Getting rid of that stubborn belly fat is no easy feat. No matter what you try, it just keeps piling up some more. Well, you are not alone.
Less than 70% of women and 50% of men in the U.S. between 50 and 79 years of age exceed the standard waist circumference for central obesity. (1) As a result, they build up more fat around the abdomen that predisposes them to heart disease and various health complications.
But, did you know there are a couple of factors that make the whole weight-gaining process a lot worse? That’s right, certain things make you gain the dreaded fat. Unless you control your eating habits or remove them from your lifestyle, you will never get a six-pack.
Here are the 11 most impactful things that make you stack more abdominal fat tissue. Including ways on how to overcome them.
1. Trans Fatty Acids
Trans fatty acids or trans fats are the worst dietary sources for your belly. They are artificially produced ingredients manufactured via an industrial process. Manufacturers add hydrogen to give them a solid and stable texture.
They are used to make packaged foods last longer. Reports show that diets packed in trans fats cause consistent belly fat build-up. (2) The food affects the metabolism and forces the body to maintain the excess body weight. These acids can alter skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and liver nutrient absorption.
But, that’s not all. Not only will they make you gain belly fat quicker, but they will also expose the body to cardiovascular complications. Based on clinical studies, consuming artificial trans fats on a daily basis can make the heart weaker. (3)
Since they don’t contain any nutritional properties, they can take a toll on heart health. Another problem is inflammation. According to research, the higher the intake of trans fats, the bigger the inflammation. The products are known to affect the endothelial function, which is why the belly gets bigger and looks bloated. (4)
2. Sugary Treats and Drinks
Most people are aware of the impact sugar has on our body weight. But, very few actually realize how much sugar they are taking every day.
The average person eats about 152 pounds (68 kg) of sugar a year. That’s exactly 3 pounds (1 ½ kg) of sugar a week. Compared to the average recommended amount of 42.5 teaspoons of sugar a day, we are a long way off. (5)
The problem is, there is sugar in almost every food we eat. It is a popular ingredient in snacks, drinks, processed meals, cereals, bread, soups – you name it. However, if you really want to get rid of that excess fat, you should start paying attention to the foods you consume.
According to statistics, the higher the sugar intake, the bigger the belly fat. That’s mainly due to the fructose amount present in added sugars. Therefore, people may experience reduced insulin sensitivity, lack of energy, and heart complications. (6)
To analyze the impact of sweetened beverages, researchers studied the effects of sugar in obese and overweight individuals. The volunteers consumed drinks high in fructose or glucose for 10 weeks.
Even though all subjects experienced similar weight gain, they also had drastically increased their visceral adipose volume. They had a lot more belly fat and reduced insulin sensitivity. (7)
You can avoid this problem if you read the labels. Find how much sugar a certain product contains. Remember, only 10% of your calories should come from sugar. So, pick the products that have more nutritional value and less sugar.
3. Sedentary Lifestyle
In recent years, abdominal obesity has been on the rise. About 31% of adults all around the world are physically inactive. They don’t like to exercise. Instead, they prefer a sedentary behavior. (8) This is a huge problem, especially if you want to shape your belly.
Exercise plays a key role in abdominal fat. You must boost your metabolism and work with the abdominal tissues to even stand a chance of losing the excess belly fat. The reason for that is relatively simple.
When the body needs more calories, it uses fat to build energy. The fat then gets metabolized into fuel and the fat cells start to shrink. You will create that calorie deficit when you exercise.
Results from randomized trials show a significant reduction in belly fat in people who exercise. It can take a while for the results to show, but it’s worth the effort. (9)
If you have no clue what to try, start with high-intensity exercise training about 3 days a week. Scientists believe these are the most effective options in reducing abdominal fat, speeding up the metabolism, and shaping the muscles. (10)
4. Insufficient Protein
Protein is crucial for increasing the metabolic rate and slowly reducing calorie intake. Not only is it healthy, but it also keeps you feeling full for much longer. With enough protein every day, you have better chances of managing the belly fat. (11)
But, if you don’t eat enough proteins, you might start gaining more abdominal fat in the long-run. (12) Here is the recommended protein intake a day for a sedentary lifestyle:
- 46g for the average woman
- 56g for the average male
Even though this is the recommended amount, it is a bare minimum. How much you should eat depends on your muscle mass, physical activity, health state, and physique goals. Try eating 0.8g of protein per kg of your body weight. (13)
If you don’t think you can handle it alone, consult with a dietitian or nutritionist. They can help you get the hang of every protein-based diet.
5. Restrictive Diet
You’ve recently started an incredibly restrictive diet, like the low-carb or Paleo diet, for example. But, no matter how much you try, the effects never show. That’s because many of these diets don’t have the proper balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Supplying the body with a sufficient amount of nutrients is a healthy strategy to maintain the ideal body weight. When you don’t eat enough minerals or vitamins, it becomes difficult for the system to function properly. (14)
That’s why the metabolism works slower and you tend to experience changes in behavior. You are more agitated and can’t stop thinking about your favorite foods that you can’t eat. The moment you give in to these cravings is the second you break your diet. In an effort to compensate for all those meals you missed, you are more prone to overeating in the future.
