When it comes to fat loss, hormones hold the key to the lean body universe. Get terrible sleep and are stressed out 24/7? Do you attend carbaholics anonymous? Do you have a past with sugary foods and alcohol? Do you do excessive long duration "cardio"? Each of these lifestyle and training habits will predispose an individual to different hormone fluctuations which may stop you in your tracks from reaching your goal.
Part 1: Love Handles and Insulin
The first thing to understand when it comes to fat loss is that you cannot "make" your body lose fat where you want it to. Doing a set of crunches is not going to necessarily help you lose fat in the gut. However, with that being said, your hormones are what dictate where your body decides to store fat. How you train, eat, and live will influence this. The hormone we will be discussing in part one of this series is INSULIN.
What is insulin?
One of the most prevalent forms of regional fat storage is the "love handle"/suprailiac region. If you notice yourself storing a lot of fat in this regional area in comparison to other parts of your body, then you may be what is coined "insulin resistant".
Insulin is a hormone which is produced in the pancreas and is responsible for the uptake of nutrients in the muscle, liver, and body fat. When insulin is working in the body optimally and is utilized at the most opportune time, post-workout, insulin will help derive nutrients into the muscle, aiding in recovery and growth. If this is not the case, then we can become what is termed insulin resistant.
How does insulin work? Why is this bad?
In a nut shell, whenever something is ingested, your body produces insulin in order to respond to the increase in blood sugar and metabolize it. This happens whether you ate a chicken breast or a snickers bar.
Once this happens, the muscle cells do not respond to the insulin and do not open up for nutrient intake resulting in the body's blood sugar levels remaining elevated. More insulin is then produced and further resisted which then causes the sugar in the blood to be stored as fat. Not only does this lead to weight and fat gain but it can also lead to the development of diabetes and heart disease.
Why does this insulin resistance lead to "love handles?"
The regional storage of fat is all influenced by hormones. Since we are talking about insulin here, insulin accounts for a greater amount of a specific fat receptor being located in the "love handle" region.
What do I do to combat this?
Insulin is an important hormone when it comes to building muscle and losing fat/weight, it just needs to be utilized optimally. If you notice most of your fat being stored in the "love handle" region, chances are you may be insulin resistant. Therefore, you may need to make some changes in your training, eating, and lifestyle habits.
1. Someone with this type of body fat storage will thrive on a lower carbohydrate regimen. Start to limit your intake of sugary foods and starchy carbohydrates. First, try logging your food for a week and see where you come out in this department. This would be anything from cookies or chips to breads, and pastas.
2. Limit your whole-food starchy carbohydrate intake (brown rice, sweet potato, oats, quinoa,etc.) to post-workout. This is when you have the best hormone profile to uptake those nutrients into the muscle cells and when your muscles need them the most. Try to stick predominantly with low glycemic carbohydrate sources like vegetables and fruits the rest of the time.
3. Limit alcohol, fruit juice, and soda intake. All of these are high in sugar and low in nutrients which will result in a huge insulin spike.
4. Train with a mix of heavy strength training and metabolic resistance training. Incorporate big bang movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, pressing variations, and rowing variations.
5. Use dry seasonings and herbs for flavor when cooking. Most sauces usually contain a good amount of sugar that can ultimately make your food not so good of a friend.