Updated: Jun 7, 2021
If you've been trying to get rid of excess belly fat, here's something you may not have considered.
Calorie deficit + balanced hormones= less belly fat
Some people only get the calorie deficit by eating less and exercising more. This can actually make the hormone balance worse. And without balanced hormones, the fat won't budge.
EFFECTS OF SOME KEY HORMONES
Cortisol- AKA the sleep and stress hormone. High blood levels increase appetite, cravings and the size of fat cells. Cortisol increases fat storage when levels are high for a sustained duration.
Insulin- When cortisol and insulin are present at the same time and there is excess calorie intake, the body will increase fat storage. When not enough calories are eaten, the two hormones decrease fat burning. Additionally, there's an enzyme in belly fat that creates its own cortisol. This sustained cortisol exposure causes more fat to accumulate in that same area. Insulin stimulates production of this enzyme. Lastly, insulin resistance increases appetite.
Testosterone- Lower levels in men and higher levels in women increase belly fat.
Estrogen- The fluctuations of estrogen during peri menopause can make a woman's body more efficient at storing fat.
Here are some tips to holistically help keep these hormones in better balance:
Cut carbs, but not too much- Reducing your intake of carbs will lower insulin levels. However, intake that is too low can cause low blood sugar, stress the body and raise cortisol. The balancing act is to eat enough carbs to give your body energy and keep blood sugar at optimal levels, while slowly lowering insulin levels. So reduce carbs gradually and also switch refined or processed carbs with complex carbs- such as quinoa, legumes, oatmeal, potatoes with the skin, fruits and veggies. Save your higher carb intake for post workout or physical activity.
Eat your protein and veggies- Eat protein with your carbs to slow down the rate of digestion, preventing sharp insulin spikes. Meals of protein and vegetables help suppress hunger while minimizing calorie intake and insulin production.
Sleep- Get at least 7 hours daily to lower cortisol.
Manage stress- Stress raises cortisol and also raises testosterone in women. Increase any activity that reduces your stress (including sex, laughter, warm showers or baths, massage, meditation, mindfulness, breathwork, leisurely walks and gentle yoga).
Minimize alcohol consumption- Excess alcohol lowers testosterone and can raise cortisol.
Exercising for less belly fat- The more you eat, you need to exercise more! But keep intense exercise to less than 40 minutes to minimize the cortisol produced when your body is under stress. Longer duration exercise is best at a lower intensity. Weight train at least twice a week.
Photo credit: shape.com