Why do we have it and how do we get rid of it? The 4 important questions you need to ask to solve this mystery once and for all.
'Muffin Top', 'Love Handles', 'Spare Tire' – We have heard these terms countless numbers of times when it comes to describing those problematic areas of weight loss for women. If we were to take a survey, many of them would identify their lower body as the area they need to work on the most. They have been able to lose fat and tone their upper body, but it's their stomach, hips, and butt that are lagging behind in terms of visible results. Search no longer – we will put the remaining pieces of this puzzle together and explain why you need to know more about the hormones Estrogen, Insulin, and Cortisol.
1. Why do we get fatty deposits in our stomachs and what are the two different types?
The two different types of abdominal fat are known as Subcutaneous fat (just under the skin) and Visceral fat (deeper under the skin). Visceral fat often surrounds and compresses our internal organs and can thus become dangerous. Higher instances of belly fat in women have been shown to be caused by increased levels of the hormones Insulin and Cortisol and lower levels of Estrogen and Progesterone. For women, this can be a direct product of stress and/or menopause.
On that note, why do lower levels of Estrogen and Progesterone impact weight gain? Studies have shown that lower Estrogen levels, especially after menopause, have been known to shift excess fat from the hips and butt to the abdomen. At the same time, higher levels of Estrogen can slow down your metabolism and convince your body to store excess fat. What we want to try and achieve is a balance.
We can decrease Insulin and Cortisol levels (stress) and regulate Estrogen levels by maintaining a healthy balance of nutrition and exercise. Read on for more tips on how to balance your hormones!
2. What is Insulin and why does it promote the storage of fat?
Insulin is an essential hormone for human functioning and it is made by the pancreas. The sugar from carbs can be used immediately for energy or can be stored for future use. It is insulin that regulates this process and maintains an appropriate blood sugar level in the body. When you consume sugar (glucose), beta cells in your pancreas are signaled, which in turn release insulin into the bloodstream. The insulin will allow your cells to absorb the sugar that is circulating in your bloodstream, and use it for energy. However, excess amounts of sugar will be stored in your liver for future purposes (low blood sugar, need for energy during physical activity). Excessive carbohydrate and sugar intake,
especially low-nutrient, processed foods & drinks, will be stored as fat in the body, especially in the abdominal region. This fat will become very difficult to lose if you don't break the cycle of poor nutritional habits.
Protein! A diet that is higher in protein will help to suppress your appetite and burn fat. Studies have shown that a higher protein diet created reductions in abdominal fat and cholesterol. Stick to proteins that are low in fat and are not processed. Aim to consume protein at every meal, with a portion size equivalent to the palm of your hand.
Diets that are low in starch have also been shown to be effective in reducing insulin levels and thus the storage of fat in the body.
3. How does the stress hormone Cortisol affect weight storage and gain?
It is commonly said that stress kills, and there is more truth to that statement than you think. High Cortisol levels increase your appetite, decrease muscle mass and bone density. Studies have shown that women with high Cortisol levels are more likely to have abdominal fat, even if they are naturally thin. Research has also shown a definitive link between high Cortisol levels and an increase in fat storage.
High Cortisol levels can be caused by irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, work and home environments, relationships and practically any aspect of your life that cause you to stress considerably and chronically.
Get some sleep! Aim for 7-9 hours per night. If you do not rest enough, you will wake up with higher levels of Cortisol in your system, which will in turn increase your appetite and make you crave foods that are high in starch and sugar. Can you see where this can become problematic? Studies show that getting a proper nights sleep also helps to boost the hormone Leptin in your system, which will help control an excessive appetite.
Also, we want to make sure our blood sugar levels are regulated and monitor the amount of caffeine you are consuming. Lastly, it may be time to evaluate either your lifestyle habits, job, relationships or all three! If your current environment is causing you too much stress, it is time to make some changes!
4. Why does it seem easier for women to lose weight in their upper body versus their lower body?
The hormone Estrogen has been shown to have an influence on the increase of body fat in the hip, butt and thigh area for women. You may find that although you are training hard, your lower body is lagging behind your upper body in terms of results. Women are also known to have higher amounts of alpha receptors, which slow down the release of fat and lower amounts of beta-adrenergic receptors, which burn fat. But don't get discouraged just yet – keep training hard!
Supplements like Yohimbe, Coleus Forskoli and Green Tea can help to block alpha adrenergic receptors in the body that slow down the fat burning process. Additionally, a low-carb diet can help to reduce
alpha receptor activity.
Short and intense workouts help to block the alpha receptors and amp up the beta receptors which will release fatty deposits that were once stored. The next step in burning this 'released fat' is to engage in low-intensity, long duration steady state activity right after your high intensity workout.
Do not get overwhelmed by talk of hormones, biology and scientific terminology. There is no need – we have broken it down to provide you with concrete solutions to start attacking your belly fat and get rid of it for good!