We've seen the many health risks associated with abdominal fat. Now for the good news: abdominal fat is the easiest type of body fat to lose.
Fat is stored in cells in the form of triglycerides. You've heard that exercise increases the body's ability to burn fat, but probably you've never really understood why that happens—or, for that matter, why you should even bother to exercise if you're already on a good food program. Shouldn't just eating correctly be enough? In reality, appropriate exercise greatly enhances your body's ability to burn stored fat.
Epinephrine is a fat-mobilizing hormone released by your sympathetic nervous system. Studies have shown that during exercise there is a significantly greater concentration of this hormone in your body. When epinephrine binds to specific receptors on fat cells, it stimulates hormone-sensitive lipase, also known as HSL, to break apart triglycerides within the cells and release them into the bloodstream where they can be used as energy. And that's precisely what you want to happen. You don't want that fat to just sit around in your body; you want to get it mobilized.
When you engage in aerobic exercise, HSL becomes even more sensitive to epinephrine since your body temperature is rising. The greater your aerobic endurance, the less concentration of epinephrine it will take to activate HSL and release stored fat. If you are obese, however, it will take significantly higher amounts of this hormone to stimulate the breakdown of triglycerides.
Another hormone affected by exercise is leptin, a peptide hormone produced by the adipose (fatty) tissue that plays a role in the storing of body fat and in overall energy balance. A recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry states that exercise combined with dieting is the most effective combination to reduce levels of leptin in the body, with a resulting loss of body fat.
The Secret to Abdominal Fat Loss: Alpha Receptors and Beta Receptors
A cell receptor can be thought of as the parking space in which a hormone sits and does its work of turning cell function off and on. The two main types of cell receptors where epinephrine, a fat-mobilizing hormone, can "park" and act on the cell are called alpha receptors, which inhibit the breakdown of triglycerides (a.k.a. the storing of fat), and beta receptors, which stimulate the burning of fat.
Research has shown that both men and women have more beta receptors in the abdominal area, meaning that fat is easier to lose in that part of the body. But women have more alpha receptors in the hip and thigh areas than men, which explains why they tend to store more fat in those areas.
The core body exercises in this book are specifically designed to enable your body to mobilize its fat-burning capacity to reduce the abdominal area of your body.
The most unhealthy areas in which a man can gain fat are in the hips and buttocks. This is known as the reverse fat pattern, because it mimics the classic areas where women most often gain weight. By the time a man has crossed over into a reverse fat pattern, his waistline usually measures 50 inches or more and he is considered to be morbidly obese. As already stated, it is much more difficult for a man to mobilize fat in this part of the body than it is in the abdominal region.
I work with many men who have a reverse fat pattern. Many of them suffer from significant hormonal imbalances. They exhibit low testosterone, higher than normal levels of estradiol (which is the primary hormone in females), lower sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and low thyroid. The lowered testosterone and higher estradiol levels often result in gynecomastia, in which a man's breasts become soft and prominent like a woman's. As a man's body becomes "feminized" by excess fat, he has a much lower than average percentage of lean muscle and suffers from decreased strength, irritability, and chronic exhaustion.
Douglas Daniels, a forty-one-year-old New Orleans French Quarter nightclub performer, was a classic example of the reverse fat pattern. When Douglas first entered my Fat-Burning Metabolic Fitness Plan to be evaluated, he was so morbidly obese that our doctors gave him five years maximum to live. Here are his health statistics before beginning my plan:
Notice that Douglas's hips are 5 inches larger than his waist, indicating a reverse fat pattern where he not only carries fat in his abdomen but in his hips and buttocks.
Douglas was a two-pack-a-day smoker, increasing his potential risk of heart disease and cancer, and he suffered from sleep apnea, a disease that can damage the heart if left untreated. He had to take an oral medication called glucophage for type 2 diabetes. He suffered from low testosterone and hypothyroidism. He was a walking time bomb, and I knew that I had to motivate him to save his own life—fast.
Our doctor immediately put him on thyroid medication and enrolled him in our Ochsner Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, where he worked to increase his aerobic fitness. During that time he did resistance exercises with light dumbbells and exercises to strengthen and stabilize the core area of his body. One of the most important steps was to dramatically overhaul his nutritional regimen, which then consisted of large amounts of fatty fried foods and rich, high-calorie pasta dishes that his mother and his fiancée cooked for him. Douglas and his girlfriend learned how to make delicious low-fat Italian dishes and healthier "N'awlins"-style meals and to enjoy the low-glycemic, low-saturated-fat Mackie Meals that nutritionist Molly Kimball and I have developed for my clients (see chapter 10).
After six weeks, Douglas continued with the food program and graduated to performing an exercise program that contained added cardio and interval training to his resistance and core exercises. I also gave him tools for reducing stress and staying motivated.
By the end of the twelve-week makeover for the Discovery Health Channel show, Health Cops New Orleans, Douglas's statistics had changed dramatically:
Douglas has quit smoking, no longer snores, and no longer has to take his medication for diabetes. He has faithfully followed the program and continues to lose weight and build lean muscle mass. Twenty weeks after
310 lb. (a loss of 58 lb.) 142 (a loss of 59 points) 95 (a loss of 472 points!) 107 (a loss of 176 points) 52 in. (a loss of 9 in.)
54.5 in. (a loss of 11.5 in.) 48.75 (a drop of 9.13 points)
he started, he had lost an additional 33 pounds, bringing him to a grand total of 91 pounds of scale weight lost!
If my Fat-Burning Metabolic Fitness Plan can work on someone who was as far gone as Douglas, you know it can work for you. If he and literally hundreds of other overfat men and women with significant health risks can turn themselves around using the plan presented in this book, what are you waiting for? There's really no excuse not to begin today.
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