You have started exercising, in earnest, and you have decided to start eating right, but you just cannot lose that belly fat. Indeed, you may even notice fat reduction, in mostly every other part of your body, except your belly. The question on everyone’s mind is; why can’t I lose belly fat? The article Daily Stress can Lead to Belly Fat discussed the hidden stressors that lead to cortisol production, and therefore, belly fat accumulation. In this article, we will look at the bodily mechanism that can lead to the accumulation of belly fat, and the methods of sidestepping this growing problem.
Cortisol Signals your Body to Store Belly Fat
According to Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., a Salt Lake City-based nutrition expert and author of The Cortisol Connection (Hunter House, 2002), our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, each time we encounter stress. According to Sheila G. West, M.D., associate professor of bio-behavioral health at Penn State, cortisol is associated with the “Fight or Flight” mechanism built into our bodies. This mechanism was indispensible when we actually had to fight or flee for our lives. However, in our modern society, we rarely find ourselves in these situations. Or do we? Eventhough we are not running away from saber-tooth tigers, the stress we encounter in our daily lives causes the same mechanism to release cortisol. Cortisol signals your body to store belly fat in order to have a fat reserve for the next stress filled moment. In order to ensure the storage of belly fat, the mechanism directs us toward sweet foods, and fat laden foods. Indeed, one can see that eventhough you exercise and try to eat right, your body’s defense mechanism is silently working against you.
Supplements that Counter the Effects of Stress, and Aid in Belly Fat Reduction
Some nutrients that counter the effects of stress are magnesium and B vitamins. They can assist you to relax, and will help elevate your mood. James LaValle, N.D., a naturopath in Cincinnati and author of Cracking the Metabolic Code (Basic Health Publications, 2002), suggests taking 400 to 600 mg of magnesium, and the full complex of B Vitamins each day. Most multivitamin pills will not provide the recommended amounts of these nutrients, so individual supplementation may be necessary. Moreover, the herb Holy Basil (Ocimum tenniflorum), which has been known to reduces cortisol levels, may also be taken. LaValle suggests taking 400 mg of this herb, 2 to 3 times daily. What is more, Talbott suggests the amino acid supplement L-theanine, also found (naturally) in green tea, can help you relax, without making you drowsy. If not drinking green tea, the supplemental form of L-theanine can be taken in 50 to 150 mg doses. It is safe to take indefinitely.
Foods that Counter the Effects of Stress, and Aid in Belly Fat Reduction
Women’s Health, December 2007, advocates the use of Almonds, Pistachios, and Walnuts to assist in supplementing your allotment of B Vitamins and healthy fats, to aid in stress relief. Additionally, Dr. West found that consuming 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of pistachios each day could lower blood pressure and reduce the effects of the “fight or flight” response. Moreover, when your cortisol has peaked, and you are craving a fat laden snack, avocados make a good substitute to saturated fat rich ice-cream treats.
List of Foods that Counter the Effects of Stress
• Skim Milk: calcium can reduce muscle spasms and soothe tension, says Mary Dallman, Ph.D., professor of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco. A glass of skim or 1% milk may also reduce stress instigated by the symptoms of PMS.
• Oatmeal: A rich source of complex carbohydrates causes the brain to produce additional amounts of (stress relieving) serotonin, which is also released when you eat dark chocolate.
• Oranges: The nutrient of interest here is Vitamin C. During a study in Psychopharmacology, German researchers exposed 120 people to stress inducing tasks. They found that people who were supplemented with 3 gramsof Vitamin C, felt less stress, and their blood pressure, and cortisol levels more quickly returned to normal.
• Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids are the natural enemy of the stress hormone cortisol. A 2003 study from Diabetes & Metabolism found that diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids kept levels of cortisol and adrenaline from rising. (See also Fish Oil (Omega-3 fatty acids) and CLA help reduce body (belly) fat)
• Spinach: This veggie is rich in the mineral Magnesium, which is known to help lower stress levels. Moreover, a single 1-cup serving can provide 40% of your required daily value.
Exercise to Manage the Effects of Stress
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals released in the brain that have a calming effect, and can help in reducing and regulating the stress hormone cortisol. According to Talbott, participating in some form of moderate exercise, for 30 minutes each day, such as swimming, walking, or performing yoga, can reduce cortisol and increase your resilience to stress. Indeed, even if you cannot find 30-minute blocks of time to devote to exercise, a 10-minute block of moderate exercise can have a cumulative effect on stress reduction. Moreover, additional cortisol control can be achieved by incorporating resistance training (weight lifting) into your workout regimen. Optimally, you should lift weights for 30 minutes, every other day, with at least a 1-day rest to allow time for your muscles recover. In the ongoing battle against belly fat, we can learn from our own bodies. The built in mechanisms that ensured the survival of the human race, now seem to be causing problems with belly fat. By recognizing how our bodies work, and “working around” our built in mechanisms, we can sidestep the problems of accumulating belly fat, and the health problems caused by belly fat. Remember, it is wise to consult your doctor before starting any self-help regimen(s).