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Physiological Causes of Belly Fat Accumulation

Numerous hormones cycle through your body every day. Some of these hormones, when out of balance, trigger your body to begin storing belly fat, leading to an increase in both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.

Insulin causes belly fat

Whenever you eat, the food you consume is broken down in your digestive system into small particles that can be used for energy. Carbohydrates are broken down first in the stomach into the simple sugar known as glucose.

Glucose is actually the primary source of energy for all the cells in your body. After food has been broken down into glucose, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream where it causes a rise in blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that allows the cells in your body to take glucose from the bloodstream (as well as glucose stored in the liver, muscles, and fat tissue) for energy.

Insulin is the “taxi,” glucose is the “passenger,” and your body’s cells are the “stores” the “passenger” wants to go to. The taxi (insulin) picks up the passenger (glucose) and drives it to the store (cell), where it can then be used for energy immediately or stocked on the store shelves for later use.

When you eat a meal that’s converted into glucose (or sugar) quickly, your body experiences a rapid rise in blood glucose followed by a rapid rise in insulin. At this point, the insulin is transporting more and more sugar rapidly into your body’s cells. Because you don’t need all this energy right away, the extra is stocked away as fat stores for when energy is needed in the future.

The problem is that if you store too much of this extra energy and never burn it, you end up with larger and larger fat stores. Because much of this excess energy is transported to cells in the abdomen, you can start to see an increase in abdominal fat stores.

Insulin reacts differently depending on the foods you choose to eat. Foods rich in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, such as white bread, white rice, and sugary cereals, cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to an increase in belly fat storage.

On the other hand, foods high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber slow the breakdown of sugar into the bloodstream, helping blood sugar levels remain fairly consistent during the day and preventing spikes in insulin.

Stress hormones cause belly fat

Stress plays a significant role in your control of belly fat. So in order to be successful and get flat abs once and for all, you must get your stress levels under control.

When you’re under stress, your body increases the production of adrenaline, which signals fat cells to release their stores of fatty acids into the body where they’re used as energy. This release occurs to provide you with a sudden burst in energy (which is called the fight or flight response) to help you fight off or run away from a physical stress.

This response was great in the days of the Stone Age when you had to escape from the clutches of a hungry beast or fight a fellow caveman for food, but today’s stress mostly comes from work deadlines, long commutes, and overscheduled calendars.

Because your stress occurs due to mental stressors rather than physical stressors, the free fatty acids that are released aren’t burned off as energy. As a result, your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol to help collect and store the unused fatty acids.

This help from the cortisol wouldn’t be so bad if the cortisol brought the stray fats back to their original homes. However, cortisol loves your abdomen, so it tends to deposit fat there versus in other body cells. So the more often you’re stressed, the more this stress response occurs and the more fat is mobilized and deposited into your belly.

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