Here are a few key reminders you will need to acknowledge before you dive into your new diet! This is helpful for all levels of training. Anyone can KICK ASS!
Muffin top, butter loaf, love handles, baby fat, jelly belly, or the ever endearing pooch. No matter the cute name you give to the excess that hangs over your jeans, you want it gone and you want it gone fast, now, YESTERDAY. And, the next person that pinches or squeezes it will get a punch to the throat.
Now, come off the ledge of despair because I have good news. You aren’t crazy; sometimes our bodies, in an effort to keep us functioning, can actually work against us. There are many physiological mechanisms that in order to adapt to our diets, good or bad, and stresses, good or bad, consequently promote the storage of not just fat but belly fat.
Chances are you have had a gut feeling (no, pun intended, ok, yes it is) that something wasn’t right. You were doing everything possible; training like an animal, eating like a dietician, taking a million selfies, but progress was slooooow.
Now, you can’t wave a magic wand over your stomach area and have your diet and training effect just those areas but you can target and manage the following culprits conspiring against the waist of your dreams.
Top Three Belly Bullies: Imbalances
Going back to those physiological mechanisms I mentioned, these three are notorious enemies in your battle against belly fat. These imbalances will actually add fat to your middle no matter your current physical state.
1. Bomchickapowpow: Sex Hormones
You thirty-somethings may not want to hear this but around 35 our sex hormones start their roller coaster of ups and downs. To preserve our fertility, (hubba, hubba) our bodies store belly fat to later produce more estrogen when necessary. This is awesome if you want to have a baby, not so much if you want washboard abs.
As for you twenty-somethings, lest you should gloat and think this imbalance doesn’t affect you. Note that alcohol, poor diet, lack of sleep and taking birth control, impacts your sex hormones. In other words, if you party too hard, then you may pooch.
2. Sensory Overload
Our adrenal system (glandular system) is responsible for our primal “fight or flight” response. We no longer have to fight off sabertooth tigers with a club like back in the day, although that’s totally awesome. However, that survival mechanism has stayed with us. You know that feeling when you get cut off in traffic and you don’t know whether to drive off with dignity or drive that person off into the nearest ditch? Well, that is the dynamic duo of adrenaline and cortisol in fight or flight action.These hormones mobilize energy (calories) to equip for the escape or battle. But this primitive and adaptive mechanism is extreme for the type of typical modern burdens we experience in the form of physical, mental and emotional stress. So, the excess calories that aren’t used now become belly blubber. Good times.
3. Sweet Tooth: Insulin Resistance
Starbucks Frappuccino and a muffin for breakfast, Subway sandwich chip and cookie combo for lunch, and wings washed down with Coke for dinner, is the type of diet that will shuttle fat straight to your gut. “I rarely eat fast food,” you say. I may be exaggerating but the point is a diet high in carbs, refined sugars and alcohol could make your cells resistant to insulin, which leads to excess blood sugar with nowhere to go but your belly.
Steps Away from Belly Flab and into Belly Fab
1. Balance the Crazy
I would suggest for any woman of child bearing age, with medical insurance, and who has trouble losing weight to see an endocrinologist and have some blood work done. Hormones control everything in our bodies. EVERYTHING. Some blood work could resolve years of mystery ailments and symptoms. And just like that you have answer to your six pack problem that can be fixed. Nevertheless, hormonal fluctuations are a part of life and can be regulated with over-the-counter herbs. For example, black cohosh is great for estrogen and wild yam and chasteberry for progesterone. There are many herbs for hormonal support, so do a little research. Also, add healthy fats found in foods such as olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and salmon that serve as hormone building blocks.
No, seriously, lower cortisol can change how your body stores fat. The way to do this is to change how you react to stress. You can’t control everything but you can control your reactions even if it means not being controlling or overreacting. There are supplements specifically designed to alleviate cortisol and offer adrenal support. These supplements may contain ingredients such as phosphatidylserine (PS), DMAE, choline, Siberian ginseng, to name a few. Adapting better coping mechanisms and habits will also reduce cortisol and also build new pathways in your brain so that you won’t resort to your old destructive ways of reacting to stress. It’s as simple as wait, breath, think then react. In as little as 21 days it will become natural.
