This article is all about getting rid of that extra gut you might have hanging around. If you’re skinny and your gut is the first thing to grow, this article is definitely for you. If you’ve read my article on physique and are working on getting the most attractive body possible, then you’re also going to want to shred belly fat. After all, a trim midsection is a huge indicator of health. If you’re going to bulk up, you’re going to want to do so without growing rolls or storing fat in other unsightly areas such as your chin and love handles.
How to Shred Fat
- Reduce Cortisol
- Decrease Insulin Spikes
- Cut out Sugar
- Decrease Inflammation
- Manage Your Androgens
- Intermittent Fasting
- Reduce Carbs
- Keto Diet
- Lift Heavy
- Optimizing Brown Fat
If you want to find out how to do all these things exactly, read on. But first, we’re going to delve into the types of body fat and how body fat is stored.
Importance of Fat Loss
Getting shredded is priority number one when it comes to optimizing your physical attractiveness. You might have cheekbones and other attractive facial features you don’t even know about because they’re covered by fat. Christian Bale, who will purposefully gain weight for a role, is a good example of the difference fat loss makes:
Without all the fat off your body, it’s hard for you to even evaluate your facial features. Not to mention, being obese is a risk factor for many diseases.
Types of Fat
This is what people normally think of when they think of fat. White fat, or white adipose tissue (WAT), consists of a single fat droplet. Your body stores white fat under the skin and around organs. It helps store energy and also insulates the body.
This fat is the most dangerous because it’s an associated risk factor for almost all major diseases like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and stroke. It leads to hormone imbalances and just wreaks havoc on your general health if you have too much of it. 8 to 20% of body fat is a healthy amount.
Brown fat is found in babies and the upper body area in adults by the shoulders. It’s brown because it has blood vessels and mitochondria. It is metabolically active and helps burn fatty acids to keep you warm, as opposed to storing fat. It can take fats and sugars, and radiate them away as heat. It shares some similarities with muscle tissue, such as the presence of myosin.
Beige fat is somewhere between brown and white fat. It’s important because this type of fat can turn into brown fat via stressors such as cold or exercise. This is something you want because it can help you burn calories.
This is the fat on our body that most people think of when they think of fat. It’s found in the extremities, the belly, the face, and determines your body fat percentage. This type of fat is inflammatory and estrogenic. Usually, however, if you have too much subcutaneous fat it’s also because you have too much visceral fat, which is even worse.
Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds your organs. This is the type of fat that’s responsible for what we think of as belly fat. In excess amounts it will accumulate in your liver, leading to fatty liver and causing a protruding gut.
Visceral fat has about 4 times the amount of cortisol receptors in the body as any other fat, which means it responds to stress the most. It has a high degree of immune cells and inflammatory cells, which makes it the most dangerous. It’s constantly leaking inflammatory cytokines near your organs and basically will just make you tired, weaken your immune system, etc.
In addition, visceral fat also signals your body to store more fat overall, so it’s essentially the catalyst to becoming obese. You want to avoid accumulating excess visceral fat at all costs. Alcohol, smoking, lack of sleep and minimal exercise contribute to a greater amount of visceral fat.
Causes of Fat Storage
Before you can shred belly fat and/or prevent belly fat from accumulating in the first place, you have to understand how the body stores fat.
Managing your hormones is going to be more important than just cutting calories. This is why obese people with crashed metabolisms can eat salads all day and not lose any weight, or why you can take steroids and eat like crap while still losing weight and gaining muscle. Hormone management is priority number one.
You also need to build up a lot of muscle. Muscle is metabolically active. When you’re built of muscle, you’re shredding fat just by sitting there and doing nothing.
Insulin is a hormone whose main role is lowering blood sugar by converting it to energy or storing it as fat. It’s responsible for shuttling the protein and fat you eat into your cells. Insulin resistance is when insulin overloads your cells for so long that your cells stop responding to insulin. When you’ve reached this stage and your cells have become deaf to insulin, you’re basically in diabetes or pre-diabetes. This makes it hard to get your nutrition because the cells stop listening to insulin. It’s why diabetics usually have very little muscle. They also get hardening of the arteries because high blood sugar creates free radicals and cause inflammation. Not what you want, to say the least.
On the flip side, insulin is one of the most anabolic hormones in the body. It’s a growth hormone that will make you huge. So even though you don’t want insulin to be chronically high, you do want to make use of it to gain muscle.
This is the number one hormone you have to manage to get rid of belly fat, as cortisol is what directs fat to your core area. If you’re in a fasted state, cortisol will help you burn belly fat. If you combine cortisol with insulin or engage in any kind of stress eating, you’re going to accumulate belly fat. The combination of cortisol and insulin is one of the worst things for your body. When the cortisol is high, you are 4x as likely to get store the fat as visceral fat (for example, around the belly).
