How to lose stubborn body fat is quite a challenge. What is stubborn body fat? Well, stubborn belly fat is the most common problem for men while fat centered around the waist, hips, and thighs is the most common problem for women. Now let’s be clear here; we’re not talking about an extra 10-20lbs you may be carrying. We’re talking the remaining fat you have when you’re within 5lbs of your ideal weight (around 10-12% body fat for men and 17-20% for women). Notice that these body fat percentages are pretty good for the average person so you’ve undoubtedly worked hard to achieve a relatively lean, defined body. This is when fitness becomes a challenge.
I followed the intense diet and exercise routine outlined in my Fitness in a Flash book to help me essentially cut my body fat in half last year. However, once I got to around 10-11% body fat, it was highly challenging to lose any more. I had very little fat in my arms, legs, or chest; the remainder was stored in a little roll around my abs. Patient and focused, I managed to get down to around 9% body fat and had a nice set of visible abs but still not void of all fat. Certainly not worthy of a fitness model but not bad for the average guy in his 30s who spends his days behind a desk.
Fast forward through the holidays and my body fat is back up to 12-13%. Not something I’m proud of, but between all the holiday parties, sickness, and a potential micro fracture in my foot that prevented me from doing intense cardio and plyometrics, I’m not too dismayed. I’ve been doing Phase 1 of Visual Impact Muscle Building so expected some weight gain, but I would have liked to have kept my body fat a little lower overall.
On a positive note, I’ve put on around 10lbs and added 3 inches on my chest so a good portion of my weight gain has been muscle. Furthermore, the last time I weighed this amount, I was closer to 18-20% body fat. Therefore, I’m optimistic that I can get back down to 9-10% while maintaining a higher level of muscle mass by going through Phases 2 and 3 of Visual Impact.
What’s the point of this story? Well, my abs were the last place fat remained when I got really lean. Now, when I used my body fat caliper to take measurements, my arms and legs are almost exactly the same fat level as they were when I was 10lbs lighter meaning I’ve added almost all muscle there. My abs on the other hand are where all the extra fat stores deposited themselves. Like most males, my stubborn body fat is centered around my belly.
Lose Stubborn Body Fat
Below I summarize articles by some fitness experts discussing how to lose stubborn body fat. Tom Venuto’s article offers a good background and overview of stubborn body fat while recommending six strategies for burning it. Martin Berkhan’s article focuses on reducing stubborn body fat through intermittent fasting. Finally, Rusty Moore’s article discusses the role estrogen plays in stubborn body fat. Personally, I think you should read them all in their entirety, but the key takeaways are listed below.
Tom Venuto, author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, is a natural bodybuilder with 3.7% body fat…and even he has problems with stubborn body fat. Tom discusses how we are genetically predisposed to carry stubborn fat in certain areas. This stubborn fat is the last place we burn fat and first place we put it back on. The challenge is that most people hit a weight loss plateau when they get lean enough where stubborn fat is all that remains. Unfortunately you can’t spot reduce that fat.
So what are Tom Venuto’s recommendations?
- Lose fat slowly: patience is key here. As Tom says, you can lose weight quickly, but it’s much harder to lose fat quickly.
- Don’t stay low calorie too long: calorie restrictive diets fail for a reason; Tom believes in re-feeding the body on a regular basis.
- Chronic dieting is dangerous: diet strictly for a while, ease up, eat more, relax, and then go back to an even stricter diet; same goes for training
- Develop a long term perspective: again, be patient and don’t train to get in amazing shape only to gain back all the fat you lost
- Re-set your “set point:” Tom believes we all have a natural amount of fat that we gravitate toward; in college, his was 16% and every year he would get down to single digits only to elevate back to 16%. He made a goal that each year he would reduce this “set point” and now he doesn’t allow himself over 10%.
- Positive attitude: if you don’t think you can eliminate stubborn body fat, then you won’t be able to. Visualize your ideal and know that you can in fact get there over time.
Martin Berkhan, who writes the very popular Leangains site, posted this article discussing how intermittent fasting helps burn stubborn body fat. I’ll save you the science lesson, but essentially Martin has found in his research that the ideal state of stubborn fat burning occurs after a 12-18 hour fast. A longer fast can help you burn more fat overall but the stubborn fat is burned in those first 12-18 hours, making the time spend fasting beyond 18 hours less critical for someone who wants to simply lose stubborn fat while maintaining muscle. In addition to intermittent fasting, Martin believes training in a fasted state, supplementation, and carb refeeds can help you lose stubborn body fat. One final component is patience.
Rusty Moore, author of Visual Impact Muscle Building, describes how your body is meant to balance estrogen with other hormones in your body. Because of the widespread use of chemicals, your body struggles to regulate hormonal balances potentially leading to the accumulation of stubborn body fat. The key to preventing this is to limit substances that increase estrogen. These include pesticides and herbicides in fruits/veggies, hormones in meat/dairy, plastic in packaged foods, and omega 6 rich oils. Bottom line, stick to organic foods and limit processed foods. You can also focus on foods that inhibit estrogen production such as omega 3, citrus fruits, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and garlic.
Be Patient to Lose Stubborn Body Fat
Stubborn body fat can be a problem for everyone, even the leanest bodybuilders and fitness experts. Taking some of the steps above is a great way to lose stubborn body fat. However, in my opinion, the most important step is patience. If you try to lose too much fat too quickly, you’re going to be stuck with stubborn body fat. With patience, you’ll eventually achieve your fat loss goal.
- Intermittent Fasting to Lose Weight: Results from John Berardi
- Calorie Cycling: Do a Calorie Shifting Diet Plan or Carb Cycling Diet Plan Help You Lose Body Fat, Gain Muscle?
- Lose Fat, Gain Muscle: 2 Simple Rules to Get a Lean, Athletic Build
- Ideal Body Measurements: How to Get the Perfect Body
- Meal Timing and How Many Meals a Day to Lose Weight