How To Lose Stubborn Fat (Around Belly & Love Handles)


how-to-lose-stubborn-fat-transformation

So far I’ve helped a lot of people achieve a lean and muscular physique, which is awesome!

But one thing that I hear people struggle with, which is also something that I’ve struggled with myself, is losing that last bit of annoying stubborn fat, you know the fat that tend to accumulate around your belly, hips and thighs.

So, to help you who struggle with stubborn fat, here’s what I’ve learned over the years that will help you get rid of stubborn fat:

How to lose stubborn fat? You should only be concerned about losing stubborn body fat once you have become lean. Once lean keep doing your basics, which is being in a calorie deficit, taking in enough protein and doing resistance training. After your basics are covered, you can use intermittent fasting, fasted HIIT cardio and take a few supplements to burn of your stubborn body fat.

In this post I will go much more in depth on how to do these things. Starting by answering the very common question:

Can You Spot Reduce Body Fat?

Believe it or not, you can actually spot reduce body fat from exercising the muscles next to the fat you want to get rid of!

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking:

What, are you kidding me?!

Well I’m not, in a study from 2007 by Dr. Bente Stallnecht that was published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism they saw that spot reduction actually occur. In the study, intense localized exercise in one leg burned significantly more fat than in the non-exercised leg.

Now with that said, the amount of localized fat burnt of by exercise is so incredibly small that it’s more or less a useless pursuit.

So the take home message is that spot reduction technically works, but at such a small level that it’s basically insignificant. Trying to spot reduce body fat is like taking a few drops of water out of an ocean. In other words, you work and work but get slim to no results from doing so.

So What is Stubborn Fat Then?

Trying to get rid of stubborn fat and aiming for spot reduction are two different things. The reason that I mentioned spot reduction first is because it’s important to define what we’re really discussing here.

In essence spot reduction is about exercise, while targeting stubborn body fat is about diet, exercise, and supplementation. While spot reduction is more or less impossible to achieve at any meaningful rate, getting rid of stubborn body fat is not only possible but very doable if you know what you are doing.

So, the first thing you should know about stubborn fat is that it’s physiologically different compared to your regular fat. Stubborn body fat has a high density of alpha-receptors as opposed to beta-receptors, it is more insulin sensitive, and it also receives less blood flow than regular fat. All these characteristics of stubborn fat is there for our survival. We need this stubborn fat to survive in case starvation kicks in.

Stubborn fat is often located around the lower belly and love handles for males and around the hips, butt and thighs for females. The only way to effectively lose stubborn body fat and achieve that crisp shredded look is to do some special things with your diet and exercise. We’ll get to these things in a moment, but before doing so there’s another important thing you must know:

When Should You Try to Lose Stubborn Fat?

Look:

You can only lose stubborn fat once you’re at the place where you have stubborn fat to lose. If you’re not yet lean, lean being around 10-12 % body fat for males and 20-22 % body fat for females, then you simply need to lose fat, and not think about losing stubborn fat just yet.

when-you-should-care-for-stubborn-body-fat

This is around the point where you should start caring for stubborn body fat. If you have more body fat than this, then just focusing on the basics is what will make you lean!

Find out your body fat percentage here (opens in new tab)

So, if you’re not yet lean then make sure you focus on the basics first before you move into the techniques that will help you lose your stubborn fat. Sure, these techniques will work well to help you get lean as well, but just know that it’s the basics that will get you lean and the advanced techniques will help you shred that last bit of stubborn fat.

So, with that said, let’s look at the basics:

The Fat Loss Basics!

No matter how fancy you get with various diet and exercise techniques, which don’t get me wrong, is required if you want to lose that last bit of stubborn fat, you still need to have your basics in place. Without the basics your andvanced techniques won’t work.

So, here are the basics:

Basic 1: Make Sure You’re in a Calorie Deficit

I’m sure you know this, but for fat loss to occur in the first place, you must be in a calorie deficit. In other words, you must burn more energy during your days than what you take in through your diet. If you don’t do this, then there’s no reason for your body to take from its stored fat.

So, before you go looking for advanced techniques to burn of your stubborn fat make sure that you’re in a calorie deficit, because if you’re not, the advanced techniques won’t work.

I’ve written more about setting up an optimal calorie deficit here. But in short here’s how you can ensure that you’re in a deficit:

Step 1 – Set up a Theoretical deficit

To feel good and preserve your hard earned muscle mass you should use a moderate calorie deficit throughout your fat loss phase. You should be able to lose around 1-1.5 lbs (0.4-0.7 kg) per week, more if you’re heavier and less if you’re lighter.

To achieve this I recommend the following calorie intake:

  • 20% below maintenance calories

Use this formula to find out your maintenance calories:

  • 15 x lbs of body weight // 33 x kg of body weight

Step 2 – Adjust Your Caloric Intake if or When It’s Needed

The formula for finding out your maintenance calories will just be an estimate and it’s very unlikely that these numbers will be dead on. However, it’s a very big chance that you’ll be within shooting distance of the number you calculated.

