With summer fast approaching, we all want to get a “summer fit” body, and this means dieting and doing exercises that we feel are the best to do to get results. But STOP!  Did you know that you can be doing things that can actually be stopping you burning fat? Have a look at these 4 main reasons you may be storing and not be burning that unwanted fat.

1. Stress and fat burning

 Did you know that the more you are stressed out the more your body will pump out a hormone, called cortisol, which will increase your abdominal fat? No matter how many sit ups or planks you do, if you are in a state of stress and have a high cortisol level, you will be putting on belly fat and NOT getting rid of it. So what can you do? If you are having lots of stress you may be better off choosing an exercise that will help reduce stress like yoga and pilates.

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Do NOT do extreme dieting; instead make sure you eat a Low GI diet, to keep the blood sugar balanced. If you have high insulin spikes from sugary or carbohydrate rich foods, you will also trigger too much insulin, which will lead to more fat which in turn will pump out more cortisol and store more fat! If you are having long term stress in your life you may want to get your cortisol levels measured and work with someone who will help you control it with diet and good supplementation. But a lifestyle change may be what’s needed before you will be able to drop the fat.

2. Lack of sleep and belly fat

Not many people realise that lack of sleep can stop us burning fat and can actually cause weight gain!  How?  There are 4 “waves” of sleep we are meant to go through during the night. These occur in approximately 90 minute cycles. The top of the four waves is our REM sleep which is not that deep, but it’s the deeper part of the sleep cycle called the Delta wave cycles. These promote something called Human Growth Hormone. This hormone helps us burn fat, feel great and generally keep us youthful. In fact most of the work you do in the gym will only burn off fat during this period of Delta wave sleep, and this can be between 14 and 48 hours later.

Not only will lack of sleep stop you from having enough of those great Delta wave cycles, but it will also raise your level of cortisol (yes that again!) which in turn will cause more abdominal fat.  And lastly…Lack of sleep also has a big effect on our hunger signals. In fact studies done found that subjects who were sleep deprived to 4 hours a night for 2 days had their levels of hunger and appetite assessed at regular intervals. What they observed was that their hormonal Leptin levels, responsible for suppressing the appetite reduced, and the hormone Ghrelin, the appetite stimulant, increased. The subjects also craved high carbohydrate foods. ( Meds cape Neurology. 2005;7(1) © 2005 ) So get more Z’s if you want to burn fat and eat less.

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3. Energy drinks and diet drinks, a big fat burning stopper

It may seem like a good idea to stay away from fizzy drinks and opt for a “healthier” alternative, but don’t be fooled by clever marketing. They can be fat burning stoppers, too. Energy drinks can be loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners.  Some energy drinks can be loaded with as much as  62 grams of sugar—or 15 1/2 teaspoons’ worth—per 16-ounce can. That can easily stack up to 250 calories a can—about as much as a 20-ounce bottle of cola. Although some energy drinks can have some benefits like certain herbs and some vitamin B, it’s just not worth putting that much sugar into your body.

It will create what I call the “insulin effect”. This is when you have too much sugar enter into the system, causing your body to pump out too much insulin, which in turn will cause your body to store fat. Insulin is a fat storing hormone. The same effect can be true for fruit juices and “healthy” smoothies. These may be “natural” but 8 ounces of pure juice which contains fructose (fruit sugar) will encourage you to store body fat due to the insulin effect it has.  If you want to drink fruit juice, dilute it!  Mix 2 ounces of juice to 6 to 8 ounces of water for a healthy drink.

What about diet drinks?  Diet drinks and sodas containing artificial sweeteners will send a signal to the brain to prepare for sugar, which in turn will still cause your insulin to spike. It is a fact that those who drink diet drinks tend to drink up to twice as much as those who drink regular soft drinks. It has also been shown to increase hunger for carbohydrate foods. In fact, in animal studies, the rats that consumed artificial sweeteners ate more, their metabolism slowed, and they put on 14 percent more body fat in just two weeks — even eating fewer calories. Let’s face it, the best thing to drink is pure clear water! According to an article in the Huffington Post, “In population studies, there was a 200 percent increased risk of obesity in diet soda drinkers.”

4. Your Hormone balance

Did you know that having hormones out of balance can be a huge fat burning stopper?

Having an imbalance of oestrogen to progesterone, and even testosterone can cause your body to hold on to its fat stores. The best clue if you have a hormonal imbalance is though your monthly cycles. If they are particularly heavy, and clotted it may be an indication that you have more oestrogen than is normal. This will cause you to store more fat and have much more difficulty losing it. If you have an apple shaped body and more facial hair than you would like or even adult acne, with periods that may be far apart, chances are you may have more Androgens such as testosterone, than normal. This is very common now; in fact one in nine women suffer from this.

This condition will make it extremely difficult to lose fat unless you stick to a rigid low GI diet and even excersise won’t make much of a dent without a strict diet low in sugar and carbs. But don’t despair ladies!  Both of these imbalances can be sorted through totally natural methods like diet and good supplementation herbal and homeopathic remedies.  It’s worth pursuing some help if you are having both menstrual issues AND can not shift body fat. It is an indication that you are out of balance. There are simple at home hormone tests that you can do to find out for sure or you can ask your GP for a test. He may recommend the contraceptive pill, but beware this is not a long term cure and in itself may cause weight gain problems. Only by rebalancing your own body will this be cured, and it IS very possible! Don’t despair!

Its not just about Diet and Exercise

There is no doubt about it, being lean is not just about diet and excersise. There are fundamentals like sleep, stress and hormones that have a huge part in your ability to get the lean body you want. In fact, in my opinion it’s important to be healthy in order to be slim, not the other way around. Make sure you eat a good Low Glycaemic diet. Then, get your hormone levels checked, whether it’s cortisol, if you are under lots of stress and can’t sleep well, or your female hormones if you are having difficulty with your cycle, mood and can’t lose weight no matter what. These are indications that it’s not just will power and working harder in the gym, These are real fat burning Stoppers!

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