Have you noticed that when people embark on a fat-loss program, they easily see the fat coming right off from certain parts of their body like the chest, arms and the face immediately, while the amount of fat shed from the stomach and other areas of the body like the thigh and the hips is almost next to nothing? Such experience has left many people wondering why belly fat is the last to go. Why is it so stubborn and difficult to burn? If you really want to know the major reason why belly fat is so difficult to lose, plus what you can actually do to shed it off completely, then, this article is for you.
Though there are several factors making belly fat so stubborn and difficult to lose, we can actually group them into two major categories – “The Mother Nature Factors” and “Man-made Factors”.
THE MOTHER NATURE FACTORS
As the name implies, these are factors that promote either the formation or retention of abdominal fat by nature. But the question is: how do these factors constitute one of the major reasons why belly fat is the last to go when people embark on a fat loss program? I am sure you would like to know. If so, then it will be necessary for us to take a brief look at “how fat loss works” as it will help us to understand the influence of these “Mother Nature” factors on our belly fat.
HOW FAT LOSS WORKS
The process of fat loss takes place in two phases. Now let’s talk about the first phase.
When you take in fewer calories of food than what your body needs, your body will call for help from your fat cells to make up the difference. The body does this by sending a hormone signal to your fat stores. And these signals are received by a part of your fat cells that act as a gate-keeper. It interacts with the signal and responds to it. That part of your fat cells that plays this role is called a receptor.
But there is something you need to know about it. Fact cells have two types of receptors. One of them called ‘beta-receptor’ is very cooperative. Once it receives the hormone signal, it binds up with it immediately and mobilizes to release the stored fat into the bloodstream where it can be broken down further into absorbable sources of energy called fatty acids.
But the other one called ‘alpha receptor’ is not cooperative at all. When it receives a hormone signal, it takes a hell of a time, like a whole century, so to speak, for it to bind up with the signal and mobilize to send out the stored fat into the bloodstream. And what does that mean? It means that this unfriendly receptor only releases very small or zero amounts of stored fat into the bloodstream to make up for our energy needs.
So, in summary, we can say that in phase one, when our food intake does not provide adequate calories of energy for our body, the body usually calls for help from our fat cells to make up the difference. And it does this by sending a hormone signal which binds up with the receptors of our fat cells to mobilize and send out the stored fat into the bloodstream where it is further broken down into smaller sources of energy that our body can easily absorb. Hope you got that right? Good! Now, let’s go over to phase two.
The second phase of fat-loss begins with a catabolic process called ‘lipolysis’. It is a process in which stored fats are broken down into glycerol and small energy sources called fatty acids that move freely in our bloodstream. And it ends with the absorption of the fatty acids into our body cells which are thereafter oxidized (burned) to release energy that serves as fuel for our body.
But the truth is that if the fat cells are not mobilized to relocate from where they are to the bloodstream, lipolysis and fatty acids oxidation – which are the two major processes involved in fat-burning will not take place. What are we saying in essence?
The bottom line – is that we can only lose fat from any part of our body (including our abdominal region) only if our fat cells that have been mobilized from their storehouse to the bloodstream, undergo lipolysis – and the fatty acids produced in the process are absorbed and oxidized by our body cells. I believe we are cleared with how fat loss works now. Right? Good.
Now, lets come back to the Mother Nature factors which as a whole, constitute one of the major reasons why belly fat is the last to go when embarking on a fat loss program. We are going to talk about several factors here, that influence the formation of abdominal fat naturally, on the negative side.
1. ALMOST ALL BELLY FAT CELLS HAVE ALPHA RECEPTORS
As explained earlier, whenever our body sends a hormone signal to our belly fat, since a high percentage of the fat cells there have alpha receptors, the poor response of the alpha receptors to the hormone signal seriously hinders, the process of lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) thereby making our belly fat cells highly resistant to fat-burning.
Unlike belly fat, fat cells in other areas of our body have beta-receptors which help to stimulate lipolysis, thereby promoting fat-burning. This is one of the reasons why our body readily sheds fat in areas like the chest, arms and face, while in other areas like our bellies, thighs, and hips, fat-burning appears to be very, very difficult.
2. BELLY FAT REGION HAS VERY POOR BLOOD FLOW
What is the effect of this factor on fat-burning? When fat cells are released into the bloodstream, they need to be broken down into fatty acids, and in turn, the fatty acids need to undergo oxidation at the cellular level before energy can be released to satisfy the needs of the body. For this to occur, the fat released into the bloodstream has to be transported to certain cells that can carry out these processes.
Unfortunately, the belly fat region has very poor blood flow compared to the other parts of your body. This means that when fat cells are released from their storehouse, it is not that easy for the body to get them to where they need to be broken down and get completely oxidized (burned) to release energy for your body needs. That alone, greatly reduces the amount of fat your belly can actually shed.
