Why is it that so many people carry their excesses around in their stomachs creating belly fat? Your metabolism determines how many calories you can eat, your hormones which decide where fat is best, and your genes.
It’s unfair, really. It’s unfair that some people can eat what they like and not gain an inch. For the rest of us, however, yesterday’s Chipotle is the reason our pants aren’t fitting today.
It’s not just about appearances. There have been many health problems linked to abdominal fat, including heart disease, type two diabetes and breast carcinoma.
Andy Bellatti, MSRD says that belly fat is not a cosmetic issue. There are real health risks.
Why Fat goes to Your Belly
We can’t choose where our fat goes. Our genetic makeup has an impact on how much of our fat we have.
The other important factor that determines fat storage is hormones. You can change this to some extent by changing your lifestyle. Insulin and cortisol are two of the most important factors in the production of belly fat.
“How we live our life impacts those hormones, which then impact our ability to store and release fat,” states Mike Roussell, a nutritionist from Pennsylvania State University.
“Insulin acts essentially as a bouncer. Roussell explains that insulin is a blood sugar pump that kicks out excess blood sugar from the bloodstream to bring it back to a safe level. “So if you eat carbohydrates, or sugar, your blood sugar will rise, and insulin will shovel that sugar from your bloodstream into your fat cells.”
This does not necessarily mean insulin is responsible for fat gain. However, this theory has been disproven. Insulin also plays a crucial role in the storage of calories and muscle.
It does however mean that insulin that is constantly elevated (which could be caused by eating sugar all the day) can lead to fat storage.
It’s important to not worry about every food that triggers insulin (many do), but rather make sure your insulin levels don’t rise at all times.
Cortisol is the other hormone responsible for stress response. It prepares your body for fight/flight by providing enough glucose to fuel your large muscles.
Problem: Stress from work or lack of sleep can cause your body to think it is in survival mode and trigger a cortisol increase. This can lead to bigger problems as cortisol is consistently linked to belly fat.
Compounding interest is a way of gaining fat. You get deeper and deeper in the hole, making it harder to escape.
Roussell explains that as fat is added to fat cells, they grow larger and can cause an inflammatory response. “When your fat cells are in a stressed state and inflamed it won’t want to let go of the fat.”
How to limit fat gain
Maintaining energy balance is the first step in preventing the buildup of belly fat. This means that the calories you consume are equal to what your body burns during the day. This is not an easy task. In fact, only a third of U.S. residents are considered obese. These are the three options that you have to get started.
1. Select Quality Calories
Bellatti suggests that you make this task easier by eating more vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. This will not only make it more satisfying, but will also reduce the likelihood of your stomach becoming a mass.
“Let’s take two people who have a 1,500-calorie-per-day diet,” Bellatti says. Bellatti says that if one of the two has a high-calorie diet, which is very high in refined grains, added sugar, low fiber, and lacks good quality protein and fats, it will increase blood sugar. There will be more insulin released and more belly fat stored.
You’ll also get more value for your money if you choose whole foods over calorie-dense convenience foods. Bellatti says that you should not buy into diets that claim to help you lose weight by eating lots of McDonald’s or Twinkies.
“Can you lose weight by eating 1,500 calories of Haagen Dazs or McDonald’s?” Yeah,” Bellatti says.
It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t provide a lot of food. Volume-wise, it’s not much food if you only eat 1,500 calories of ice cream. You would be hungry.
2. Take Control of Your Cortisol
If you don’t run from wild animals, or do anything that could elicit a stress response, you can increase your cortisol by drinking caffeine, drinking alcohol, worrying about work, and sleeping too much.
Caffeine can cause weight loss problems. Although caffeine may have some calorie-burning properties, it has been shown to increase cortisol levels. It may be a good idea to have your morning coffee but not the afternoon energy drink.
Cortisol can rise if alcohol is consumed in large quantities over a short time. It is okay to have a glass of wine with dinner, but it is not advisable to drink six beers at happy hours.
Stress can trigger the stress response. The good news? It may actually be right in front of you.
Breathing is one the most effective and accessible methods to reduce stress, and elicit a relaxation response. You can transform your “fight or flight” mindset into “rest and digestion” by taking a few deep, controlled breaths.
Next time your mind races at work and you feel the need for panic, get away from the computer and find a calm place to sit down. Next, spend five minutes practicing belly breathing.
3. Hit the Sack
Insufficient or poor sleep can also increase cortisol levels and lead to fat storage.
Roussell states that a lack of sleep can completely alter the hormonal balance and lead to fat storage or inflammation. Poor sleep for four hours or less can cause hormone changes that make it more difficult to release fat cells from fat cells.
One study found that people with sleep deprivation experienced an increase in ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone”, and a decrease in leptin, which is a hormone that helps them say “I’m okay, without that donut, thank you”.
Remember that sleep is more than just a place to rest. It is an important part of your slim-belly battle. It deserves the attention and time (for most adults, it takes between seven and nine hours).
Contact Apex Performance today
At Apex Performance members can take advantage of personal training in Tampa, one-on-one training, small group classes, and specialized courses for a wide variety of athletics, youth sports training, and nutritional guidance! Check out what others are saying about Apex and its trainers and contact us today to get started on your fitness journey to get rid of that pesky belly fat.