Sugar is empty calories that only serves to spike your insulin and increase inflammation. Any time you eat more sugar than you can use for energy (which is pretty much all the time), you store it as fat. Table sugar is half glucose and half fructose. The fructose is the main culprit however, as it is a direct cause of belly and liver fat (Stanhope 2009), whereas glucose is not.
You should eliminate all sugar from your diet except for only special occasions. Both glucose and fructose have their own separate transporters. While glucose pretty much goes right into the bloodstream, fructose absorbs slower and has to go through the liver before you metabolize it. It’s great after a workout because it’ll absorb twice as fast as if you just ate any other sugar, and it’ll improve your post-workout recovery, getting the glycogen into your muscles. Eat any more than you need though, and it’s going right into belly fat storage.
Inflammation raises insulin and keeps your fat cells alive. Modern science is gravitating to inflammation as the root cause of many ailments such as coronary artery disease (see Harvard University’s article). A big gut raises inflammation and puts you at risk for many chronic diseases.
However, not all inflammation is the same and not all inflammation is bad. When you get an injury, you need the inflammation to heal the site by bringing blood flow to it. But this isn’t the same type of inflammation that your arteries and fat cells are susceptible to which leads to coronary artery disease and fat storage. If you want to keep the belly fat down, find a way to combat this type of inflammation.
Androgens are sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. They control where you store fat. Males store fat in their abdominal region and females store fat in their thighs, breasts, upper arms, and buttocks. For optimal body composition, your testosterone and estrogen levels need to be in a sweet spot. Too low, too high, or in the wrong ratio, and you will start accumulating belly fat. If you’re not sure if you have normal levels, go get a test.
Testosterone shreds fat and helps you put on muscle. Testosterone needs to be high, especially in relation to estrogen. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is.
Have your SHBG level tested as well. SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin) binds up free testosterone in our bloodstream and prevents it from being used, which is definitely not what you want.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Even if you’re kinda slim, you can still have the appearance of a gut due to anterior pelvic tilt, which essentially sticks your ass out and causes your intestines/gut to “spill” outwards. To have a trim/tight waist, you need to fix any anterior pelvic tilt issues in addition to losing body fat.
Your body tries to spread fat out evenly. The problem is that you might have more fat cells in certain areas than others. Or, the number of cortisol receptors in your gut determines how big your gut is going to get. This is determined in the womb and there’s not much you can do about it unfortunately other than trying to stay lean year-round so that your fat storage genetics don’t matter.
How to Shred Fat
Back in caveman times, we’d go long tracts of time without food, and this is how our bodies function at their best. Your body detects that you’re going without food and it sharpens your mind and increases your metabolism so that you can go out and hunt food. Fasting has had a huge amount of research lately and its metabolic benefits are well documented. It’s done by picking an eating window, such as 12 to 8 PM and eating nothing in the intervening hours. Or, some people only eat once a day. If your only goal is weight loss, you can make certain exceptions, however, such as:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Trace minerals
Some experts think that even the above items break a fast and that only limiting yourself to only water will offer more health advantages. Apart from that, this means you can’t eat anything with fat, proteins, carbs, or calories. An 8 to 9-hour eating window is best.
Some of the benefits of intermittent fasting include:
- Boosting your metabolism.
- Drops insulin levels. This means your body is burning fat and absorbing more nutrition when you do break your fast.
- Boosts human growth hormone (HGH), which helps you shred fat.
- Induces cellular autophagy, which is essentially the body’s way of clearing the junk out of your cells. It only happens when in a fasted state.
- Increases the satiety hormone leptin and reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin.
Fasting also increases cortisol (stress). When you’re in a fasted state, cortisol is going to help you burn fat. Since the gut has the most cortisol, it’s what your body will burn off.
But be warned, your body can adapt to a constant long-term schedule of intermittent fasting and slow down your metabolism. While fasting is great for longevity, it is not great when your goal is to build muscle. If you’re cutting and trying to gain muscle, try to do intermittent fasting only once or twice a week.
Cut All Sugar
Sugar is one of the most inflammatory substances we can eat, and getting rid of it will have the greatest impact on your health of any one decision you can make. Since we normally eat way more of this stuff than we need to survive, sugar overloads our liver and turns straight into fat. What’s more, eating too much sugar will spike your insulin too much and makes you resistant to insulin.
Table sugar is half fructose, which is the part that kills you. The liver can’t metabolize fructose as efficiently. Sugar turns into fat more efficiently and gives you a fatty liver. Your liver pretty much treats it the same as alcohol. Sugar also oxidizes proteins, which renders them unusable.