3. BELLY FAT ARE INSULIN SENSITIVE
If you have a health condition such as “insulin resistance”, you will find it very difficult to lose your belly fat. Why? It is because whenever your muscle cells and liver cells are not ready to accept glucose or sugar molecules as energy sources from your bloodstream, your insulin would like to convert the excess sugar in your blood to fat. And the part of your body that opens the door of its storehouse with all pleasure for the fat to be deposited is your abdominal region. So, instead of losing fat from this region, you might even be adding more layers.
If you need help with an article that explains the health condition called “insulin resistance”, simply click here.
4. BELLY FAT FOLLOWS THE FIRST – IN, LAST OUT ORDER OF PRECEDENCE (FILO)
Do you know the part of your body where fat accumulates first, before extending to other parts? It is your core (torso) – your belly region. It is fat-friendly, unlike some other areas of your body like your face and your neck which are the last to build up fat.
Interestingly, when we embark on a fat loss program, the reverse is the case. We see the fat coming right off from our face, chest, arms, and neck immediately, while our belly region seems to be the last to respond. It is just like the biblical adage: “the first shall become the last”. But why does it happen that way? It is because our genetics direct the process of fat-burning to follow the precedent of “first – in, last – out” (FILO). So, the belly fat which is the first to accumulate becomes the last to go.
5. YOU ARE APPLE SHAPED
If you have apple-shaped belly fat, it is very likely that you would find it difficult to lose your belly fat. Why? The simple reason is that our genetics predisposes the process of losing “apple-shaped” belly fat” to be far difficult compared to that of “beer belly fat”.
6. YOU ARE GETTING OLDER
As we get older, our body changes how it gains and loses weight. It is a common experience for both men and women to see a declining trend in their metabolic rate or the number of calories the body needs to function normally. That is just the way we are.
And apart from that, women have to deal with menopause. “If women gain weight after menopause, it’s very likely to be in their bellies,” says Michael Jensen, M.D., professor of medicine in the Mayo Clinic’s endocrinology division. In menopause, production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone gradually slows down. and at the same time, testosterone levels also begin to drop, but at a slower rate. This shift in hormones causes women to hold on
to weight in their bellies, thus making it harder for them to shed off abdominal fat. The good news: you
can fight this process. Read on.
WHAT THESE MOTHER NATURE FACTORS POINT TO:- But what do these factors point to? They all point to one fact – that if you have been working seriously on your body to shed off your belly fat, by eating healthy, consuming fewer calories than your body needs, and exercising regularly, then, you are not the reason why your belly fat has refused to pack its load and go. But there is good news for you!
The good news is that losing that stubborn belly fat is still possible if you know which foods to eat and how to exercise properly.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO LOSE YOUR STUBBORN BELLY FAT
The most widely regarded, effective method for quick, but safe fat loss (including your belly), is a combination of a keto diet and a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine together with weight training.
This is a natural, healthy weight-loss method based on the science of how the human body works as I briefly explained above. If you follow it and stick with it, you will see tremendous results.
But if you are operating on a low budget, there are several proactive steps you can actually take to lose your stubborn belly fat. Let’ts talk about them one after the other.
1. RE-TWEAK YOUR DIET
If you have been dieting for a while, you are going to need to up your calories. Do this by upping your calories by 200 every couple of weeks until you reach your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).
When you diet below your BMR for too long, your metabolism would slow down due to a lack of leptin production. By increasing your calories your metabolism will have to work harder and make your job of fat-burning easier.
If you have not been dieting, then I would suggest you get on one. The Slow Carb Diet would be a very good start.
2. DO FASTED WORKOUTS OR INTERMITTENT FASTING
When you fast for some hours, your body will use up the sources of energy like the glucose molecules in your bloodstream and tap into your fat deposits in its quest for more energy. And this will make you lose more fat. This will also reduce the amount of insulin in your bloodstream. And if your belly fat is insulin sensitive, having a lower insulin level will make it more available to be burned.
Interestingly, if you engage in some workouts after fasting for 4-6 hours, your body will demand for more energy to enable your muscles to see you through with the exercises. Having exhausted the sugar molecules in your bloodstream, more and more of your fat cells will be evacuated from their storehouse, and be broken down to provide more sources of energy for the body. And definitely, some of your belly fat will be eliminated through this process.
If you still decide to do intermittent fasting, it will also be a huge plus in your favor when trying to reduce fat. How? Intermittent fasting works by restricting the hours during which you can take in food. The only exceptions to the restriction are coffee, tea, and water. Although diet drinks have zero calories, I would not advise taking them since they may increase your insulin levels and thereby stall your progress.
There is no hard and fast rules on how many hours you can restrict your “feeding window”. Most people go with the 16/8 method popularized by Lean Gains’ Martin Berkham. The method advocates an eight-hour feeding window, leaving you in a fasted state the other 16 hours of the day. For example, you can set your feeding window between 12 noon and 8:00 pm.
