One of the most frustrating things about developing a physique over time is when you come across stubborn body fat, particularly stubborn belly fat and also end up with the dreaded love handles. The most frustrating scenario is of course when you can be classified as an endomorph it seems that you hold body fat in your midsection year round!
If you’ve struggled with trying to lose love handles and stubborn belly fat in the past it’s likely you’ve only just scratched the surface of what is actually required.
How to lose love handles and stubborn belly fat as an ectomorph? To lose love handles and stubborn belly fat as an ectomorph you will need to get below a body fat level of 10%. There is not a quick fix so you will need to dedicate plenty of time to a diet and training phase.
Unfortunately there is not a quick fix if you are in this scenario and there certainly isn’t a magic bullet or pill that will help with your aim of spot reduction fat loss, instead it will take tried and tested dieting methods to really shift fat from your midsection.
An endomorph is a somatotype but is a certain classification of body type based on generalised characteristics. Let me just put it out there that I don’t believe in somatotype classification as every single human is unique, has a different biological makeup and therefore cannot be so easily grouped.
What I do find incredibly useful however is the fact that people can relate to the characteristics and it’s these characteristics that will help you to optimally build your physique.
As an example I’d class myself as an ectomorph, I’m tall, have long limbs, a narrow bone structure/frame and do not easily gain body fat (or muscle or weight for the matter). The fact that I have long limbs for example means that I see better progress when training legs with hack squats and leg curls than I do with squats because I can engage the muscles a lot more.
By relating to certain characteristics of a somatotype I can see what has worked for others with similar characteristics and use it as a shortcut to see if it would also work for me.
The characteristics of an endomorph are as follows:
- Higher percentage of body fat and less muscle mass (put on weight very easily)
- Are heavier and rounder, a lot tend to have wider hips
- Are very sensitive to calorie consumption and will store body fat a lot easier when in a surplus
I can imagine some of these characteristics are depressing to look at and that a lot of people reading this can certainly relate to, it’s not uncommon for people to use phrases like “I gain weight just by looking at cake” however these are just general characteristics.
What I’ve yet to mention is that regardless of what your body type is, the process required for improving your physique is the same. The only relevance to this article is that an endomorph will tend to have a higher level of body fat and are therefore more prone to love handles or stubborn belly fat.
It doesn’t mean that there are not strategies to resolve this!
What Causes Love Handles and Stubborn Belly Fat
Love handles and stubborn belly fat are very common issues within the general public and obviously as you might have guessed endomorphs. If they are so common however, then what actually causes them?
Love handles are a term to describe excess body fat above the hips and around the waist and lower back area, if you pull a pair of jeans up to your waist and have body fat hanging over the side rather than the waist of your jeans being on your hip bone then this is what is commonly referred to as love handles.
Stubborn belly fat is just that, belly fat just below the belly button that always seems to be their no matter how much you diet or train.
Unfortunately there is not a direct cause for love handles or belly fat and once you have them then the main reason is because these are the areas that you are genetically prone to storing more body fat. As it’s down to genetics then there is no way to influence where you will store body fat, personally I’ve noticed that I’ll naturally store more body fat in my lower back, even when I’m relatively lean.
Whilst I say there is not a direct cause for love handles or stubborn belly fat there are a lot of factors that could potentially result in love handles or stubborn belly fat. The first cause is an over consumption of calories.
Body fat is accumulated when you consume more calories than you burn through exercise or activity, the higher your level of body fat the more you have gone over what would be considered your caloric maintenance requirements.
Another cause would be foods high in sugar and fats, these are the macronutrients that the human body uses for energy and they are therefore stored by the body to be used as needed. This therefore related back to the previous point of over consumption without the necessary energy expenditure level needed to utilise the nutrients.
You can find more about the causes and medical information about love handles and stubborn belly fat here. This however is not the main purpose of this article, what we are going to look at is how to lose to lose these once you have them, especially as an endomorph.
How to Prevent Love Handles and Stubborn Belly Fat
It’s pointless working through the steps to lose love handles and stubborn belly fat if you don’t know how to prevent it in the first place, the two are very much linked.
To be brutally honest, the best way to prevent love handles and stubborn belly fat is to not put on excessive body fat in the first place. The higher your body fat percentage is the more likely it is that you will end up with love handles or stubborn belly fat.
I wouldn’t say that is a groundbreaking revelation of it’s an obvious fact that might not seem so obvious. It’s easy to think you are cursed in this situation and are destined to have body fat in this area, especially as an endomorph, however the best method for prevention is to control you body fat percentage and in particular your calorie intake.