Also, remember that sugar is in pretty much everything now. Power bars, fruit juice, tomato sauce, alcoholic beverages, cheese, nuts. Things you would never expect to have sugar, will still inexplicably some still have it. Nothing is safe. Always read the label. When in doubt, just stick to whole unprocessed foods, but even then, stay away from fruits.
Everyone realizes the importance of cutting sugar, but most people don’t realize that your body converts the carbs you eat into glucose anyway. The only thing that makes some carbs healthier than others is how long they take to digest, which spreads out the insulin and blood-sugar spike over a longer period.
Rice has a higher glycemic index than table sugar (89 vs 65). When you eat a bowl of rice, your body converts it to glucose. However, because you don’t eat it just by itself and because it doesn’t have fructose, it’s still far better than sugar. Whole foods are going to have carbs and other nutritional value that pure sugar doesn’t. Rice also has a high glycemic load, so if you have to eat carbs try to find a healthier source like quinoa or buckwheat.
The keto diet is one of the best ways to lose weight. When compared with other diets it leads to the most weight loss with the least loss of muscle and least slowing down of your metabolism. Keto has been around for a long time. Clinics are treating and reversing type 2 diabetes with keto, as well as treating epilepsy. Nobody is doing that with the standard American diet, veganism, paleo, or anything else. This diet is here to stay.
The way it works is that your body is a hybrid engine. It can live off glucose, which your body makes out of carbs. Or, your body can live off ketones, which it converts from fat. When you reduce carbs below a certain margin, your body produces ketones for fuel. The brain prefers ketones over glucose, which is why people feel great on this diet. Your body is never starved of carbs on keto because you still can eat some and your body can make glucose from fat. But your body is better at knowing how many carbs you need than you are, and it will only make the amount it needs. As a result, you need to consume plenty of fat.
Keto is critical for shredding fat because:
- You become a fat-burning machine. When you need energy you’ll get it from either your dietary fat or your body’s natural fat stores.
- You’ve cut out sugar and carbs, which is half the battle.
- Ketones are muscle sparing, so you end up with more muscle at lower levels of body fat.
- You’re eating a lot of fat, which is the building block of testosterone. Your testosterone will be higher on this diet, which means more muscle, less fat.
- Remember that the most anabolic hormone in the body is insulin. You’ll become very sensitive to insulin on keto. When you decide to bulk again and go back to carbs, your body will be primed for maximum gains, like a loaded gun. Alternatively, you can eat more protein more frequently and still experience gains. Insulin doesn’t have to come from carbs.
- Your metabolism will be higher at lower body fat percentages compared to other diets. This will help prevent the yo-yo dieting that everyone else falls victim to, though you still have to maintain an appropriate caloric intake after coming off keto and must avoid high-fat foods for several weeks as your body readjusts.
Keto is especially effective for shredding belly fat. You will not have any sugar cravings whatsoever once you get past the first couple of weeks. It’ll be 10x easier to resist those donuts at work. And because you don’t rely on carbs and have become a fat-burning machine, your body gets really good at dipping right into your visceral fat stores.
The main downside of keto is that it’s not an anabolic diet. While it’s amazing for retaining muscle, you’ll have a hard time actually gaining new muscle.
If your newbie muscle gains haven’t kicked in yet, you’re better off just adopting an intense workout program and cutting calories like normal while getting a diet high in protein and vegetables. That way you’ll lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.
Manage Your Hormones
Just to recap, hormones are one of the most important pieces of the fat loss puzzle. That’s why you can eat whatever you want on steroids and still lose fat and gain muscle.
Step number one is incorporating intermittent fasting. Get your body back into survival mode. When you’re not eating all the time, your body knows it’s time for survival mode and that you need to go out and get some food. Your metabolism increases, hunger drops, and you’re ready to go hunt.
Now, you need to make sure your testosterone is as high as possible so that you can build muscle and lose fat. Eat enough fat and get enough micronutrients to make sure you’re producing as much testosterone as your body can. Then, you can also address your SHBG, which binds up testosterone and prevents it from being used. Make sure to supplement with boron. Boron unbinds testosterone from SHBG. Nettle leaf also lowers your amount of SHBG, which leads to more testosterone.
Finally, tackle cortisol. Things that raise cortisol are coffee, fasting, working out and just overall stress. These things are all your friends while you’re fasting, as it directs the body to pull fat from your higher cortisol areas like the gut. So wake up in the morning, drink your coffee, and go hit the gym.
However, once you’re done, your body will still have elevated levels of cortisol. You haven’t eaten. You’ve worked out. You’ve still got caffeine in your system. You need to lower the cortisol and keep it low all day so that fat doesn’t just go back into your gut. Before you eat again, take L-theanine and some cinnamon, which both lower cortisol. Meditate for 10 minutes. Then eat your food and proceed as normal.
