Health Risks Associated with Deep Belly Fat
Before we look at how to reduce deep belly fat naturally, let’s talk about health risks. Abdominal fat, or visceral fat, significantly increases your risk for disease and health problems. According to the Harvard Medical School, visceral fat has been linked to:
- Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
- Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Increased Risk for Breast and Colectoral Cancer
High levels of visceral fat also cause metabolic disturbances like insulin resistance. This causes glucose levels to rise and increase the risk for diabetes.
Causes of Deep Belly Fat
Yes, poor diet and lack of exercise lead to the accumulation of belly fat. However, it is more complicated than that.
Specificallly, your metabolic hormones both control weight and determine how much fat your body stores. If these metabolic hormones are out of balance, then you are far more likely to gain visceral fat.
Unfortunately, aging itself causes the metabolic hormones to become unbalanced. Plus, poor diet and lack of exercise exacerbate the imbalance. Until the metabolic hormones are rebalanced, losing deep belly fat is almost impossible.
So before we look at how to reduce deep belly fat naturally, let’s take a closer look at some of the metabolic hormones that directly impact weight loss.
Produced in your fat cells, leptin is vital to any successful long-term weight loss efforts. Considered a “satiety hormone”, leptin reduces appetite and makes you feel full. Basically, leptin signals your brain and controls appetite and food intake.
So, when our fat stores are sufficient, leptin signals the brain that no more food is needed so we don’t overeat. People who carry around significant levels of fat have much higher levels of leptin. In fact, one study showed obese people had 4 times as much leptin as people who had normal weight.
When functioning properly, higher levels of leptin in obese people should reduce appetite and lower caloric intake. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen due to a condition known as leptin resistance.
Basically, the condition refers to the brain no longer detecting leptin. Therefore, the brain never gets the signal to stop eating. Even worse, the failure of your brain to detect leptin makes it think you’re starving. This causes 3 big problems for anyone looking to lose deep belly fat:
- Increases cravings and elevates caloric intake
- You need to eat more to feel satiated and again elevates caloric intake
- Slows metabolism to conserve energy (lowers caloric burn rate)
Reversing Leptin Resistance
With your brain prompts you to increase caloric intake while slowing metabolism, losing deep belly fat is impossible. Researchers now believe leptin resistance is one of the leading drivers of obesity. So until the condition gets reversed, all the willpower in the world won’t help you reach your weight loss goals.
How do you know if you have leptin resistance? Just take a look at your gut. If you have any significant amount of belly fat, then you have leptin resistance.
Researchers now believe that two of the primary causes of leptin resistance are inflammation in the hypothalamus and chronically elevated insulin levels.
So, to reverse leptin resistance so you can finally eliminate belly fat, here are 2 strategies to use. There are other strategies to use as well but we’ll cover those when we specifically look at reducing belly fat. For now, let’s look at the top two for reversing leptin resistance.
1. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Yes, foods can cause inflammation. And chronic, sustained inflammation leads to increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Here are five foods that tend to cause inflammation:
Refined Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Consuming foods high in sugar tends to elevate production of uric acid which leads to inflammation and insulin resistance. This is why studies consistently show sugar intake is linked to increased risk for diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, and chronic kidney disease.
Now the sugar found in fruits is ok. That is because the fiber in the fruit helps offset the negative effects of the fructose. But, any refined sugar intake should be very limited to reduce risk of inflammation.
2. Artificial Trans Fats
You can spot trans fats on food labels as they will appear as partially hydrogenated oils. Margarines typically contain trans fats. Not only do trans fats reduce levels of healthy cholesterol (HDL), but studies also link them to higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
3. Vegetable and seed oils
Cooking oils cause inflammation because they are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Vegetable and seed oils are also common ingredients in many processed foods. To counteract the inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids (because we can’t avoid vegetable and seed oils altogether), researchers recommend increasing intake of fish that are high in omega-3.
4. Refined Carbohydrates
The problem with refined carbohydrates is that they have no fiber, or at least very little. We need fiber to improve blood sugar control, feel satiated, and promote healthy bacteria in the gut. But with the fiber removed from refined carbohydrates, it increases the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria. Plus, this increases your risk for obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.
To reduce refined carbohydrate intake, cut down on:
- Most cereals
- Sugar-filled soft drinks
- Any processed foods that contain added sugar or flour
If you want to know how to reduce deep belly fat naturally, cutting back on alcohol is important for many reasons. In addition to the empty calories and sugar content, consuming alcohol produces inflammation.
