It's well documented that we have 'trouble areas' when it comes to body fat storage.
We know that women tend to store more fat around their hips, bums, thighs and tummy's, while guys tend to store more fat around their stomachs.
I often have conversations with mums and dads around losing "that last 5kg" or "those last few centimetres around their mid section".
And in this blog I plan to share with you the most effective way to lose the stubborn fat.
But before we move on I think it's important to mention that the methods below are related to how to mobilise those last few kilos, or centimetres for someone who is fairly fit, lean and not carrying a lot of excess body fat.
Until you're at that stage, the normal principles for energy balance apply, that is, having a deficit in your calories each week (output V input).
Quick overview of fat loss:
To burn 1kg of body fat you need a deficit of 3,500 calories. A realistic weekly body fat loss would be around .5kg, so you require a 1,750 calorie deficit to achieve this. So if your goal is to lose 10kg, that would be .5kg x 20weeks= 10kg. It's also important to add in some 'contingency weeks' with any goal should you fall ill, be away with travel etc. So let's say 4 weeks for this kind of goal. Therefore if you're consistently in a deficit of 1,750 calories each week you can expect to lose 10kg in about 24 weeks.
I've been doing many nutrition consultations lately and am finding that so often people will under eat most days, but then blow out their calories on 1 or 2 days, or under eat all day then blow out at night with calorie dense foods like sweets and chocolates etc (which don't fill you up, so it's easy to consume a lot of calories).
Having a huge 'treat day' on the weekend is most likely effecting your fat loss results. Sure, relaxing and having a great meal/night out every now and then is Important but for many, it's needs to be a more moderate treat and increase in calories.
Now let's get back to that stubborn fat..
Before we leap into the specifics around stubborn fat I think it's important to break it down and understand what types of fats there are and why we still need some fat in our bodies.
5 types of Fat
1) Essential Fat - used for cushioning organs. This makes up about 3% of total fat for males and 9-12% for females.
2) Brown Fat - Used for thermogenesis (keeping us warm), and is activated when we are cold, originally it was though this was only found in babies as they didn't have the ability to shiver. It's packed full of mitochondria which are like mini engine rooms for our muscles. So they're full of energy and help create heat.
3) Visceral fat - this is the fat surrounding our organs. High levels of visceral fat are associated with chronically high stress/cortisol levels and increases the risk of metabolic diseases and conditions.
Visceral fat is also associated to our insulin resistance/sensitivity.
4) Subcutaneous fat - There's 2 types of subcutaneous fat cells which we will discuss further in this blog.
This is basically the excess fat under our skin, which when most people talk about "losing fat" this is what they're usually referring to.
5) Intramuscular triglycerides- fat stored in muscles, this contributes to muscle volume.
If a bodybuilding athlete is really lean, but completely depleted of this type of fat, they can look really 'flat' which is not ideal for competing, as their muscles won't really 'pop' therefore not as eye catching for judges. but this is probably not that relevant for this article anyway.
The type of fat we are going to explore in this post is subcutaneous fat and the two types of fat cells.
1- Stubborn fat cells
2- Regular fat cells
Within each fat cell there are 2 types of receptors; BETA & ALPHA receptors
The stubborn fat cells have far greater volume of ALPHA receptors, as alpha receptors are much harder to mobilise (breakdown). The regular fat cells have a greater ratio of Beta receptors, which are easier to mobilise.
The reason why women tend to store more fat around their hips, thighs, bum and tummy, is because they have far more alpha receptor type fat cells in these areas, hence why it’s pretty easy to store body fat there, but much harder to breakdown.
Guys tend to have more alpha receptor fat cells around their stomachs (hence the beer belly term).
But there’s good news, you can breakdown these stubborn fat cells/alpha receptors with some smart training and nutrition.
Losing that stubborn fat is largely about increasing your catecholamines. In particular your adrenaline and noradrenaline.
These are created in the adrenal glands, so you do need to be mindful of that if you are already under a lot of stress, you don't want to add to that, so it's best to manage stress first before adding more stress with lots of high intensity training.
Low intensity/steady state exercise increases mainly noradrenaline where as high intensity exercise increases both.
Alpha receptors are inhibitors to fat loss, which means we need to block them to lose fat.
High intensity exercise blocks alpha receptors as it increases your catecholamines.
It's important to know that blood flow is a key part to all of this, if you have poor blood flow it's hard to get catecholamines.
Alpha receptor cites have poor blood flow where as beta receptor cites have good blood flow.
You can increase blood flow through exercise, particularly strength training and HIIT style cardio, massage, hot/cold treatment and through supplementation/stimulants.
This is where the usually labelled evil hormone cortisol comes in handy, cortisol is required for energy and it stimulates lipolysis (break down of fats), it helps mobilise (breakdown) glucose and fatty acids, however we know that Chronic elevation is not great, so it's about using it to your advantage, this is where stimulants prior to training such as coffee can help mobilise fat, however again it's important that your overall stress is managed and you don't suffer from chronic stress/cortisol l as this can add to metabolic damage such as decreased adrenal and thyroid function. (Hence why Chronic dieting is hazardous for your metabolic health)
For many women, long endurance cardio and higher carb diet (particularly post training nutrition) will only enhance the alpha receptors (not so ideal).
As I mentioned above steady state cardio increase noradrenaline, which does help mobiles fat from beta receptor sites, but if followed up by a high carb meal it will move fatty acids to the stubborn areas.
This is why for some women that do mainly steady state cardio training, can lose weight everywhere else on their body but continually put weight on their hips, bum and thighs.
A better approach is to do HIIT training first followed by 10-15min of steady state to help oxidise stored body fat.
Strength training is vital for reducing stubborn body fat, as the high intensity, high loads really help increase blood flow, catecholamines, as well as skin elasticity.
Here’s a basic outline from a training perspective:
1) Strength Training 3 x pw (full body, but a large emphasis on legs) is a great start
2) High intensity interval training 2-3 times per week for 30-45min is the next step, coupling this with some steady state cardio 10-15min after HIIT is even better.
3) Then proper nutrition, with efficient timing of carbohydrates around training, removing toxins and working on your stress management is the next piece to the puzzle.
Lower insulin levels will help inhibit alpha receptors, so adopting somewhat of a lower carb diet initially will help.
Going 2-3 weeks lower carb will help reset your sensitivity to insulin, then re-introducing carbs back into your diet particularly around your lifting sessions will assist in better utilisation of carbohydrates and lipolysis (burning fat).
I hope you enjoyed this post, be sure to share with your friends.
- Coach Brad
If you'd like to book a nutrition and/or training consultation email firstname.lastname@example.org today!