Keep in mind that when bulking, you’ll just want to reduce cortisol as much as possible, so that the calories you eat don’t all just turn into fat and don’t go into your gut. Continue the above strategy for reducing cortisol. When you’re bulking, stay away from the pre-workouts and any caffeine. After all, the number one tool for fixing a huge gut is just not getting it in the first place.
The best way to lose weight, in my opinion, is to burn calories in your sleep. You want to focus on activities that increase your basal metabolic rate. Lifting heavy is important because even though it doesn’t burn as much fat as cardio, you still accomplish two goals:
- You pack on muscle, which burns a small number of calories in itself. Though the actual calories burned by muscle at rest aren’t very significant, you’ll burn more calories during future workouts because of the extra muscle.
- Your BMR is elevated 36 hours after your weight lifting session.
A mix of cardio and strength training is optimal. Even when trying to bulk, you should run at least one day a week at the minimum. However, you should make it your goal to get huge and pack on muscle, as this is what’s going to give you the metabolism you want.
Optimize Brown Fat
Brown fat burns even more calories at rest than muscle. The biggest factor for how much brown fat you have is cold exposure. In ancient times, our ancestors were far leaner than us because of constant cold exposure and the fact that they did not have access to heating.
The Cool Fat Burner is a jacket you can wear while sitting that has ice packs built-in that help convert your white fat into brown fat. Wearing this jacket for extended periods can literally burn hundreds of calories at rest. Shivering alone can triple your metabolic rate. This is along the same line as taking cold showers or any kind of cold exposure therapy. Other benefits of cold exposure include:
- Faster recovery from illnesses.
- Increased heat shock proteins, which can boost growth hormone.
- Metabolism boost and calorie burning.
- Increases adiponectin, a hormone that improves fat burning, muscle building, reduces inflammation, and many other benefits.
- Increases irisin, which creates more brown fat, is neuroprotective and has anti-aging effects.
- Improved insulin sensitivity.
- Increased muscle synthesis.
- Improved exercise recovery.
- Improved injury healing.
- Better quality sleep.
- Improved hormone balance.
- Increased cellular autophagy, apoptosis, and longevity.
Other things that increase brown fat are:
- Exercise (Aldiss et al, 2018)
- Fasting (Li et al, 2017)
- Improve your natural melatonin production (de Souza et al, 2018). One way to do this would be to wear blue light blocking glasses and staying off electronic devices before you go to sleep.
- Eat foods with ursolic acid (Kunkel et al, 2012). Ursolic acid is mostly found in apples, though it’s also present in rosemary, thyme, and the peels of fruit.
- Ironically, eating more carbs (Din et al, 2018). Though fasting is a great strategy, don’t starve yourself of calories.
Yes, there’s nothing glamorous about calorie counting, but at some point, it becomes necessary. Don’t get an ego about how fast your metabolism is. Everyone’s metabolism slows down at lower levels of body fat. Your body gets way more efficient at storing calories when it thinks it’s in starvation mode.
Do not underestimate the impact of counting calories. While this is unnecessary at obese levels and you can lose weight just by eating healthier and fasting, you will eventually plateau. Get a calorie counting app like Fitness Pal. Humans are notoriously bad at just guessing the caloric content of their foods. If you don’t do this, it could massively hold you back. Even with a fast metabolism, you’ll be gaining more fat than muscle by overeating.
While hormones are extremely important, at some point physics takes over and you have to control your intake. Eating less, moving more is the secret to fat loss. But calorie counting makes it actually achievable. However, you have to go about it the right way.
Most people cut their calories to 1800 and eat as much as a small girl and yet they can’t lose weight. Why? It’s because your metabolism crashes. Your body gets better at holding onto fat because it thinks food is scarce. This is why refeeding periods and cheat days are crucial.
Here’s a good strategy:
- Determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). How many calories do you burn each day?
- Cut by 100 calories and eat like this until you plateau for a week.
- Reset your metabolism by having 3 days in a row where you eat AT (not above) your original TDEE.
- Cut by 200 calories and rinse and repeat.
Don’t go below 1700 calories if you’re a guy. At some point, you need to go the other way and add muscle, as that’s what will allow you to have a higher metabolism.
Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Anterior pelvic tilt is normal. Our body needs at least a little for optimal posture and weight-bearing performance. However, have too much of it, and your butt begins to stick out and your gut has the appearance of spilling out, because it’s not being supported, which makes it hard to show off your 6 pack. This video will demonstrate how to fix anterior pelvic tilt:
Being shredded will definitely help you out in every aspect of your life, not to mention keep you healthy. Being at a healthy body weight decreases your risk for almost every chronic disease.
However, if your primary concern is your dating life, keep in mind that the face is more important than the body. Take care of your skin, start mewing, fix that hairline and do whatever you can for your jaw and eye areas.