There are other variations of intermittent fasting methods: the 5:2 Diet, which restricts you to eating about 500 calories of food only twice a week; and the Eat-Stop-Eat method, in which you do not eat anything for lunch and dinner one particular day. You fast till the same time you took your breakfast the previous day. It is basically a 24 hour fast, after which you will need to eat all your three meals the following day. This method is also called the “alternate Day Fasting” method.
A 22-day study of 8 males and 8 females conducted by the “Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rough, Louisiana”, found that the “Alternate Day” method of intermittent fasting led to approximately “2.5 % loss in body weight and 4% loss of fat mass”. The study concluded that “alternate Day Fasting was feasible and led to increased fat oxidation”.
3. WARM-UP THE MUSCLES UNDER THE JERK FAT
The term “jerk fat” refers to the stubborn belly fat and the fat in some other areas of your body like your hip, thigh, and butt which are usually the last to go when undertaking a fat loss program. As I explained earlier, the blood flow in the belly region is very poor and as a result, it impacts negatively on the ease with which fat cells can be transported through the blood to certain cells of the body where fat oxidation can take place. And this effect usually makes the jerk fat region colder.
Proof: The next time you do cardio, touch the jerk fat areas like the lower belly or love handles. You will notice they are colder to the touch than the rest parts of your body. And if the area is colder, less fat will be released for oxidation.
Thus, if you want to exercise, first of all, do some abs exercises that will help to get the blood flowing in those jerk fat areas of your body, thereby warming up the muscles under the jerk fat, which will make the fat more apt to be released for oxidation (fat-burning).
Do abs exercises that will hit both the front (crunches) and the sides (Russian twist) of your belly. Once the muscles in your belly region are warmed up, blood flow in that area will be increased, and this will enhance the ease with which your stubborn belly fat will be moved to areas where they can be completely oxidized. This is a huge plus to the success of your belly fat-loss goals.
4. SWITCH UP YOUR EXERCISES
You can do this either by introducing new forms of exercises into your workout routine or simply engaging in “High-Intensity Interval Training” (HIIT).
It is always good to try something new. If you are following a given routine of exercise, after a while, your metabolism would get used to your workouts, and consequently, it will begin to use less energy for those workouts and conserve energy for other purposes. So what once consumed a higher amount of fat burn, your body now burns a lesser amount of fat to get through it, simply because it has acclimatized to your repeated workouts.
But when you introduce a fresh routine, it will not only increase the number of calories and amount of fat you are going to burn but will also galvanize your metabolism.
But there is still another excellent way to get rid of the stubborn belly fat – high-intensity interval training (HIIT). If you introduce “HIIT” into your workouts, it will actually blast the last of the fat in your belly region within a short time. Let’s talk a little about the “HIIT”.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. In other words, it refers to workouts that alternate hard-charging intervals, during which a person’s heart rate reaches at least 80 percent of its maximum capacity usually for one to five minutes, with periods of rest or less intense exercise.
So, if you walking, for example, you can decide to move at your normal walking speed for four minutes and then move briskly for the next three minutes, after which you change to your normal walking speed again for another four minutes and so and so forth. You can still do the same thing while jogging – alternating your normal jogging speed with short intervals of sprints (running very fast).
Recent research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism Magazine showed that “repeated high-intensity workouts are a powerful method to increase whole-body and skeletal muscle capacities to oxidize fat and carbohydrates.”
Another study conducted by McMaster University found that “a total of only approximately 15 minutes of very intense exercise can increase skeletal muscle oxidative capacity to burn fat and alter metabolic control positively during aerobic-based exercise.”
YOU WILL ALSO ENJOY EXCESS POST-EXERCISE OXYGEN CONSUMPTION
Another interesting thing about “HIIT” is that after engaging in HIIT workout, you will experience “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption” (EPOC). It is the increased rate of oxygen intake that occurs following strenuous activity. EPOC usually triggers a higher rate of fat-burning throughout the day and gives your body a greater capacity to lose fat (including your stubborn belly fat).
POINT OF NOTE: Having discussed several procedures you can follow to combat the effect of the “Mother Nature” factors on your belly fat, it is good you know that these strategies will yield greater results if you apply them during the latter period of your fat loss program when you have already lost a reasonable amount of fat in other areas of your body other than your belly region and your love handles.
What about the “man-made” factors that constitute the second major reason why belly fat is the last to go when people embark on a fat loss program?
As the name implies these are factors that stems from whatever you are doing or not doing that is negatively affecting your fat loss goals. In other words, they are the negative effect that would result if you are not eating healthy, consuming fewer calories than your body needs, and exercising regularly.
If you would like to know what it means to eat healthy, then you would need to check out my post on that through the following link:
If you would also need help with the kinds of exercise you can do regularly in the comfort of your home to burn your stubborn belly fat, you can access my post on that through the link below.
HOW TO COMBAT THE EFFECT OF MAN-MADE FACTORS ON FAT LOSS
To overcome the effect of any man-made factor on your fat loss goals, I would suggest you click on the links above and follow the strategies in those two posts. You will find them very helpful.
If you find this post helpful or not, please kindly share your feelings in the comment section below.