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If You Exercise Regularly and Still Have Belly Fat, This Could Be Why, According to 3 Experts

Popsugar logo Popsugar 30/06/2019 Tamara-Pridgett
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Ask an expert how to get rid of belly fat, and you'll probably get an answer along the lines of exercising consistently and fuelling your body with quality foods. If you have been exercising and still have belly fat, you could be doing the wrong style training, your stress levels may be too high, or you may have an endocrine disorder like polycystic ovary syndrome. If you are still confused why you can't lose that stubborn belly fat, keep reading.

You Aren't Doing the Right Workouts to Lose Belly Fat

Following expert-approved recommendations to reduce belly fat (and body fat in general) and not seeing results is frustrating. As an NASM-certified trainer, I recommend reviewing what you're doing for exercise. Being active is great for your overall health and well-being, but in order to reduce belly/body fat, you should focus primarily on strength training and cardio.

Strength training is a great tool for losing body fat because it allows you to burn fat and build muscle simultaneously. Since muscle is more metabolically active than fat, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (how many calories you need for processes that keep you alive like breathing and brain functions) becomes. Simply put, more muscle leads to burning more calories when your body is at rest.

I also recommend people add cardio to their weekly workout routine to burn fat. Too much steady-state cardio can cause you to burn fat and muscle, so you'll want to limit your cardio sessions to 30 minutes or less, Rondel King, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Centre, said in a previous interview.

The Stress Hormone Cortisol Is Causing Belly Fat

If your workout regimen is on point but you still have belly fat, you should take your stress levels into consideration. Too much stress causes your body to produce an excess of cortisol, the stress hormone. When this happens, your metabolic rate can be negatively impacted. Cortisol "leads to people eating more, sleeping less, and it may affect insulin resistance," registered dietitian nutritionist Avigdor Arad, PhD, CDE, director of the Mount Sinai PhysioLab, said in a previous interview. According to Dr. Arad, this is bad because insulin signals your body to "store and build rather than to burn."

Emotional stress isn't the only variable affecting your ability to lose belly fat. According to Rondel, too much steady-state cardio can be catabolic and break down muscle tissue. This can also lead to an increase in the number of stress hormones your body produces, which is "very catabolic in nature," he further explained. Bottom line: manage your stress levels with strategies like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and exercise, and don't overdo it on the cardio.

Other Hormonal Issues Could Be at Play

You've tweaked your workouts, your nutrition is great, you've got your stress under control, and you still have belly fat. If this is the case, you may want to speak with an endocrinologist. If you were assigned female at birth, hormonal changes caused by menopause (a decrease in estrogen levels), PCOS (the body produces male hormones, like androgen, in excess), metabolic syndrome, and diabetes can cause you to store fat around your stomach. By working with a specialist, they'll be able to come up with an individualized plan that addresses your health concerns and goals.

Losing belly fat may be a goal, but it isn't the sole determining factor of being in shape and being healthy. It's easy to fixate on the things we don't like, but remember to celebrate little wins like making time to exercise for your well-being and bigger wins like getting strong.

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