resistance and stress doesn't end there--they interact with belly fat in a continuous manner which leads researchers to question which really comes first: the belly fat, the insulin resistance, or the cortisol.
While insulin resistance may lead to an increased tendency to store belly fat, we now know that
belly fat itself is a leading cause of insulin resistance!
The primary way belly fat contributes to insulin resistance, and often diabetes, is by creating an innate source of free fatty acids.
It Is Easy To Burn Belly Fat- You Just Need The Right "Strategery!"
The ease with which belly fat releases free fatty acids is a double-edged sword--if you are trying to lose your belly fat, it makes it much easier, but if you are not working to reduce it then
which are being continuously released and restored.
These fatty acids work in the same way they would were you to eat a high-fat meal, except now they don't just rise after you eat, they are always high!
The problem with this is that while the body may be able to fend off occasional binges, when blood levels are constantly high, insulin is always being counteracted, and the body releases a constant stream of increased insulin.
How Belly Fat "Takes On A Life Of Its Own"
For many people, the ultimate cause of medically-notable insulin resistance is belly fat itself--a high-fat diet can start the ball rolling towards insulin resistance by increasing both the amount of fat stored and the amount which ends up as belly fat, but the real declines in sensitivity likely do not occur until the belly fat begins releasing its own fatty acids, creating conditions where insulin is always being fought.
A similar problem occurs with cortisol. Cortisone, a hormone considered the "inactive" form of cortisol, can be
Whereas most other tissue expresses two forms of the enzyme--one allowing cortisone to be converted to cortisol and vice-versa (thus helping to control levels)--the predominant enzyme in belly fat is the one which "activates" cortisone into cortisol.
What this means is that
belly fat actively increases the amount of cortisol in your blood
, possibly increasing how often you feel stressed and definitely contributing to a greater tendency to store belly fat and resist glucose!
The Best Diet Plan To Burn Belly Fat
The most important thing to know is that calories matter- but where they come from matters more. We are used to hearing that you need to eat less and burn more calories.
There is no question that advice works. However, from reading this article so far, you know that stress, insulin and hormones play a big role as well. You need to eat in a way that also reduces the effects of stress and insulin response.
The way to do this is called a "nutritional cleanse." Now, this is not a juice cleanse or anything like that. It is just a "way of eating" that consists of some adjustments. PEERtrainer has put together a short webinar where you learn the exact foods to eat and not eat. You can get this sent to you for free, by entering your email:
Learn How To Do A Cleanse For Free!
Get Rid Of Belly Fat- And Get Rid Of Type 2 Diabetes?
So does insulin resistance, stress, or belly fat come first? There isn't a clear answer to this yet, but the research does suggest that they are all interconnected. Nobody begins with belly fat, so diet and stress will certainly play a role in the formation of it.
Once belly fat is present, however, it will powerfully contribute to the formation of insulin resistance and cortisol, accelerating the body down the road to poor health. Of course the inverse is also true.
The Serious Health Risks Of Belly Fat
The risks of belly fat don't end with insulin resistance and chronically high levels of cortisol, though the long-term consequences of these conditions are best avoided (type II diabetes and
, to name two).
A much more potentially dangerous issue associated with belly fat is increased levels of
, which rises through at least two pathways.
First, the free fatty acids released by the belly fat
, which is a key regulator in our immune response. When NFkB is triggered, it turns on genes to allow cells to proliferate and flourish and to prevent cell death. In particular, it affects two particular sorts of cells: monocytes and macrophages, which are both types of white blood cells and a part of our immune response.
What we traditionally think of as "belly fat" is actually a mixture of fat cells and the white blood cells just mentioned, and while the blood cells may seem innocuous compared with the fat, they are actually a quite dangerous presence all on their own. Once present in large amounts, the macrophages and monocytes begin to release pro-inflammatory cytokines, increasing the level of chronic inflammation throughout the entire body.
Related PEERtrainer Article: How To Reduce Inflammation
The second way belly fat increases inflammation is by creating pro-inflammatory cytokines through its own fat cells. When we have a healthy amount of belly fat, it releases proper amounts of these cytokines (which are a lot like hormones, but limited in function), but when our belly fat expands, so does the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, contributing further to chronic inflammation!
The Link Between Belly Fat And Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes And Arthritis
Chronic inflammation has been linked to an incredible amount of diseases, ranging everywhere from autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis to heart disease and even cancer! Beyond diet and lifestyle, belly fat is a leading cause of inflammation, and reducing it will play a huge role in your overall health!
A Proven Plan To Burn Belly Fat:
The good news is that even though belly fat is a huge health risk, it is also relatively easy to get rid of! You cannot "spot target" fat--you won't get rid of your gut by doing hundreds of crunches or sit-ups a day--but because belly fat is so prone to releasing its fatty acids, it can be burned off fast.
In addition to getting rid of belly fat, working to fix the conditions which lead to it in the first place (and which may be fighting your ability to lose it) is also important. If your boat is sinking, it does you no good if you bail all the water but fail to patch the leak!