Drinking too much alcohol causes problems with bacterial toxins moving out of the colon and throughout the body. This is known as “leaky gut” which leads to inflammation and may even cause organ damage.
2. Normalize Insulin Levels Naturally
The metabolic hormone insulin is produced by your pancreas. It gets secreted in small amounts throughout the day and then in larger amounts after you eat, known as insulin spikes.
Insulin functions by allowing cells to use blood sugar for energy or storage, depending on your body’s needs. In this way, insulin essentially determines what gets stored as fat and what gets used for immediate energy.
Insulin resistance occurs when your blood sugar and insulin levels go up significantly. These elevated insulin levels significantly increase the risk for obesity and metabolic disorders, including leptin resistance.
Consuming excessive amounts of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and fast food are all associated with increased risk for insulin resistance.
Here are some ways to naturally reduce insulin levels and help reverse insulin resistance:
1. Drink Green Tea
Studies show that green tea helps both reduce blood sugar and insulin levels naturally.
2. Eat More Low-Carb Meals
Research shows that switching to a low-carb diet leads to an immediate drop in insulin levels. Plus, low-carb meals lead to less severe insulin spikes and can help with insulin resistance.
3. Increase Intake of Foods High in Magnesium
People who have been insulin resistance also tend to have low levels of magnesium in their bodies. Consider adding these magnesium rich foods to your diet:
- lima beans
- brown rice
4. Eat More Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fats that help naturally reduce insulin levels. Plus, they are low-carb alternatives that won’t cause inflammation while also providing a range of health benefits.
Concluding Thoughts on Metabolic Hormones and Weight Loss
Researchers believe leptin resistance to be one of the leading causes of the obesity epidemic of the past 20 years. People with leptin resistance have more frequent and intense cravings, need to eat more to feel satiated, and have lower metabolism rates. So if you want to know how to reduce deep belly fat naturally, you have to first reverse leptin resistance.
Eliminating or greatly reducing intake of foods that cause inflammation is one way to help reverse leptin resistance. You also need to naturally reduce insulin levels as well. In addition to the tips listed above, regular exercise and eating healthier also help reverse leptin resistance and lower insulin levels. We will look at these strategies next and how to reduce deep belly fat naturally and safely.
How To Reduce Deep Belly Fat Naturally with Protein
Protein, fats, and carbohydrates are the three main macronutrients. Of the three, none helps eliminate belly fat faster than protein.
One way that protein helps burn fat is by impacting levels of weight regulating hormones. Specifically, protein increases levels of GLP-1, peptide YY, and cholecytokinin which all increase satiety so you eat less. Additionally, protein reduces the levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone that stimulates appetite. In doing so, protein thus naturally reduces caloric intake.
Protein Naturally Boosts Metabolism and Caloric Burn
When we eat, the body must burn calories in order to digest the food and extract the nutrients. This process is known as the thermic effect of food, or TEF.
Let’s say you consumed a meal rich in fats. Only about 3% of the total calories you ingest would be used to digest the fats. For carbohydrates, you burn 5-10% of the total calories consumed to actually digest the food.
But for every 100 calories you consume of protein, 20-30 are burned during digestion. Researchers estimate that eating a diet high in protein can naturally boost metabolism and burn up to 100 or more calories per day just during digestion. To put another way, protein boosts your metabolism 4-5X’s higher than carbohydrates and up to 10X’s more than fats.
Remember, if you want to know how to reduce deep belly fat naturally, you need to create a “caloric deficit”. In other words, you need to burn more calories than you ingest to burn stored fat. By reducing appetite and caloric intake while increasing metabolism and caloric burn, protein is a fat burning “superfood”.
Protein Helps Preserve Muscle Mass and Metabolism Rate
Here is a very important thing to remember when trying to shed belly fat: Losing weight doesn’t always mean you’re losing fat.
In fact, our weight loss often includes the loss of muscle mass. But what we want to lose is visceral fat (belly fat and fat around our organs) and the subcutaneous fat under the skin.
Plus, losing muscle mass ultimately slows down our metabolism which is the opposite of what you want when losing weight. This is because muscle cells burn more calories at rest than fat cells. So losing muscle instead of fat slows caloric burn.
