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Truth Behind What Burns Belly Fat

I received an email last week with a great question about how to lose stubborn belly fat. This individual was understandably frustrated with not being able to lose that layer of fat around her lower stomach area even though she was doing a lot of lower ab exercises.

There are a ton of misconceptions about how to lose stubborn belly fat so I wanted to share my response in case you are struggling with the same issue.

Here’s the question I received:

“Shane, I’m struggling with trying to lose fat around my lower ab area.  I’m unsure of how to burn this fat, and it’s a bit frustrating for me because I do lower ab core workouts.  I’ve searched up how to burn it, but haven’t found many results. Are there any suggestions you can give me?”

Here’s my response:

Yes, like I mentioned in my previous email, this is 100% a hormonal issue. You won’t be able to lose that fat around your lower abdominals with ab exercises alone.

They’ll make your core strong and develop your abdominal muscles but will NOT burn fat.

The stubborn fat stores around your midsection typically have different fat cell receptors than other parts of your body. This is why it’s typically the last bit of fat to go. To make it simple to understand these fat cells don’t respond well to traditional low-calorie dieting, ab exercises, or lots of cardio.

The abdominal muscles are a relatively small muscle group that don’t expend much energy when worked with isolated exercises. You can do a lot of core and abdominal work and have well defined muscles but you won’t be able to see them if they’re covered up with a layer of fat.

The majority of fat cells in your body can be accessed via the blood stream and the hormone adrenaline can be used to light them up. However, some areas, predominately the lower stomach area and hips have fat stores that can’t be accessed via the blood stream. This means you’ll need another hormone to trigger the fat loss.

You can tap into these fat cells via the central nervous system….specifically you need nor-adrenaline (adrenaline’s sister hormone) that’s transmitted through nerve endings instead of the blood stream.

So how do you promote a release of nor-adrenaline through the central nervous system?

The secret is doing high-intensity, short-duration burst and interval training.

You can learn about “burst training” and “interval training” by following these links. Basically you want to be providing your body with short bursts of high intensity exercise to stimulate the central nervous system.

This is how you can get more nor-adrenaline, growth hormone, IGF-1, and other powerful fat burning hormones to promote a release from these stubborn fat stores.

Obviously diet will be the other factor and you’ll want to go through short phases where you’re super-strict on a Primal or Paleo type diet. Basically cut out the starches, grains, and most dairy and rely on lean proteins, protein powder, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.

Do everything in short windows of time then increase your caloric intake again to avoid a down-regulation in your metabolism.

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What about supplements for burning belly fat?

In all honesty, there’s not much on the supplement market from “fat burners” today that is very effective. Ephedra is effective at stimulating the central nervous system but since they banned it, all the substitutes haven’t amounted to much.

There is obviously some downside of using Ephedra anyways. Instead of looking at an outside stimulant to boost a hormonal response from your central nervous system, you can do it the natural way with high intensity, short-duration bursts of all out effort.

This type of exercise combined with a Primal or Paleo diet will be the best solution for removing stubborn fat stores around your lower mid-section. This is especially true for anyone over the age of 35 as hormonal balances begin to naturally decline.

You can get away with cutting calories and doing a bunch of cardio when you’re in your twenties and early thirties, but as you get older you MUST change your strategy in order to see results.

I see scores of middle age adults frustrated with not being able to lose their belly with eating “healthy” and doing traditional health club workouts. Getting on the treadmill or elliptical for a steady-state routine of even 45-60 minutes won’t do much to promote fat loss from around your lower stomach area.

It’s not about how many calories you burn with exercise…this is all hormonal!

Traditional resistance training using machines or weights is helpful from an overall body composition standpoint but you’ll only see so much change in your shape with these workouts.

Working the large muscle groups (back, legs, chest, shoulders, etc) with resistance helps to promote development in metabolically lean tissue which in return does help you to burn more calories.

The degree in which this helps with fat loss though is vastly exaggerated by a lot of so called “fitness experts.” There’s only a slight increase in metabolic rate that accompanies the development of lean muscle in most individuals.

While traditional resistance training and aerobic exercise is certainly beneficial, it doesn’t have the same impact hormonally that burst and interval training does. The optimal strategy for anyone over the age of 35 will be to include 2-3 burst and interval type workouts into their weekly routine.

Additional low-moderate intensity aerobic exercise or things like yoga, stretching, etc, can be beneficial on the other days. The key is having a well rounded fitness program that includes a little bit of everything, works all the energy systems, and is regularly varied to avoid adaptations.

The bottom line is removing fat from your belly area will be best accomplished with systematic periods of caloric restriction followed by re-feeds and varied total body exercise that triggers a hormonal response from your central nervous system.

I’ll be writing more on specific strategies to employ on the diet side but just know you can’t cut calories and restrict for very long. Everything has to be done in short windows of time. The human body is designed to adapt to periods of restriction quite well. We’re much better at storing body fat than we are at releasing it.

Fat loss is triggered when you’re body needs to access fuel that’s not readily available. You have to in essence “give your body a reason” to tap into fat stores. Caloric restriction primarily from starch carbohydrates and intense workouts are the best way to call upon fat cell release for energy.

Just remember you have to re-feed following depletion or your metabolism will down-regulate as an adaptation response.

Yes, it’s diet and exercise which is the key to a flat stomach, but traditional fad diets, countless ab exercises, and marathon cardio sessions won’t work very well. You need to strategically restrict and deplete using burst training and carb rotations for best results.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston fitness trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness programs with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. You can receive a FREE, no-obligations (2) session personal training trial and consultation to experience the difference for yourself.

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Category: Fat Loss.