Belly fat can be such a pain. You kill your workouts and still you can't fit into those jeans. You may think you've just hit a workout plateau, but there could be more to it. As it turns out, what happens on your insides, particularly your gut, can have a huge impact on your belly fat levels. So, in order to get your outside sorted, we need to take a closer look on what is happening on your inside!
Your stomach contains good and bad bacteria called microbiota or gut flora. It is very important to keep these bacteria in check. "Microbiota is considered the body's garden, and it has a controlling influence over a lot of important bodily functions, including metabolism," says Gerry Mullin, M.D., author of The Gut Balance Revolution.
Studies have demonstrated that a diet full of fat and refined carbs (like white bread or potatoes) and low in fiber can mess with the balance of your gut, which can lead to weight gain and fat retention. To regain the balance, you need to feed the good bacteria with lots of fiber and probiotics. Add some yogurt and pears to your diet, which science claims is good for boosting your good bacteria.
We are all familiar with the pain and swelling of inflammation that comes with a physical injury, however most of us don't know that the same thing can happen on the inside of our body. "Inflammation is a vital part of our immune response; it's the body's way of healing and defending itself against bacteria and viruses," says Tali Pines, M.S., a registered dietitian in New York City.
Inflammation occurs when it becomes chronic since it can disrupt the hormones that help you maintain your metabolism. "Eating too much sugar, high doses of unhealthy oils and fats, stress, and lack of exercise can all cause the injury that leads to inflammation," explains Pines. The biggest sign you may be having a problem can be found in your belly. "If you've been 'dieting' and you still have that belly bulge, look at nutrition labels to see how much sugar or sodium is sneaking in," Pines recommends. She also recommends trying some inflammation busting foods like blueberries or edamame.
[bctt tweet="11 Reasons Why That Last Bit Of Belly Fat Won't Budge"]
When your gut flora balance is out of whack, your body may not be able to properly break down calories. This is because of white and brown fat cells. White fat cells cause obesity and insulin resistance, making it difficult to burn fat no matter how hard you are working out. Brown fat cells protect the body from gaining too much weight. The more brown fat you have, the more calories you will burn. What you want to be doing is turning your white fat cells into brown ones.
You can do this by leveling out your flora through a balanced diet, exercise and getting enough sleep at night. When you don't do these things, your metabolism will drop and cause inflammation, which tells your brain that it should load up on white fat cells. Having too much white fat will cause your body to slow down and will stop producing brown fat.
Pines says your digestion is like a plumbing system. As food makes its way through your body, your digestive system works to turn calories into the fuel your body needs for energy, or it uses it to build the body's tissues. It is also broken down so your body can absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. When your digestion isn't good, there is a backup of undigested food and the pipes can't work properly.
As Pines explains, as a result, "vitamins and nutrients aren't sufficiently absorbed, you become tired and bloated, your metabolism slows, and your body hangs onto belly fat." Again, fiber and probiotics are the answer.
Insulin resistance is the beginning stages of your body not dealing well with sugar and carbohydrates, according to Melina Jampolis, M.D., author of The Doctor On Demand Diet. When you are insulin resistant, the cells in your body notice an increase in blood sugar and produce more insulin to transport it to cells for energy. When you are caught in this cycle and your body is producing too much insulin, your cells become resistant to it, which leads to free floating sugar in the system, converting to fat. If you don't reverse this cycle, you could develop diabetes. The key is to lose fat and burn muscle. "Exercise, especially strength training, can improve your body's response to insulin even if you don't lose an ounce," Jampolis explains. If you needed a reason to include strength training in your workouts, now you have it.
While studies have found that eating nuts can help you live longer by reducing inflammation and preventing insulin resistance, eating too much nuts can cause you to go overboard on your calories. Adam Rosante, personal trainer and author of The 30-Second Body, says "a common diet tip you hear all the time is to snack on nuts when you're hungry. They're filling and packed with protein and fiber, and because they're so tiny it's easy to gobble down handful after handful. But you should enjoy them in moderation because the majority of their macronutrient profile is fat, and eating them mindlessly is an easy way to go overboard on your calories." He suggests snacking on a thumb sized portion twice a day.
You may think that getting rid of belly fat means working the heck out of your stomach, however that's not exactly the case. "If you have extra belly fat, you'll never see the muscles you're working underneath," says Sylwia Wiesenberg, founder of Tonique Fitness. "Instead, focus on building a strong lower body—the largest muscle group, and therefore most calorie burning—which will help keep your metabolism humming long after." When you are finally ready to introduce ab exercises, do them standing up. A series of studies have found this to be more effective than the traditional, on the floor, exercises.
Don't be in such a rush to do your cardio right out of the gate. "You lose steam when you save the weights for last, and that's where the magic happens," says Tim Rich, personal trainer and district fitness manager at Crunch Gyms in San Francisco. Weight training can burn between 30 and 50 more calories a day for every pound of muscle gained. "When you have more energy you'll be able to lift heavier weights, which helps you burn more fat everywhere, including your belly," Rich says. Flip things around and start with the lifting!
This diet obviously seems like a healthy choice. Meat and veggies, no grains or processed foods, how can you go wrong? Well, people on this diet have a tendency to overeat protein. It may seem strange since it is essentially the diet our ancestors lived on, but we need to remember that the meat products they were consuming were far different from the hormone, antibiotic laced meats we are eating today. And a diet that is high in meat and meat products while eliminating grains, prevents you from gaining all the vital nutrients that can be found when you eat the 'right' grains.
This time, we mean in the kitchen. Jampolis recommends adding spices to your food to help avoid inflammation. And don't forget, "they help crank your body's thermostat, firing up your metabolism and in turn burning extra calories and fat," she explains. Spices contain several phytonutrient compounds, like antioxidants, without adding extra calories or giving you a great deal of prep work. This is a super simple way to get the most from your food. If you are at a loss for where to start, try turmeric. It boosts digestion and prevents inflammation while preventing cancer, heart attacks and diabetes!
Do you think any of these reasons may be at the heart of your struggle?
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