This may seem like a daunting task but we live in a period of time that has the likes of Myfitnesspal and scales that will give a rough reading for your body fat percentage. It’s no longer the case that tracking your calorie intake is a chore or much effort at all, you are even presented with visual charts to see your figures at a quick glance.
The single best preventative technique is therefore controlling your calorie intake.
Other factors can be to increase your energy expenditure, eat more nutrient dense foods that are high in fiber and even manage stress better. My favourite preventative technique however is nutrient partitioning.
Nutrient partitioning is basically what your body does from the nutrients in your food once you consume it. The best example I can think of to demonstrate this is Michael Phelps.
It’s quite well documented that Phelps would consume substantial calories each day when he was in his prime training and competing years and by substantial I mean up to 10,000 calories per day! This is an abnormally high caloric consumption and yet he never had much body fat, it was the complete opposite in that he had an incredibly lean physique.
This is down to a number of reasons, his training and energy demands on a daily basis were high so he needed these calories to fuel his sessions, he was also a genetic freak built to swim but lastly was the fact that his body prioritised nutrients to be utilised as needed which was by the muscles.
Now you can’t make your body store the majority of nutrients in your muscles (though some are genetically more predispositioned to do this) but you can do certain things to trigger this as more of a priority.
Getting to low levels of body fat will help this as your body will need to be more efficient with the nutrients that it receives, especially at lower calorie intakes. Weightlifting will also improve this as your muscles with demand nutrients to recover, repair and fuel further training sessions.
How Long It Will Take to Lose Love Handles and Stubborn Belly Fat
The bad news is that losing love handles and stubborn belly fat is not a quick fix, if this is where you tend to naturally store more body fat then the only way that you could lose it is by getting very lean and getting yourself to a low body fat level of around 10%.
10% is just a rough estimate however and it could actually be that you would need to go below this body fat percentage in order to lose them or it may be that around 12% is enough. This is something that will vary based on the individual but the basic point to note is that you will need to get lean to make it happen.
The length of time required will depend on your starting point, if you are admittedly quite a bit overweight then the process will take longer and to put a timeframe on it then it could be anywhere from 3 – 6 months. If however you are below 15% body fat and this is literally the last bit of stubborn fat that you can’t seem to get rid of then you’d be looking at an 8 – 12 week timeframe.
As I mentioned there is no quick fix and therefore the best mentality you can have moving forward is to focus on the process and stick to a plan day after day, week after week until you can finally blitz it.
How to Structure Your Diet
This may come as unfortunate news, especially if you’ve looked into stuff like spot reduction fat loss belts or some other direct marketing ploy but the real secret behind losing love handles and stubborn belly fat as an endomorph is going to be controlling you diet, in particular calorie consumption.
It’s likely that eating too many calories and being in a surplus is what has caused this unwanted body fat so the way to get rid of it is going to be diet control and consuming a calorie deficit. Training and cardio will play a part when it comes to energy expenditure but for the most part it’s the dieting aspect that you will need to focus on.
I mentioned it earlier but if not already then go and download Myfitnesspal, if you are new to dieting or tracking calories then this is going to accelerate the learning curve and make it very easy for you to start tracking calories from the outset.
Hopefully you’ve done that and now that starting point for your diet is going to be working out your daily maintenance calorie requirements. This is basically how many calories you need to consume each day just to maintain your current weight.
I go into how you can manually work this out for yourself here or you can use an online calculator by simply googling maintenance calorie calculator. For a quick guide however, we will use an example number and say that you need to consume 2,800 calories per day, every day just to maintain your current weight based on your current lifestyle.
Weight will fluctuate slightly on a day by day basis based on water retention, food digestion and a number of other factors, so it’s important not to get too caught up on scale weight and trying to chase numbers daily.
You should definitely take a note of your scale weight each morning but in terms of movements it’s better to look at a 7 day average to get a clearer picture of your weight.
So having said that you now have your daily calories set at 2,800kcal for maintenance, what you are going to do to get started is simply start with a 300kcal deficit so your new daily target will be 2,500kcal. When I use target I don’t mean that as a minimum either, this is the maximum amount that you should be consuming.
What likely caused the love handles and stubborn belly fat in the first instance would have been over consumption so you need to ensure that you are in a calorie deficit at all times. This is where your average scale weight will come in useful.
If over a 7 day period your weight has not changed then it means your body has adapted and therefore to kickstart the fat burning process again you will again need to go into a deficit (this is not the only way but one of the tools available to you).
Using the example above again you will simply reduce daily calories by a further 200 and then start tracking again. Daily calories will now be 2,300kcal. This is the simple process that you will need to follow from the start, it’s all about tracking and making adjustments as you go which is why apps like Myfitnesspal are so helpful.
