Are you happy when you look in the mirror?
As soon as you look, do you suck in your stomach a bit to make it flatter?
Most of my friends wouldn’t mind losing a bit of fat and an inch or two from their belly.
It’s hardly fair, but losing belly fat is one of the hardest things to do. That’s true even if you workout and watch your diet.
I think it’s some sort of a curse: the last few pounds are sitting there on you belly and everyone sees them.
Blame the Hormones
Let’s be clear about one thing first. When I say “blame the hormones” that doesn’t mean you get a free pass. If your are healthy overall, then you have a lot of control over how well things are working in your body.
Hormones are our friends. When everything is in balance, they do their job right and life is good.
One of the jobs your hormones do is control fat storage and loss. The biggest contributors to this task are:
- insulin, and
I listed them in alphabetical order. Turns out, that’s good for another reason. Cortisol and estrogen are the main players when we talk about lower-body fat storage. And, when it comes to belly fat, the biggie is cortisol.
Estrogen – It’s Not Just for Women
I’ll start first with estrogen.
You generally only read about estrogen and women. The truth is, everybody produces some estrogen.
(Get this guys – you need estrogen for your sperm to mature and for a healthy sex drive. Who’d have guessed?)
Now for guys the issue becomes making sure he has enough testosterone to balance the estrogen that his body needs.
Some bodybuilders (we’ll call them silly people) use steroids to artificially increase their testosterone levels. That’s fine if you want to destroy your body. I don’t think that’s why you came here.
You came here to find natural ways to reduce belly fat, not chemical ways.
So here goes: workout harder and you will naturally increase your testosterone levels. You can easily do that by either
- doing your workouts more quickly, or
- increasing the intensity of your workouts.
As you increase your testosterone level, your body can free up fat stored in the lower body.
What is Cortisol?
Now it’s time to talk about cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress hormone. For our purposes, that means that when you are under stress, cortisol will be released into your blood stream. The details of all the steps making that happen are not important for us right now.
Basically, your body and brain view all sources of stress as being equal. It doesn’t matter if the stress is a physical, mental, or emotional source.
The body releases the cortisol into your blood stream and it helps (in various ways) deal with the stress. That’s good. But, the negative result of the cortisol is the storage of excess fat, especially in your belly.
If you can control cortisol, then you are on your way to naturally losing belly fat.
How to Control Cortisol
You might think that all you need to do is get and keep your stress levels under control.
If that were true, then I could write a bestseller “How I Got a Flat Belly After 30 Days of Meditation.”
Nope. It takes some work to lose that belly fat. Yup, as is in, you’ve got to workout.
The problem is, your body views a physical workout as a form of stress. What does stress cause your body to do? Release cortisol. The cortisol then tries to store fat, just what you’re working out to get rid of!
Do you ever feel like you’re chasing your tail?
Let’s solve this problem with some practical ideas to lower your cortisol levels.
1. The longer your workout (whether it’s cardio or weight lifting) the more cortisol your body produces. Solution: short sessions of high intensity interval training, HIIT. Do HIIT and you’ll get the benefits of static training in less time. Your HIIT workouts only need to be 12 – 20 minutes long.
2. Get enough sleep. Your body looks at a lack of sleep as a form of stress. That ups your cortisol level along with the fat storage.
There’s another side to sleep that’s worth mentioning here. While you’re asleep your body releases a growth hormone. This growth hormone reduces the effects of cortisol. So, get a good night’s sleep and let your hormones work for you.
Researcher’s say that you should get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep and that you should try to be in bed about the same time every night.
3. Eat the right foods. This topic is important and deserves it’s own post.
Follow these steps and you are on your way to losing belly fat in the natural way:
- increase your testosterone and keep estrogen in check by working out harder,
- switch to short HIIT workouts,
- get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.