This slowing of the metabolism can amount to several hundred fewer calories burned every day. You would need to exercise for about an hour each day to counteract the slower metabolism.
Thankfully, eating more protein greatly slows muscle loss and helps keep your metabolism rate elevated as you burn fat.
Protein Naturally Reduces Weight Even Without Caloric Restrictions
One of the biggest reasons why diets fail is because they are unrealistic. In other words, starving yourself “thin” doesn’t work. Your will power eventually gives way to hunger pangs in your stomach so you end up gaining back whatever weight you did lose.
Thankfully, you can lose weight with a high-protein diet even with no caloric restrictions. In fact, studies show that getting 30% or more of your calories from protein each day leads to consuming 400+ fewer calories. That’s with no restrictions on calories or portion sizes! Plus, exercise was not added either so protein definitely helps burn fat naturally just by increasing intake to 30% or more of total calories.
In addition, studies show that people on high protein diets specifically have lower levels of belly fat. But, as many of us know, losing fat and weight is one thing while keeping it off is another.
Thankfully, a high protein diet also helps prevent regaining lost weight and fat. In fact, a diet of roughly 20% protein intake can help reduces the chances for regaining weight by 50%.
High Protein Foods to Help Burn Belly Fat Naturally
To burn fat faster, try switching out carbs and fats wherever possible for this high protein alternatives:
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Chicken or Turkey Breast
- Lean Beef
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Ezekiel Bread
- Fish (any type)
- Brussel Sprouts
If you are short on time, also consider getting whey protein supplements as an alternative. Remember, you ideally want 30% or more of total calories coming from protein sources for best results and to burn fat naturally.
How to Reduce Deep Belly Fat Naturally by Building Muscle Mass
It’s simple: The more muscle mass you have, the higher your baseline metabolism rate. In other words, more muscles means your burn more calories at rest.
While eating protein helps prevent loss of muscle mass when dieting, it just isn’t enough. You need to also build lean muscle mass to maintain long-term, consistent weight loss. That means you need to incorporate anaerobic exercise.
At it’s simplest, anaerobic exercise is high intensity. Unlike aerobic exercise where the body gets most of it’s energy from oxygen, anaerobic exercise requires the body to burn stored energy. In other words, you actually break down fat and use it for energy.
Ideally, weight lifting is the best form of anaerobic exercise to incorporate. This helps build lean muscle mass fast while also burning a lot of calories while working out. You don’t need a gym membership or to invest in expensive exercise equipment. A simple set of dumbbels will do.
You want to strive for 60-minute workout sessions at least 3-4 times per week. That will burn 400-600 calories each session and also help you build muscle fast. However, you can always start out slower with 30-minute sessions until your conditioning is built up.
Burn Deep Belly Fat Faster with Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise, even a mild workout, helps you burn belly fat and reach your weight loss goals faster. Ideally, you want to combine it with anaerobic exercise for maximum fat burning. A brisk walk, jogging, swimming, or using a treadmill are all forms of aerobic exercise that can help you burn fat faster.
You want to start slow and be sure to consult with your physician before starting any aerobic or anaerobic exercise. This is especially true if your activity levels have been restricted. One thing you have to watch for is your joints. After extended periods of inactivity, suddenly exercising extensively can lead to injury.
Ideally, you want to try exercising 3-4X’s per week for up to an hour each session. That will burn 300-500 calories per session depending on your activity. Plus, this will help improve your cardiovascular health and reduce risk for heart disease.
If you want to know how to reduce deep belly fat naturally, simple but effective changes to diet and lifestyle work best. However, reversing leptin resistance is vital to any long-term success. If you have any significant amount of belly fat, then you are likely leptin resistant.
If so, you will need to cut down on foods that lead to inflammation and keep your insulin levels down. Plus, reducing your levels of fat also help reverse leptin resistance much faster.
When it comes to burning fat, protein is the best food you can eat. You can still burn fat and lose weight just by increasing protein intake to 30% or more of your total calories. Plus, it helps naturally control appetite and boost metabolism.
In the end, eliminating deep belly fat requires creating a “caloric deficit” for extended periods of time. Only by making long-term changes to your diet and lifestyle will help you reach your target weight and maintain it. But, you don’t need to starve yourself, live at the gym, or torture yourself. Just increase protein intake, eat fewer foods that cause inflammation, and add-in a modest amount of exercise and the fat will come off naturally and safely.