To get ship-shape, you need to both bail the water
fix the leak, that way no more water can come in. The same applies to belly fat--if you lose all your belly fat, but don't work to fix the other causes of insulin resistance and high cortisol, then you will be battling belly fat your entire life.
To succeed in the battle against belly fat, a three-pronged approach must be taken. The first and most important thing to begin doing is aerobic exercise. Second, the other causes of insulin resistance must be addressed. Finally, stress must be taken care of so that cortisol levels don't run chronically high. Fixing one problem is certainly a move in the right direction, but fixing all three will ensure success.
Exercise Away Belly Fat
Studies suggest that to lose belly fat,
, and diet alone is not sufficient. This may seem intimidating, but to begin losing belly fat you do not need to run five miles a day. Even a slow start is beneficial, and
, meaning that the more you exercise the more belly fat will be lost.
There is a minimum amount necessary, which research suggests is 10 METs of aerobic exercise a week. METs are a way to measure exercise using the same principle as the way we measure our resting metabolic rate. Because everyone is different, and has different metabolisms, burning 100 calories takes different amounts of time for different people and is not a useful measurement. METs helps give a scale applicable to everyone.
METs (metabolic equivalent of a task) measure not the calories burned by an activity, but the overall intensity. The more intense an exercise, the more METs are accumulated. One MET is roughly equivalent to sitting for one hour--in other words, if you did nothing at all, all day, you would burn exactly 24 METs, meeting your resting metabolic rate.
The Exercises You Need To Do To Burn Belly Fat
Activities which require more effort, even slightly, accrue METs faster, reflecting the increased amount of energy required to perform these tasks. Here is a brief chart of activities with MET equivalents (per hour):
Sitting Quietly: 1 MET
Walking: 2-3 METs
Leisure Biking: 4 METs
Biking, light-moderate: 7-8 METs
Biking, vigorous: 10 METs
Swimming, light-moderate: 6 METs
Jogging (4 mph): 6 METs
Running (6 mph): 10 METs
Running (8 mph): 12 METs
Sprinting (12 mph): 19 METs
As the relative intensity of the exercise increases, MET hours also go up. If you could run at 12 mph for an hour, you would burn the metabolic equivalent of 19 hours at rest (19 METs)! Of course, this is probably not possible, but you still get significant benefit from jogging at 4 mph--two hours of jogging at this rate will net you 12 METs, two above the minimum requirement weekly for belly fat reduction!
How Much Exercise Do You Need To Burn Belly Fat??
To be useful for belly fat reduction, the exercise needs to be aerobic--it should make you breathe hard, but not so hard you can't speak in short sentences. Most light aerobic activities are worth around 6 METs, plus or minus one, meaning you need a minimum of an hour and a half to two hours of this activity each week.
If you feel like you don't have the time to exercise two hours a week, find it! If you still really can't, then up the intensity. Running at 6 mph is worth 10 METs, as is vigorous biking. If you can sustain these speeds for a half an hour, then you only need two half hour sessions a week!
If time is really an issue, then you can burst train. There are many ways to burst train, but the general idea connecting them is that you should go all out for 45-60 seconds, recover, go all out again, recover again, etc. One minute may not seem long enough to make a difference, and alone it is not, but consider this: one minute of sprinting is worth 19 MET minutes.
If you burst train with sprints and lightly jog during the recovery minutes, then you will accumulate a total of about 2.6 METs (1.6 METs from sprinting, 1 MET from jogging). Four fifteen minute sessions a week is all that is necessary--sprinting is not. Any exercise you can only do for about a minute is of sufficient intensity to be worth around 20 METs
The more you exercise aerobically, or the more intensely, the faster the belly fat will be shed. Significant losses only begin at 10 METs per week--much higher amounts can be burned by increased exercise. It is also important to note that even though resistance training has not been directly tied to reducing belly fat, it is an extremely important part a general fitness routine, and will help raise your overall metabolic rate which
help you reduce belly fat.
Related PEERtrainer Article: How To Get The Motivation To Exercise
Other Changes And Supplements For Belly Fat
Another beneficial effect of exercise is stress-reduction, but not all stress reduction needs to come from exercise. There are also lifestyle changes you can make and supplements you can consider. Because stress influences belly fat not just directly, but also through insulin resistance, tackling stress is key to reducing the amount of fat the body stores as belly fat.
Stress is not only a feeling capable of being changed through physical intervention (massage, aromatherapy, etc.), it is also a chemical change in our body which can be treated with supplements. While stress is itself an unpleasant psychological state, it is cortisol which wreaks havoc upon our body when it is chronically high, and it is cortisol which tells the body to store belly fat.
Psychological aspects of stress may encourage "stress eating" or other detrimental behaviors, and for this reason stress management techniques are important, but in the short-term we can also try to fix cortisol levels and reduce the overall health risk associated with chronically high cortisol levels and the belly fat it encourages.