To solve the error in calculation you can simply lower your maintenance level calories with 10% if you’re losing weight too slowly, and increase by 10% if you’re losing weight too quickly.

Eventually you will be able to find your approximate maintenance level calorie intake.

Also, as you are losing body weight your maintenance calories will likely become lower and lower, which means that after a while you might need to adjust your caloric intake to still remain in a calorie deficit.

Basic 2: Make Sure You Eat Enough Protein

This is the second basic that you must have in place. Not eating enough protein while being in a calorie deficit is detrimental to your physique. This is because protein helps spare your muscle mass, which allow your weight loss to mainly be composed of body fat.

If you don’t eat enough protein and start losing muscle mass you will never be able to achieve that shredded looking physique, simply because you’re losing muscle mass and in doing so just create a smaller version of how you already look. Keeping muscle is VERY important during a fat loss phase!

Not only does protein prevent muscle loss, studies also show that eating enough protein:

  • Increase energy expenditure
  • Improve muscle recovery and repair
  • Keeps you fulloer on lower calories

The bottom line here is that if you’re not eating enough protein, you’re going to have a very tough time losing weight, and especially losing body fat without losing muscle mass.

So, to ensure that you lose body fat and not just weight, here’s the recommended protein intake:

  • PROTEIN: 0.8-1.4 gram per pound of body weight (1.8-2.4 grams per kg of body weight)

Note: The leaner you are the higher your protein intake need to be, that’s why it’s a range.

Basic 3: Make Sure You do Challenging Compound Resistance Training

This is just as important as protein. If you don’t do challenging resistane training, especially using big compound lifts, your body will have no use of the muscles on your body. So, when you’re in a calorie deficit your body will freely give away it’s muscle mass, which then leads to the same problem as not eating enough protein, i.e. muscle loss on your cut.

If you want to learn how to set up your training in the best way possible when looking to cut body fat, then read this guide next.

Okay, so there we go. Make sure you have these three basics in place in order to get yourself lean in the first place. You must also stick to these basics when you add in your advanced techniques for losing your stubborn fat. So without further ado, let’s look at the advanced strategies that I used to make this transformation:

stubborn-fat-transformation

How to Lose Stubborn Body Fat – Step by Step

Remember, this information will mostly apply if you’re a male at 10-12 % body fat and want to go down to around 6-8 % body fat, or a female at 20-22 % body fat and want to go down to around 16-18%

Now of course, even if you’re not yet lean these strategies can still help you lose body fat quicker. But until you’re lean your body won’t prioritize fat loss around your stubborn areas, it will prioritize fat loss mostly around your arms, upper back, chest, shoulders and face first.

So, with that said, here’s the advanced strategies that will help you get downright shredded:

1. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is an eating protocol where you eat all your calories within an 8-10 hour window and then fast (i.e. eat nothing) for the remaining hours of the day. An example of this could be eating from around 12 PM to 8 PM and then fast from 8 PM to 12 PM the next day.

Intermittent fasting can be a very powerful tool for targeting stubborn body fat. The main reason why it’s such a great tool was shown in this study where researchers found that fasting for multiple hours increases the levels of a group of fat releasing hormones known as catecholamines while also increasing abdominal blood flow. The combination of these two physiological processes allow the body to easier reach the stubborn areas and thus burn of the stubborn fat.

I personally prefer to fast for 5-7 hours after waking up, and in doing so allow myself to eat as late as I want. I’ve found this fasting schedule to be very flexible becuase I don’t have to strictly stop eating at night when food is usually in focus by family members and friends. I’ve written more about what I call the flexible fasting schedule here.

2. Fasted Cardio

Everyone bashes on fasted cardio, saying that it’s a myth and that it doesn’t work. Well, in a way that is true. If you’re not yet lean, fasted cardio won’t help you burn fat any faster than what doing fed cardio will, as long as you’re in the same calorie deficit.

But, in order to burn stubborn fat once you’re already lean, then fasted cardio, or at least staying active during the fasted hours, has been shown to help increase fat oxidation even further.

In order to get to a fasted state, your insulin levels must drop from the elevated levels that they’re at after you eat. This takes several hours depending on how much you ate.

Since insulin naturally inhibit the breakdown of fat we want our insulin levels to be low while we’re expending energy on activity. When we’re expending energy on activity while our insulin levels are low, we will increase fat mobilization from out stubborn areas.

When you’re using an intermittent fasting protocol like the one I mentioned above, you will wake up and be in a fasted state until you have your first meal. So by increasing your energy demand while you’re in the fasted state you will increase your fat mobilization from stubborn areas and your body will then be able to easier use that fat as fuel.

Furthermore, staying active while fasting also helps make the fast itself easier, this is mainly because you won’t think as much about food when moving, but also because the stress hormones promoted by fasting actually want you to move around. This is the body’s way of telling you to move and find food.

A big reason why I’ve found intermittent fasting to work so well is because after you’ve done your fasted period, you can relax and enjoy large fulilling meals in the afternoon and evening all while losing stubborn body fat in the meantime.

