While you never want fat hanging around your waist, for many people it’s often the first place it goes and the last place it leaves when you gain a few pounds. Believe it or not, love handles aren't just unattractive, carrying weight around your abdomen is bad for your health – worse than carrying weight on your hips or thighs – and is a key indicator of a hormonal imbalance. If you have struggled to lose weight or keep it off, I guarantee that your hormones are at play. Your hormones control every aspect of weight loss including your metabolism, where you store your fat, your appetite and even your cravings! This means any form of hormonal imbalance will sabotage your efforts – regardless of your diet and exercise habits.
Extra belly fat can indicate one or more of the following hormonal imbalances: high estrogen, low testosterone, low DHEA (a hormone of the adrenal glands), high insulin and high cortisol. Abdominal fat also sets a risky stage for aging, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. A program to get rid of this stubborn fat must include proper diet, exercise, sleep and, of course, motivation. All of these components work well to instil a healthy balance that allows fat loss to occur. We will talk more specifically about each of the hormonal players in this process, and my suggestions for supplements that can help get you back on track.
1. High Insulin: Insulin is an essential substance whose main function is to process sugar in the bloodstream and carry it into cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat. A primary cause is excess intake of sugar or carbohydrates typical of many diets today. This includes nutrient-poor carbohydrates such as processed foods, sugary drinks and sodas, packaged low-fat foods, along with insufficient protein intake, inadequate fat intake, and deficient fibre consumption. Insulin resistance may also be attributed to lack of exercise, overindulging in alcohol, stress, a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure and excess body fat, especially around the abdomen. Chronically high levels of insulin can also lead to a pre-diabetic condition called metabolic syndrome (or insulin resistance) and type 2 diabetes, which only furthers weight gain. It is currently estimated that 1 out of every 4 North Americans has insulin resistance.
Hormone Diet Solution: Bump up your protein. Sticking to about 20 to 25 grams of each per meal and about 15 to 20 grams per snack is probably a good place to start, depending on your body size and workout schedule. Men should add an extra 10 g of protein per meal and 5 g per snack. Higher protein intake keeps your blood sugar balanced and your insulin levels low – a metabolic must for appetite control and fat loss. Protein also packs a hormonal punch because it stimulates the activity of many of our fat-burning and appetite-controlling hormones when we consume it in the right amounts. A higher-protein diet helps to shed stubborn belly fat, according to a study published in Diabetes Care (March 2002). Researchers compared a high-protein diet with a low-protein diet in 54 obese men and women with type 2 diabetes. Those on the high-protein diet had significantly greater reductions in total and abdominal fat mass and a greater reduction in LDL cholesterol. Your best protein options are those that are lowest in fat like chicken, turkey, low-fat cheese, such as ricotta or cottage cheese, omega-3 eggs and shellfish, such as scallops, which are 100% protein.