Stubborn fat isn’t exactly a medical term. People carry excess fat in different ways. Men tend to accumulate excess fat on their stomach. Women tend to accumulate fat on their hips, thighs, and buttocks. And people respond to diet and exercise in different ways. You probably know someone who can drop weight with what seems like little effort.
And others who work hard to eat healthy and exercise without seeing the changes they would like in their body composition. If you’re all too familiar with the latter, you’re probably waging a battle against stubborn fat.
Stubborn fat is generally considered the last bit of fat you want to lose to achieve your ideal body type. It’s often what holds you back from developing muscle definition in your abs, slimming your butt, or getting rid of flabby arms. In order to get the kind of muscle definition that shows off your abs, you’ve got to lower your body fat percentage.
An ideal range of body fat for muscle definition is 6 to 17 percent for men, and 14 to 24 percent for women, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Achieving the lower end of these ranges for both men and women is what the body fat percentage is for fitness models and bodybuilders. And to get there, you need to know a little about stubborn fat and how to kick it to the curb.
What Causes Stubborn Body Fat?
The average adult has an estimated 40 billion fats cells in their body. These fat cells act as a kind of storage system to provide your body with energy to function, digest food, and help you move around.
As the cells accumulate fat, they grow in size along with your belly and your backside. Lose weight, and the fat cells begin to shrink. But load up on excess calories, and you may increase the number of fat cells in your body, and gain even more weight.
And trying to lose fat is a lot harder than packing on the pounds. That’s because being overweight changes the way your body functions. Estrogen and cortisol levels increase when you’re overweight and that triggers a hormonal response that tells your body to store more fat.
And then it can become a vicious cycle. It becomes harder to lose stubborn fat because carrying extra pounds can cause inflammation, compromise your immune system, and slow circulation and blood flood in some areas of your body. Your fat cells are basically programmed to store fat for energy, and unless you make some dramatic changes, your body is going to continue storing fat.
When is Stubborn Body Fat a Problem?
Stubborn body fat is especially problematic when excess fat is stored in the abdomen and surrounds internal organs. This visceral fat greatly increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure, all leading causes of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But beyond the link between stubborn fat and chronic diseases, stubborn fat can also take a toll on your psyche. If you’re trying to achieve a lean body, but stubborn fat is keeping you from achieving your goal, your self-esteem may suffer.
You may give up on your goal and go on an eating binge, or you might try crash-dieting or popping weight loss pills. And that’s how so many people find themselves on a yo-yo diet where they gain weight, lose weight, and then gain it all back plus a little more.
How to Prevent Stubborn Fat?
The recipe to prevent stubborn fat isn’t rocket science. But still a challenge for a lot of people. That’s probably partly because fast food, candy, and super-sized desserts are cheap and easy to get.
And more and more people spend most of their time in sedentary activities like drigni a car, playing video games, or sitting in front of a computer. But gaining weight and struggling with stubborn fat is preventable.
Start by exercising 30 to 60 minutes a day. That’s what the American College of Sports Medicine recommends. Exercise burns calories, strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles, and helps prevent plaque build-up in your arteries. Add two or more days of strength training and you’ll burn even more calories by developing more lean muscle tissue.
You can also prevent stubborn fat from forming by eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, and whole grains. A healthy diet also means cutting out or cutting back on sugary drinks and cereals, saturated fats, and sweets.
How to Lose Stubborn Fat?
If you’re ready to kick stubborn fat to the curb, changing your diet and exercise habits should be your first course of action. Take a closer look at your diet. Keep a food journal for a few days, and be honest about recording everything you eat.
You might discover that you’re eating too many sweets high in trans fats and empty calories. And you can use that data to adjust your diet and eat healthier. Look for ways to cut about 500 calories a day from your diet, and you’ll be one step closer to winning the war against stubborn fat.
In terms of exercise, research shows that high intensity interval training is the most effective way to burn body fat. Remember the goal is to lower your overall body fat percentage. In the Journal of Metabolism, researchers found that high intensity interval training workouts burned nine times more fat in 15 weeks than a 20-week program that only involved long, slow cardio workouts.
High intensity interval training is basically a workout that includes a combination of exercises performed together rapidly with little rest. Here’s a sample workout: 25 jumping jacks, 5 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 10 lunges, 25 crunches. Perform this set of fat loss exercises, moving from one to the next without rest. Then take 30 seconds to catch your breath and repeat. Cycle through this workout for 30 minutes, and you’ll burn fat, and build muscle, faster than going for a 30-minute jog.
If you’re trying to lose that last bit of stubborn fat, following a healthy diet mixed with high intensity interval training should help you reach your goal in six to eight weeks.
That last bit of stubborn fat can be hard to beat. But it’s not impossible. Take an honest look at your diet and see where you can improve. And fire your metabolism with high intensity interval training to lower your body fat percentage to get lean.