3. Use HIIT as Your Fasted Cardio

To further boost your stubborn fat burning consider doing HIIT as your activity when fasting. Several studies have concluded that HIIT cardio will help you burn a bit more fat than steady state cardio and in less time.

But more importantly for the purposes of burning of stubborn body fat, research has shown that HIIT is especially helpful when it comes to getting rid of stubborn fat. This seems to be because of the hormonal responses that takes place when performing HIIT.

HIIT, just as fasting, has been shown to significantly increase catecholomine levels in the body both during and post HIIT exercise. Just as I mentioned earlier, increasing catecholomine levels in the body, especailly when you’re fasting can help increase fat mobilization and in doing so help increase fat burn from stubborn areas as long as you’re in a calorie deficit.

What’s interesting is that we don’t see this hormonal response taking place when performing steady-state cardio, which was also supported in this study by Jacob et al.

4. Consider Taking These Supplements

Very rarely do I recommend supplement. Supplements is one of these things that makes up perhaps 3% of all the results you will ever get when it comes to transforming your physique. But, losing stubborn fat, is one of those rare instances where certain supplements might be worth looking into.

First of all, the main reason why you might want to take supplements when looking to burn stubborn fat is because fasted training, especially tough HIIT leads to accelerated breakdown of muscle tissue. In essence, the strategies mentioned above will increase the risk of muscle loss.

So, to help fix this problem, you can use the following supplement:

HMB

The supplement HMB is a substance formed when your body metabolizes the amino acid leucine. If you’ve ever heard of HMB it’s likely that you’ve heard it being a muscle building supplement. But, research has more or less debunked HMB when it comes to muscle growth. With that said though, there is one major benefit of HMB that has been well established in the research, which is that it’s a very effective anti-catabolic substance.

So, not only is HMB very good at preventing muscle breakdown, it also have no effect at all on insulin levels, which the amino acid leucine found in supplements such as BCAA’s have. So, basically HMB is the perfect supplement for use with fasted training, especially when it comes to preserving as much muscle as possible while you’re looking to burn of that stubborn body fat.

If you’re looking for a true and tried pre-workout fat burner that includes HMB then I definitely recommend Forge from Legion Athletics. I’ve followed Mike Matthews information and used his products since back in 2013 and I know that he always want his customers to get the best results possible.

You can learn more about the pre-workout Forge here.

Caffeine

Caffeine in-directly helps with burning of stubborn fat. Since fat loss all comes down to energy in vs. energy out, caffeine help you lose fat by increasing your body’s total daily energy expenditure. This is done mainly by caffeine’s effect on making you more alert and active. Futhermore, caffeine has also been shown to improve anaerobic peformance, muscular endurance and strength all of which are important for preserving muscle mass while losing body fat.

Now sure, caffeine is nothing that you need a supplement for. I’m getting my caffeine from regular black coffee, which also help me stay fasted easier.

intermittent-fasting-to-get-ripped-while-traveling

Me drinking some black coffee before a HIIT session in the sun!

To maximize the fat loss effects of caffeine you should prevent your body from building up a tolerance. You do this by limiting your daily intake to around 2-3 regular-sized cups of coffee per day, and then preferably by taking 1-2 low-caffeine days where you go for only 1 regular-sized cup of coffee.

Yohimbine

Yohimbine comes from the Pausinystalia yohimbe plant and it’s been shown in research to help burn more stubborn fat by increasing fat mobilization. The way Yohimbine works on a physilogical level is similar to fasted cardio in that it increase your levels of catecholamines in the blood.

But what’s interesting is that Yohimbine only works when insulin levels are at a low, baseline level. This means that you can only reap the additional fat burning benefits of Yohimbine if you exercise fasted.

The recommended intake of Yohimbine is 0.1 to 0.2 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight before exercising. Going above this intake is not advisable as a lot of people get very jittery from doing so. Furthermore it’s been shown that yohimbine can raise blood pressure. So, if you have high blood pressure, I don’t recommend you use it.

If you’re interested in using Yohimbine to improve your fat loss results, then you will be glad to hear that the pre-workout fat burner Forge that I just discussed not only includes HMB but Yohimbine as well. You can learn more about Forge here.

What’s Next

There we go, if you follow the information that you’ve learned in this post you will be able to lose that last bit of stubborn fat and get downright shredded!

Now, there’s a lot more that goes into getting shredded, for one you must make sure that your training is set up correctly, and also don’t forget to track and measure your progress to ensure that you’re getting the results you’re after.

So, if you want to make sure that you get the best results possible, then do what I did and jump on a step by step program. Most of the things I’ve talked about in this article I’ve learned from Greg’s Warrior Shredding Program. This is a program that I can’t recommend enough, it’s hands down the best training and dieting resource for you who want to get completely shredded without giving up on living an enjoyable life in the process.

You can learn more about why I recommend Greg’s program here.

Niklas Lampi

My name is Niklas Lampi and I work as a fitness writer, nutritional consultant and personal trainer. My favourite exercise is the bench press and my favourite food is pizza!

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