Why Some Fats Resist Exercise And How To Address Them

Updated on August 25, 2023

Everyone knows that a healthy diet and regular exercise can do wonders for maintaining optimal body weight. However, the human body is an intricate organism, with factors such as genetics, gender, and hormones affecting how and where the body collects weight. As such, even those who are mindful of their diet and physical activity can have difficulty dealing with stubborn fat.

Unfortunately, certain body areas inevitably have fat cells that are more resistant to being mobilized and burned off. One popular method to address these stubborn areas is through liposuction fat reduction. This surgical procedure removes fat cells directly from problem areas, providing an immediate change in body contour.

But before you consider surgical solutions, it’s essential to understand why some fats are more persistent than others.

Potential reasons why you can’t shed stubborn fat

With multiple factors at play, shedding fat is far more complex than achieving a calorie deficit. Here are some reasons why you might be experiencing issues with stubborn fat:

1. Leptin deficiency

This hormone signals to the brain that the body has enough energy stored and that it’s time to stop eating. However, some people can develop leptin resistance, making them feel hungry more frequently. In addition, some studies suggest that leptin can decrease as women age.

If you’re concerned about leptin resistance, consult your healthcare provider. They can conduct a blood test to measure leptin levels and recommend potential treatments if necessary.

2. Stress

When you’re stressed, the adrenal glands release cortisol to help regulate your body’s response to stress. However, sustaining high cortisol levels can lead to the following:

  • Weight gain (more pronounced in the face and abdomen)
  • Fatty deposits between the shoulder blades
  • High blood sugar (which can lead to type 2 diabetes)
  • Craving unhealthy food  

Interestingly, exercising too much can also lead to increased cortisol levels. When you exercise, the body releases the hormone to help you cope with physical stress. However, pushing your physical limits can overwhelm the body, forcing it to release excess cortisol.

If you have a solid fitness regimen and you’re still dealing with stubborn fat, you might not be giving your body enough recovery time. Mixing up your workouts can also help combat this side effect.  

3. Alpha-2 receptors

Fat cells with more Beta-2 receptors are more responsive to diet and exercise, while those with more Alpha-2 are more likely to resist the same. The problem here is that body areas with more fat cells tend to have more Alpha-2 receptors, which makes the belly a common problem area.   

4. Other hormonal imbalances

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Apart from leptin and cortisol, other hormonal imbalances can manifest into bloating, weight gain, and stubborn fat. These include the following:

  • Thyroid hormone: When the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of this hormone, it slows many bodily functions. Usually, this translates to weight gain, often seen around the abdomen.
  • Testosterone: Low testosterone levels can lead to slow muscle growth and weight gain.
  • Estrogen: Similarly, women with low estrogen levels can experience excess fat around the midsection.

If you’re concerned that your stubborn fat may be due to hormonal imbalances, consult your healthcare provider immediately.

Tips for getting rid of stubborn fat

Before delving into potential solutions to getting rid of stubborn fat, remember that every body type is different and, as such, may have varying responses to the tips provided below.  

1. Limit sugar intake

According to the UK National Health Service (NHS), adults shouldn’t exceed 30 grams of free sugars per day (equivalent to around seven sugar cubes). For perspective, a typical soda can contain the equivalent of nine sugar cubes. They also recommend the following thresholds to determine if products are high or low in sugar:

  • High: Anything above 22.5 grams (per 100g)
  • Low: 5 grams or less (per 100g)

Additionally, be wary of low-calorie and low-fat products, as they tend to be high in sugar to add flavor.

2. Increase protein intake

A high-protein diet makes you feel fuller, naturally reducing hunger and calorie intake. In fact, a study found that increasing dietary protein to 30% of the total food intake caused participants to significantly reduce their caloric consumption by 441 calories per day. To put that into perspective, the recommended daily calorie intake for women is 2,000.    

If you want to check if a high-protein diet works for you, incorporate more of the following into your diet:

  • Chicken
  • Whitefish
  • Eggs
  • Seeds

Experts recommend 15 to 20 grams of high-protein foods per meal.

3. Eat balanced meals

Balanced meals featuring ample portions of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat slows down glucose and insulin release, making you feel full longer. While achieving a calorie deficit is paramount to losing weight and shedding fat, incorporating nutrient-dense foods can assist fat loss.

These include the following:

  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • High-fiber foods
  • Green tea
  • Oily fish

Cutting down on sugar, increasing protein, and ensuring a balanced diet may seem like a lot to think about. Unfortunately, addressing stubborn fat often requires such comprehensive measures.

4. Take up high-intensity interval training (HIIT)

HIIT is a cardiovascular workout that features bursts of explosive movements sandwiched between brief recovery periods. These short bursts increase your heart rate, causing the body to burn more calories and fat. Moreover, the intensity of HIIT workouts keeps your body in a state of elevated metabolism. HIIT sessions can last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.   

Here’s a sample HIIT workout:

  • Prisoner squats (20 seconds)
  • Burpees (20 seconds)
  • Push-ups (20 seconds)
  • Jumping jacks (20 seconds)
  • Crunches (20 seconds)
  • Perform the series for five rounds
  • Rest (two minutes)
  • Repeat the series

While this HIIT workout only lasts around 20 minutes, it’s excellent for getting your heart pumping. These types of exercises are perfect for professionals who can only squeeze short workouts into their busy schedules.

5. Pay attention to your sleep quality

When you don’t get quality sleep, you feel tired and sluggish during the day. As a result, this makes you crave sugary foods to increase your energy levels.

Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

  • Be consistent: Establishing a regular sleep schedule helps facilitate restful sleep.
  • Enjoy the sunshine: Getting sunlight during the day helps regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Embrace the dark: Darkness aids melatonin production, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

If you think you have a sleep disorder, consult a health professional. Treating it as soon as possible will improve your overall well-being.

6. Get liposuction

For those looking for a more immediate solution, liposuction stands out. This procedure is particularly effective for fat deposits on the flanks, hips, abdomen, and thighs, especially if the areas don’t respond to diet and exercise.

Final thoughts

When it comes to shedding fat and weight loss, your mindset plays a pivotal role. While some people can rely on aesthetic motivations (fitting into a dress) to shed fat, others will require something more profound, such as embracing a healthier lifestyle so they can take better care of their kids. Remember, the journey toward achieving body confidence is deeply personal. Choose the path that aligns best with your body type, health goals, and comfort level.