HOW TO BEAT BELLY FAT
Have you been working out hard and consistent with your St. Louis personal trainer and your diet is “clean” yet your waist line doesn’t budge? Well, did you know that hormones play a big factor in the belly fat equation? Below are two plans to help get rid of belly fat. Read on and then choose which plan fits you.
A SAMPLE PLAN
- Belly fat results from a mix of calorie-and hormone-related concerns.
- Traditional “eat less, exercise more” programs have an atrocious track record and almost always cause rebound weight gain centered in the belly.
- Belly fat is dramatically impacted by stress and cortisol management.
There are two alternatives to an “eat less, exercise more” approach. Both approaches create a calorie deficit, and both seem to balance hormones. They are the “eat less, exercise less” approach and the “eat more, exercise more” approach. Both of these “plans” generate low-calorie intake and naturally spare starch intake in a way that provides enough fuel to keep hunger, energy and cravings stable, but not enough to slow fat loss.
a. THE 3:2:1 PLAN
The “eat less, exercise less” approach can be thought of as a 3:2:1 plan. The “3” stands for three meals a day. The “2” means two of those meals should be mostly protein and fiber with less starch. Healthy starch sources are higher in fiber and hypoallergenic; they include brown rice, quinoa, beans/legumes, sweet potatoes with the skin on , and oats. The “1” means one meal per day should have heavier starch. The meal is best consumed post-workout. Another way to look at the 3:2:1 designation is to visualize a plate. Three parts should be vegetables, two parts should be protein and one part should be starch. You can also think in terms of bites. For every three bites of vegetables, you have two bites of protein and one bite of starch. The 3:2:1 approach works well for people who are not heavy exercisers. Daily walking and a few weight training sessions are recommended with this plan.
b. THE 3:2:2 PLAN
The “eat more, exercise more” approach is for people who exercise regularly. It can be summed up with a 3:2:2 designation. The “3” stands for three meals per day. The first “2” means two snacks per day. The second “2” means you should double the starch intake once per day, post workout as well. You can visualize a plate and/or bites as well. The meals and snacks should be half vegetables and then equal parts protein and starch. Or, if you like, use bites. For every three bites of vegetables, take 2 bites of protein and two of starch.
Now that you have the two plans and have decided which one is for you, here are some frequently asked belly fat questions:
1. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE BELLY FAT? There are slight differences in belly fat between males and females. Men who have lower testosterone have greater amounts of belly fat. For men, raising testosterone will overcome the impacts of belly fat of both insulin and cortisol. This is one reason why a strict caloric approach will not work. Weight training combined with carbohydrate modifications is key for men. Lower-carbohydrate diets can reduce testosterone levels, so it is not about going carb-free, but rather about finding the right quantity of carbs. A 3:2:2 plan with plenty of weight training may work best for men.
For women, it is a bit different. Estrogen allows women to be more insulin sensitive and less cortisol reactive. Progesterone also boosts the anti-cortisol reactive. Stress has been shown to lower estrogen and progesterone while elevating testosterone and cortisol in women. This is not what you want. Females should focus on stress-reducing activities and more moderate calorie and carb intake. A 3:2:1 approach seems to work best for women, with a focus on lots of leisure activity and 2-3 days of weight training.
2. HOW DOES ALCOHOL AFFECT BELLY FAT? Consuming alcohol in small amounts is likely not an issue. However, excess alcohol consumption tends to lower testosterone and therefore may lower beta-receptor density of middle fat. Also, alcohol is both calorie-dense and liquid, making it an easy path to calorie excess. Moreover, increased alcohol consumption can raise cortisol levels. And alcohol is broken down to acetate, which is the same end product that fat and sugar metabolism produce, and which the body sees no reason to burn and more reason to store. For all these reasons, drinking alcohol is probably not the best approach for getting rid of belly fat.
3. WHAT TYPES OF ACTIVITIES WILL LOWER CORTISOL? Anything that has a relaxing effect on the body lowers cortisol. Sex, laughter, hot showers, long baths, tai chi, and massage all have favorable effects on cortisol. One of the best ways to lower cortisol is to take a slow, leisurely walk in a natural setting.
4. DOES FASTING HELP RID A PERSON OF BELLY FAT? Research has shown that cortisol can be elevated both with meals and also by missing meals. Therefore, there will be some individual considerations here. Fasting lowers calories and can reduce insulin levels, so it can have many beneficial effects on belly fat. An easy way to know if fasting causes problems for belly fat is to assess hunger, energy and cravings in the hours after breaking a fast. If you are unable to eat normally without increased cravings for high-fat, high-sugar, and salty foods, it is likely that fasting is having a favorable effect rather than a detrimental one.
5. WHAT ARE THE BEST TYPES OF EXERCISE FOR GETTING RID OF BELLY FAT? All exercise will burn calories and lower insulin levels, so from that perspective any exercise is better than none. However, short, intense exercise and slow, relaxing long-duration exercise may be best. Short, intense exercise elevates testosterone and human growth hormone–along with cortisol and catecholamines. Since the effect is short in duration, it pushes toward growth rather than stress. This is favorable for belly fat reduction. Long-duration, high- or – moderate intensity exercise may push this equation too much toward the cortisol end of the equation. Exercising at a very low intensity lowers cortisol and is great for burning belly fat. Try leisurely walking as a base to any physical activity program, and keep intense exercise to less than 40 minutes if you are worried about over-exertion.
For more information on how to get rid of belly fat, contact Maurie Cofman, C.E.S. personal trainer in St. Louis, Brentwood, and Clayton, MO.