This is often a frustration for many who embark on a training program and diet to lose excess fat and weight and build a shapely body. The belly is usually the last place where we lose excess fat for one of two main reasons.
Firstly, as this is the first place we tend to add weight, the highest proportion of stored body fat is often carried in this location around our waist, stomach, hips, bum and thighs. This means it will take longer for this area to lose the excess fat than other areas. And no amount of ‘targeted’ training that focuses on these areas can accelerate the rate of fat loss, which is what is commonly known as the spot reduction myth.
The other main reason is an endocrine (hormonal) system that is out of balance. This happens when our body loses sensitivity to our dominant fat-storage hormone, insulin. When this happens, more of this powerful hormone is released to elicit the same effect, which is to draw glucose out of the bloodstream to either be burnt as fuel in muscles, or be stored in fat cell or around organs. This leads to an increase in both subcutaneous fat under the skin and visceral fat – also known as organ fat or intra-abdominal fat – which encases major organs in the abdominal cavity, including the stomach, liver, intestines and kidneys. This type of fat can have serious health implications because it is a leading cause of many lifestyle diseases such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistant, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The combination of these two factors – excessive subcutaneous fat around the midsection and visceral fat – usual creates the bulging or pot belly that is so common today. The main cause of this situation is insulin resistance, a pathological condition in which cells fail to respond normally to insulin, which can progress into pre-diabetes and the type-2 diabetes if left unchecked. Insulin resistance is usually caused by diet heavy in sugar, processed foods and/or an overconsumption of all forms of carbohydrates.
Without a more thorough breakdown of your “healthy, balanced” diet’s macronutrient ratio, it is difficult to determine if this may be the case in your specific situation. However, it is quite likely that if you were previously overweight that your insulin sensitivity may have been affected by your old eating habits and lack of exercise.
Furthermore, many people like yourself who how lost significant weight and are generally healthier, continue to believe that that balanced diet means consuming a portion of carbs, fats and protein at every meal. While this isn’t necessarily incorrect, anyone who is insulin resistant could benefit from some degree of dietary carb manipulation, be it a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet or other approaches such as carb cycling or carb backloading. If you adapt your diet in this manner for a few months, at the very least, and continue to train 5 to 6 days a week, with a greater focus on building lean muscle, you may find that you have better success in ridding yourself of that ‘spare tyre’ around your waist. Adding in some fasted cardio, ideally first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, with perhaps a cup of black coffee or a suitable fat-loss supplement, will also help to boost your efforts.
One final point to consider is that of food intolerances or sensitivities. It may be worthwhile determining if you have any gastrointestinal issues such as IBS or ‘wheat belly’ which may be causing your tummy to bulge. This happens with conditions such as a dairy, gluten or wheat intolerances, as examples, where the bowels can become blocked and/or inflamed due to an inability to digest these foods properly. If you find that you do have food intolerances or sensitivities, limiting or eliminating these foods from your diet, or adding digestive enzymes and probiotics to your diet could help to reduce that effect this condition has on your midsection. This won’t help your abs show through, but it could lead to a flatter stomach.
Source: Magazine Fitness January-February 2017 South Africa