Stress may contribute to abdominal fat, according to several studies, including a recent one at the University of California, San Francisco. "When you're stressed, hormones like cortisol stimulate your appetite, slow your metabolism down and encourage fat storage inside your abdomen," explains Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Clinic at the University of Utah. So what's a frazzled girl to do? "Find an activity that reduces stress for you, whether it's listening to soothing music or taking yoga, and do it daily," advises Talbott.
Weight loss isn’t a linear event over time. When you cut calories, you may drop weight for the first few weeks, for example, and then something changes. You eat the same number of calories but you lose less weight or no weight at all. That’s because when you lose weight you’re losing water and lean tissue as well as fat, your metabolism slows, and your body changes in other ways. So, in order to continue dropping weight each week, you need to continue cutting calories.
"Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us cope with immediate danger, but our body will also release this hormone if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. When our cortisol levels are high for a long amount of time, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly."
Cardio exerts two benefits: It burns calories and affects hormone levels in the body. Specifically, cardio helps raise levels of norepinephrine. Yet when you do cardio it makes a big difference in how your body handles the hormonal changes. Cardio on an empty stomach allows norepinephrine to readily target fat cells, which triggers maximal fat-burning. On the flip side, if you eat before doing cardio, and particularly if you eat carbs, the fat-blocking hormone insulin rises, making your body less effective at burning fat.
Seedman recommends eating at least 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and scoring it from quality sources like lean meats, eggs, fish, and protein powders. And when in doubt, eat more protein. “Of all the macronutrients to overdo it on, protein is it because excessive amounts are more difficult for your body to turn into fat compared to carbs or fat,” he adds.
Of all the foods you eat, the high-protein ones are the most important for losing fat. First, they keep you feeling full, which prevents overeating and needless snacking. Second, they boost your calorie burn throughout the day because protein takes more energy to digest than carbs or fat. Third, when accompanied with weight training, a high-protein diet prevents muscle loss that might otherwise happen when you suddenly cut calories.
Most people think of cardio as a weight loss all-star, but you don’t need to spend all day on the treadmill to slim down. In fact, you might want to concentrate your efforts in the weight room. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, which means that it burns calories even when you’re not lifting; your body burns calories just to maintain muscle, so the more of it you have, the more calories you torch. You lose muscle mass naturally as you age, a process known as sarcopenia, which is why losing weight tends to get tougher the older you get. One study found that just ten weeks of resistance training increased resting metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns when you’re not doing anything) by 7 percent. Check out this simple strength training routine that challenges your entire body.
Fighting constantly with your S.O.? It’s time to address your issues head-on. "Research has shown that cortisol, the hormone that's released during stressful activity, is linked to fat storage,” says Gina Guddet, couples counselor and co-author of Love Metabolism. “And poor communication between couples is the most common type of stress that you tend to experience."
Have you been skipping the gym lately? No judgment: So you overdid it on gingerbread lattes at Starbucks or grabbed too many fast-food meals after marathon shopping trips? No biggie—as long as you stay active in other ways. "A lot of people skip workouts completely when the holidays get busy and promise they’ll exercise in January,” says Mike Donavanik, a personal trainer in Los Angeles. “But it’s that much harder to motivate when you’ve skipped the gym for two-plus weeks.” While you don’t have to maintain your exact same exercise routine, keeping your body in motion will help you balance out the indulgences and start the year strong. To help you do that on the quick, we’ve rounded up a dozen research-backed ways to get more out of your workouts and improve your metabolism to boot.
This kind of strength training recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers, which increases fat burning, says Shore. Although you could see a small increase in the scale as you build muscle, keep in mind that muscle is more dense than fat. That means it’s very likely that you're losing fat while gaining muscle, so don’t stress, says Shore. To keep up your progress, aim to increase the amount of resistance you use when your current weight becomes too easy to lift, says Shore.
Carbohydrates are a primary fuel source during training. Since glucose and stored glycogen are used for energy they are absolutely necessary for optimal performance. When glycogen is not available due to carb restriction the body will turn to alternative sources such as amino acids for energy. This will lead to muscle tissue breakdown, but since amino acids are not converted to energy as efficiently as carbs performance will be hindered.
You may have heard the widely quoted statistic that 95% of people who lose wait on a diet will regain it within a few years—or even months. While there isn’t much hard evidence to support that claim, it is true that many weight-loss plans fail in the long term. Often that’s simply because diets that are too restrictive are very hard to maintain over time. However, that doesn’t mean your weight loss attempts are doomed to failure. Far from it.
Our bodies are composed of primarily fat, muscle, water, bone and other tissue. All of these things combined make up our total weight. When someone says that they want to lose weight, they usually mean that they want to see a lower number on the scale. Thus, weight loss often comes from a combination of fat, muscle, and water to shift those pounds.
2. Eat smaller meals more frequently: “Insulin is probably the single most important factor that contributes to fat storage,” Seedman explains. This hormone is activated when you eat and responsible for shuttling nutrients into cells, either fat or muscle. A quick biology lesson: Every time you eat a meal, your blood glucose spikes, and when this goes up, so do your insulin levels. More calories at once means a larger spike in both. When these levels are sky high, it signals to your body to put nutrients into fat cells instead of muscle, causing an accumulation of fat, Seedman explains. The same thing happens when your insulin stays elevated for a prolonged period of time, which is why it’s important to let yourself become hungry before eating again, he adds. Aim for five to six meals throughout the day.