3. Stim Junkies
Now, for you caffeine addicts, think of how much caffeine you consume in a day between your morning cup(s), diet sodas and preworkouts (some of which have up to 400 mg of caffeine). The highs and lows of caffeine can be a major drain on the adrenals. If you find that you’re consuming more and more caffeine/stimulants without added effect- congratulations, it’s time for some rehab. Yes, it is said that caffeine is a diuretic. Actually, recent studies show it is not. On its way out, caffeine doesn’t take extra water with it. What goes is what comes out. Caffeine does serve as a mild appetite suppressant and not to mention provide an extra energy boost and mental alterness to burn more calories and train harder. Yet, in this case with stimulants the Law of Diminishing Returns applies. Very simply, at someone point more is not better it is actually detrimental. If you have ever found yourself yawning and ready to fall asleep after taking three scoops of a preworkout then you know what I am talking about. At some point the greater consumption ofcaffeine results in a 180 to feelings of drowsiness and a serious case of the blahs. You’re basically immune and receptors are no longer sensitive. Once more, your body is now excreting even more adrenaline and cortisol to get the same level of response. That’s right. You are too tired to exercise and your body is in belly fat storing overdrive.
4. Get your Z’s
The next thing you want to do is get more quality sleep, even long naps help. Restful sleep, the snoring –drooling-barely-moving kind, will allow your body to heal, repair and release other hormones that will keep you feeling rested, youthful and sexy. Meow. Human growth hormone (GH) is responsible for increased bone density, cell growth and muscle building and repair. It also maintains the health of all human tissue like the brain and vital organs. GH keeps us looking and feeling young and increases stamina and libido. Rawr. The most important role is of GH is when it is present in the bloodstream for only a few minutes the liver rapidly converts it into growth factors for major muscle mass building properties. Sleep is one of the best tools to combat belly fat, as well as reduces stress, which reduces stress hormones and helps build 24/7 fat burning muscle.
5. Gut Check
We have good and bad bacteria. As women, we know that when bad bacteria, known as yeast, gets out of control, we experience a not so fresh or comfortable feeling. The same goes for our digestive tract which uses good bacteria to digest foods. Bad bacteria causes gas, bloating, constipation, resulting in poor absorption and low energy levels. Taking a high quality probiotic promotes healthy bacteria in the gut allowing for efficient digestion of foods and absorption of energy-supplying nutrients.
6. Carb Responsibly
To restore your insulin response do the following:
• Reduce your carb intake to less than 20 grams per meal and less than 10 for a snack. There are many ways play with your carb intake, this is just a suggestion.
• Substitute refined, processed or white flour based carbs for brown rice, grain or whole wheat based pastas, breads and grain.
• Add high fiber veggies and fruits to meals.
• Begin weight training to build fat-burning muscle.
Understand that the rapid spike in insulin is what causes belly fat not insulin itself. Insulin at the right level actually promotes fat loss and feeds growing muscle. When you diet yourself into insulin resistance, the body/muscle can’t absorb the insulin. This triggers the body to make even more. More insulin, more blood sugar, more fat.
This doesn’t need a long explanation. Exercise at least four times a week. Aside from the deep sleep, the only other time, the body releases GH is during the first 30-45 minutes of intense weight training. That is double the dose, double the fun. Work out the anger, the laziness, the depression, the fat, the mood swings and into a much more happy and efficient functioning you. Exercise is an easy way to avoid a world of sickness and pain and it helps you looking and feeling sexy. Win-win.
Now, you have the simple tweaks and tricks it’s time to take the muffin off your top. You can begin to incorporate these solutions easily and cheaply. Start today. No excuses.