If you’ve been dieting for a while, you might have noticed that it is much harder to lose fat from some areas of your body compared with others. It just feels so hard to get rid of stubborn fat!
For men, their stubborn fat tends to be carried in their lower stomach and love handles. For ladies, the last place to lose stubborn fat is often the thighs, hips and bottom. That’s normal and expected.
Let’s take a look at that stubborn fat today. We’ll aim to understand the reasons why your body holds on to fat in those places, what you can do about it, and if anything exists to speed up getting lean in those particular spots.
Fat Loss Science
The main principle of whether you gain or lose fat is your body’s energy balance. If your energy balance tips so that you’re taking in more energy than you’re spending, you’ll gain weight. If your energy balance tips so that you’re spending more energy than you’re taking in, you’ll lose weight.
You take in energy in the form of calories, through the food you eat. You spend energy through your activity levels - but not just through exercise. Only by existing, breathing, surfing this website right now… it all costs energy. When your body’s caloric intake and your energy spend match each other? Your weight maintains, you are neither losing nor gaining.
What’s Different About Stubborn Fat?
For your body to burn fat, a chemical called catecholamines are produced. These molecules travel through the body, attaching to the receptors on fat cells, triggering the release of energy stored in the cell.
Fat cells have two types of catecholamines; alpha receptors, and beta receptors. In simple terms, if there are more beta receptors than alpha, you’ll lose fat quickly from that part of your body. If there are more alpha receptors than beta, it’s stubborn fat and will take longer to release the energy in those cells.
Can We Speed Up Fat Loss In Those Stubborn Areas?
The speed at which you lose fat is something you can control, with the majority of people responding best to a calorie deficit and regular exercise. Aside from the changes to your physique, there is a whole range of related health benefits too.
The places where you hang on to body fat are genetically pre-determined, however. There’s nothing that can be done to spot reduce fat in a particularly stubborn area. It may seem like you’re in a weight-loss plateau while you wait for those stubborn areas to catch up, but provided you are sticking to a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.
You aren’t immune to the laws of thermodynamics, and rest assured that you haven’t done anything to mess with your metabolism… yes, I’m sure. No, not even that fad shake diet from the late 90s. It takes a deficit and patience - and it’s often the patience that’s missing.
However, there is something that you can do to change how that area of stubborn body fat looks. While you can’t spot reduce fat, you can target particular muscle groups to develop muscle definition.
Having more muscle at a site doesn’t burn fat faster there. The muscle might not even be visible yet while there’s a layer of subcutaneous fat over it. However, most lean muscle tissue will give that area a firmer look.
It’s often this firmness and lack of ‘jiggle’ that makes it appear that it’s possible to spot reduce fat. Stubborn fat can be annoying and usually takes longer to lose than the rest of the body fat.
However, you’ll reap the vast majority of the health benefits before you get to the point where the stubborn fat is causing any frustration. Understanding that it might take longer than expected - and staying in a calorie deficit anyway - is the critical factor when working on those last little bit of stubborn fat.
Staying in a calorie deficit, eating a diet which prioritises protein will help you to feel satisfied and make the calorie-restriction feel easier. Being patient and adhering to your diet, even when it feels like the scales aren’t moving will be critical.
Finally, staying motivated to stick to your nutrition plan and exercise by using measurements of your progress other than the bathroom scale (such as photographs and tape measurements) will fully reflect your changing body shape than a one dimensional reading of your physical mass.
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