Is This ONE Hormone Responsible for Belly Fat Gain?

Posted in: Exercise · Diet & Nutrition
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Susan Ohtake, Certified Personal Trainer

Susan Ohtake, CPT

It seems to me that there are some common approaches that everyone, and I mean everyone, has tried for getting rid of that stubborn belly fat. Trouble is, some of these methods actually turn up levels of the hormone PROVEN to cause belly fat to accumulate and cling to your body.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Crunches
  • Sit Ups
  • Crash Diets
  • Running
  • Cardio
  • Starving Yourself

Of course they do!

Everyone, at one time or another, has tried most—if not all—of these approaches to get rid of belly fat.

But, as you know by now, they don’t work. There’s always that layer of flab that just won’t go away.

It’s so frustrating! What can you do to change things?

The most important part of finally achieving your fitness goals is understanding how your body works.

There’s a reason why you can’t get rid of that stubborn belly fat, and it isn’t your diet or exercise.

It’s your hormones.

The "Belly Fat" Hormone

Everyone knows how tricky hormones can be, and this is one of the trickiest.

Because of your hormones, you might be doing EVERYTHING right and still have belly flab. You can diet and exercise all you want, and it just won’t go away. That’s because the problem isn’t with your diet or exercise, it’s with your hormones.

There’s one specific hormone that is the worst for belly fat. It is called cortisol. You might have heard of it—it’s what scientists call a stress hormone.

Stress hormones are wonderful things, biologically. They have kept human beings alive for hundreds of thousands of years.

Cortisol and other stress hormones track the amount of stress your body is undergoing. If they sense you’re in distress, they respond by slowing down the rate at which your fat burns.

How this Stress Hormone Keeps Fat from Falling Off

So, let’s imagine a scenario. It’s thousands of years ago and you’re a hunter-gatherer. You’re having a hard time finding food, so you are eating less. Meanwhile, you’re moving around constantly trying to find a new source of food.

The cortisol in your body would recognize that stress and respond by hanging onto your emergency fat deposits to keep you alive. Those emergency fat deposits are located on your belly, as well as your thighs and butt. That’s why they’re so hard to get rid of. They’re your body’s fail-safe.

When you diet and exercise, your body senses that you are in danger, so your stress hormones hang onto that fat for dear life so that you won’t starve to death.

These stress hormones are amazing, really, if you can forget about your belly flab. But, of course, we aren’t hunter-gatherers. The stress hormones try to protect us by keeping us fat anyway, and that’s what gets in the way of our fat loss.

Cortisol changes the way the body fuels itself, finding alternative sources of energy for your body while reserving that stubborn belly fat for emergencies. If it stays in this emergency mode for too long, it can actually cause serious harm.

It can change your metabolism permanently, making it harder for you to lose weight both now and in the future.

So, the longer you’re in diet and workout mode, your body still thinks it’s in danger. The results can be disastrous.

What Can You Do Differently?

How can you avoid this outcome and still lose weight?

It’s actually pretty simple. If you want to stop that stress hormone from switching on, make sure your body knows it’s not in any danger.

Instead of starvation or crash diets, eat foods that have plenty of calories and healthy fats. That way, your body knows you’re not starving and it won’t flip that cortisol switch.

The other big factor in preventing your body entering emergency mode is to avoid exercises that cause it too much stress. Things like endurance workouts, long-distance running, and cardio can make your body think you’re in more danger than you are.

Instead, I suggest shorter workouts that minimize the amount of time your body is under stress. If you'd like to try shorter, more effective workouts, take a minute to watch the video below.

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