Stubborn Fat: What’s the Deal? (Plus Learn How to Reduce Belly Fat)

Stubborn fat is annoying—especially when it keeps clinging on to your belly. Learn why stubborn fat is stubborn and how to reduce belly fat here.

Man wearing T- shirt screen six pack inspires that he will start coming soon

Stubborn fat: what did that make you think of?

Chances are, it’s that annoying belly pooch or love handles your mom or nosy aunts never fail to grab ahold of—in an “endearing” way we’re all familiar with—during family dinners.

Yes, you’ve been working out. And yes, you’ve been strict with your diet.

So … what’s up with your belly fat? Why isn’t it going anywhere? If you never had an answer for your (probably) well-meaning friends and relatives, that's about to change. In this article, learn:

1️⃣ Why stubborn fat insists on clinging to your body like a deadbeat ex
2️⃣ The strategies you could use to turn on your body’s fat-burning switch
3️⃣ A step-by-step plan detailing how to reduce your stubborn belly fat

Why is stubborn fat … stubborn?

Before diving into how to reduce belly fat, let’s first get acquainted with how fat loss occurs, so we understand why stubborn fat is the way it is.

See: our fat cells don't disappear. Instead, when we "lose fat", our bodies essentially break down the fatty acids contained within the cells.

And that, in turn, is dependent on 2 hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline—catecholamines released when we’re in a calorie deficit. These hormones bind to the beta-2 receptors found on the fat cell’s membrane to weaken the cell’s structure, increasing triglyceride breakdown. The fatty acids are then released into the bloodstream.

But wait. Doesn’t that mean you should be losing that stubborn belly fat without a hitch? Since you’re in a calorie deficit?

More alpha-2 receptors than beta-2 receptors

The problem is that the catecholamines aren't only able to bind to beta-2 receptors; they can also bind to another receptor found on a fat cell's membrane known as the “alpha-2 receptor”. And unfortunately, contrary to beta-2 receptors (which promote fat mobilization), alpha-2 receptors impair fat mobilization. In other words:

  • Beta-2 receptors = your best friend for fat loss
  • Alpha-2 receptors = your arch enemy for fat loss
This brings us back to stubborn fat—and why it seems impossible to lose. As it turns out, stubborn fat has a higher ratio of alpha-2 receptors than beta-2 receptors (vs. non-stubborn fat).

This makes it much harder for your body to mobilize fat from these areas.

But wait, there’s more!

That said, a higher ratio of alpha-2 to beta-2 receptors isn’t the only reason you keep searching for “how to reduce belly fat” on Google, but to no avail. There are 2 more reasons:

🩸 Poorer blood flow: Stubborn fat regions typically have poorer blood flow than other regions. This, imaginably, limits the fat-burning hormones (note: research shows stubborn fat regions experience less hormone-sensitive lipase activity!) the fat cells get exposed to.

🔼 Higher insulin sensitivity: For the uninitiated, insulin is the “storage hormone". It helps nutrients, like fat, enter the cells. Stubborn fat areas are incredibly sensitive to insulin levels; it stops releasing fatty acids when insulin is present. (For reference, visceral fat is known to keep releasing fatty acids despite insulin’s presence.)

So … how to reduce belly fat (or any areas with stubborn fat)?

Okay, so there are 3 primary reasons stubborn fat feels impossible to get rid of:

  1. Higher ratio of alpha-2 receptors vs. beta-2 receptors
  2. Poorer blood flow
  3. Higher insulin sensitivity

Gaining new knowledge is always great, but how does it benefit you in any way? You're not any closer to understanding how to reduce your stubborn belly fat … right?

How to reduce belly fat: a step-by-step plan

Well, not really, because understanding the nature of stubborn fat will help you appreciate why we recommend trying out the following steps:

#1: Make sure you’re in a calorie deficit

Be honest: are you 100% sure you’re in a calorie deficit?

You may wish to keep track of your calorie intake to be sure. One of the most common ways people screw up is by forgetting to account for “metabolic adaptation", which is a fancier way of saying that their bodies are now burning fewer calories thanks to weight loss (note: it's only natural for a smaller body to need less energy than a larger one).

#2: Does it make sense to lose stubborn fat at this stage?

Given how difficult stubborn fat areas are to target, you'll need to be lean enough to do so effectively (because, otherwise, your body will lose fat from "easier" regions).

That means you should be at least below 12% body fat if you're a male and 20 to 22% if you're a female.

#3: Try a low-carb diet

Remember what we said about stubborn fat being incredibly sensitive to insulin? Putting yourself on a low-carb diet (e.g., the ketogenic diet) could lower your insulin levels—potentially accelerating fat mobilization.

#4: Incorporate fasted cardio

Fasted cardio may force your body to dip into fat stores, increasing fat mobilization.

That said, it's worth noting that there’s no evidence that fasted cardio leads to greater fat loss results than non-fasted cardio. Nonetheless, it's pretty much a "why not" thing to try, especially when trying to get rid of stubborn belly fat.

#5: Add supplements into the mix

Caffeine may increase blood flow to the stubborn fat areas, stimulating triglyceride mobilization.

Another supplement you could try is Yohimbe HCL; it’s an alpha-2 receptor antagonist, which means it blocks catecholamines from attaching to alpha-2 receptors. And where can catecholamines go instead?

That’s right: beta-2 receptors! An important disclaimer, though:

Depending on where you're located, Yohimbe HCL may not be legal.

Psst: planning on increasing your caffeine intake? You might want to check out this article first, especially if you’re taking creatine:

Should You Mix Creatine with Caffeine?
Mix creatine with caffeine: yes or no? Find out if these two are BFFs or mortal enemies here, so you make the most of your supplements.


And … that's it? So you follow the 5 steps outlined in the “how to reduce belly fat” section, and you’ll finally be free of prying hands at family gatherings?

Well, in general, yes, but on one condition. You must stay on course. You must be patient and consistent.

And you know what consistency needs? Enjoyment. No, really. Imagine hating every second you spend in the gym. How could you sustain a calorie deficit for long (i.e., what’s needed to drive stubborn fat loss)? You most likely can’t.

Btw, as shocking as it may be to hear, you SHOULDN’T be in a calorie deficit for life. Here’s why:

Should You Be in a Calorie Deficit for Life?
Eating in a calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss. That much is clear. But just how long, exactly, should you do it for? Find out here.

Also, find out how to beat "gymtimidation” here:

Beat “Gymtimidation”. Here’s How.
Dread or fear going to the gym because you feel judged? That’s a common phenomenon known as “gymtimidation”; find out how to overcome that here.

So, let us tell you a secret: you’ll enjoy training sessions if they're well-structured and well-planned. If they allow you to rest adequately between training sessions, plus help you lift heavier and better over time. But what if you don’t know the first thing about workout programming?

You don’t have to. That’s what GymStreak is here for—it takes care of all the dry bits (think: workout programming, logging), so you can have fun in the gym.


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