To avoid problems like these, you need hefty meals and a proper meal plan that will keep you satiated. Consume products like fish, eggs, meat, fruits, and veggies that have a high satiety index. Besides, there are plenty of healthy foods you can eat that will keep you full. You just need to make the right choices.
6. Food Portions
Most people prefer to serve their meals on bigger plates. But, the larger the plate, the more calories, and fat you are going to consume. (15) Serving meals with smaller portions will trick your mind into thinking you’ve eaten plenty of food, while in fact, you’ve controlled every calorie that you’ve ingested.
This is a practical strategy when you want to manage the amount of food you eat every single day. According to research, portion control plays a vital role in managing body weight, including belly fat.
The idea is to change your eating behavior and match it with the bodyweight you want to achieve. Portion control will give you structure and minimize the food decisions you need to make. It is a convenient and effective way to lose abdominal fat. (16)
Alcohol can be both healthy and dangerous for the human body. For example, when you drink red wine from time to time, it can help reduce your chances of heart complications. It has potent diuretic, analgesic, and tranquilizer properties, which can come in handy. (17)
But, when consumed in abundance, it can have an opposite effect. Most of the alcohol you drink will accumulate in the belly. In time, it becomes stored as belly fat and creates bloating. These are all factors that contribute to excess abdominal fat.
Basically, the more you drink, the harder it is to shape the abdominal muscles and energy levels. So, if you want to shape the belly, start by controlling the alcohol intake. It’s normal to drink in moderate amounts. However, try to avoid overdrinking as much as possible.
Some people are more vulnerable to weight gain than others. Although the diet is the one that controls how the system stores the fat, the genes will still influence your body weight. Reports suggest that the naturally-occurring bacteria in the gut can affect your weight.
The gut bacteria is the one that produces the chemicals known as metabolites. Some of these chemicals vary depending on a person’s genes. Exactly 68% of variations are influenced by the bacteria present in the gut. Genes are responsible for 18% of the variation. (18)
These variations affect fat storage around the abdominal area. They have a smaller impact than a diet but are still important when trying to lose weight. You can solve that problem by readjusting your diet and focus on foods that will promote bacteria growth and healthy metabolites.
Implement a well-balanced and healthy diet with veggies and fruits. The more nutrients you add to your meals, the better. Eventually, you can get the metabolism back on track and start losing the excess belly fat.
It is normal to gain weight during menopause. Statistics show that an average perimenopausal woman can gain 5 extra pounds. But, 20% of those evaluated gained an additional 10 pounds or more. The belly fat is no exception. (19)
This is a common problem. The hormones go through a drastic change, which is why the extra fat becomes stored in the belly. Estrogen starts to decrease dramatically and you have a hard time shaping the waistline.
However, the amount of fat gained is different for everyone. Some people get a much bigger belly than others.
That’s mainly due to genetics or the ways their body copes with menopause. To handle this problem, you can focus on healthy foods as much as you can. As long as you supply the system with nutrients, you will eventually get the belly fat under wraps.
10. Psychological Stressors
People vulnerable to depression, stress, and anxiety are more likely to gain excess abdominal fat than happy individuals. Due to the high cortisol levels, abdominal fat gets exaggerated and increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease. (20)
Women who have excess belly fat are also more prone to bad mood and stress. At the first sign of stress, the body experiences a psychological vulnerability. That’s why it’s crucial to acknowledge your stressors and work on your cortisol activity.
You can do that by managing the mental instability. The consecutive stress management will keep the cortisol level in check and help you lead a healthier life. In the long run, you will have an easier time slimming the visceral fat.
11. Not Enough Sleep
You probably know how important it is to get a good night’s rest. It helps the body function, but it also keeps the abdominal fat under control.
Research shows that people who sleep less than 5h a night, gain a lot more belly fat in the course of 5 years compared to the people who sleep 6h every night. In fact, those who didn’t sleep enough showed 32% weight gain in visceral fat. While those who slept for 6h experienced only a 13% weight gain in the same area. (21)
Plus, with enough sleep, you reduce the possibility of cardiovascular complications and metabolic diseases. The ideal sleep requirements for adults are from 7 to 9h per night. So, if you want to get a slim body, try to get a good night’s rest as often as possible. That way you increase your chances and take good care of your entire system.
Losing abdominal fat is not as easy as it looks. Countless factors can affect your chances for a six-pack. What matters is that you pay attention to all of them. The good thing is, you don’t have to think too much or plan some outrageous diets.
You can just work on the factors listed here to help you get the results you are hoping for. Like managing sugar, alcohol, and protein intake, getting enough exercise, etc. With enough persistence and dedication, you can have the body you’ve always dreamed of. It just takes time. Eventually, all the hard work will pay off.
(20) https://news.yale.edu/2000/09/22/study-stress-may-cause-excess-abdominal-fat-otherwise-slender-women(21) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-linked-gains-abdominal-fat