Macros Required to Lose Stubborn Body Fat
Whilst controlling your daily calorie consumption will be key to losing belly fat and love handles your macronutrient breakdown will also prove just as beneficial. Picking food choices that are highly nutrient dense will improve body composition for a number of reasons, these include covering all nutrient bases, having protein available for building muscle and a high fiber content that will reduce appetite and snacking.
It’s very easy to eat snacks that are very high in calories and in particular refined, processed carbs (think sweets, chocolate, soda) and as a result your calories end up in a surplus for the day because the macro content of your snacks are so high.
I’m not against restricting food choices but it’s important to be aware that certain foods are optimal for body composition whereas some with hamper it. Notice I don’t use terms like good or bad food choices, I’m not a believer in labeling food like this however I’m also not in the camp of saying a calorie is a calorie regardless of what it is.
Some food choices are definitely more optimal than others based on your goal and if the goal is something as specific and sensitive as fat loss then you need to make sure that 80% of the food choices you are making are with the question will this benefit my physique or hinder it.
The common comparisons are things like chocolate bars vs a salad to say they are similar calories however one i’ve noticed is the new chocolate protein bars that well known brands are bringing out. One in particular has more protein than the regular chocolate equivalent however it actually has more calories!
A whey protein shake is usually the best recommendation for controlling cravings whilst having a favorable macronutrient breakdown.
I’m not saying that is a bad thing but if you are trying to work to a calorie target then sometimes even the perceived healthier option could in fact be having a negative impact on your goals. All I can say is at least you know what you are getting with a plain chicken breast, sweet potato or stem of broccoli.
When it comes to be quite strict on a cut it’s always a good plan to have a basic guideline from which to work from, the following is my recommendation for how you should split your daily marcos:
- Protein – This one is vital for muscle recovery, repair and retention and therefore takes priority on a cut. For protein you are going to want to consume roughly 1g of protein per pound of body weight, therefore if you weigh 200lbs then you will consume 200g protein.
- Fat – This is essential for hormonal balance and energy levels. For fat you are going to look at consuming 0.45g per pound of body weight so again a 200lb individual would consume 90g fat per day.
- Carbohydrates – Essential for providing energy and cognitive functioning however this is the one macronutrient that people often over consume with, for that reason you make up the rest of your calorie targets from carbs once protein and fat have been calculated.
Below is what my daily macro split looks like based on these figures:
Once you have this macro breakdown you can put it into Myfitnesspal and track it daily like the below (pulled from a previous diet so macro breakdown will be different):
How to Structure Your Training and Cardio Routine
Whilst looking to lose love handles and stubborn belly fat as an endomorph you need to not only have a strict diet plan in place but also a weight lifting and cardio routine. If I’m honest the weight training aspect is not absolutely essential however it’s a way to further increase energy expenditure whilst also improving overall body composition.
If you’re an endomorph then I’ve already documented that one of your characteristics will be a tendency to have a higher body fat percentage whilst have a lower level of lean muscle mass so it would be in your best interest in terms of body composition to pursue weight training.
The positive benefits in terms of physique development are countless so it may be an unwise decision to leave this aspect out of your routine.
Cardio on the other hand is something that goes hand in hard with cutting and is usually the first recommendation when it comes to losing belly fat. It is of course an effective strategy but you don’t need to dive in with as much volume as you might expect.
One of the best and most effective strategies that you can use for burning fat is a daily step target. This basically means you walk a certain number of steps every day in order to up your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).
The reason a step target is so effective is because it’s something you can easily track and adjust to monitor weight loss. With other forms of cardio the effort you put in plays a part and this is not something that is easily quantifiable or something that can be kept consistent either.
With a step target however you can repeat the process day after day and can account progress to this. Other factors will play a part but being able to say I did 1000 more steps this week and lost 2lbs is a very powerful tool that you can use to make almost guaranteed progress.
The next option you are going to be looking at to lose the love handles and stubborn belly fat is dedicated cardio sessions. For these you want to be looking at 2 sessions per week in the initial cutting period but as your body fat levels get lower and it gets harder to lose the next 1lb then you want to be upping this to as high as 5 x sessions per week.
This will be on top of your daily steps and there are two forms of cardio that you’ll be looking to use. Low intensity steady state (LISS) and high intensity interval training (HIIT) will be your two options and whichever you go with will depend on your preference as both have merit to them
LISS will be roughly an hour long sessions whereby you maintain a certain level of output, this could be jogging, cycling or rowing. A HIIT session will entail shorter burst or high intensity effort followed by a shorter back off period. An example of HIIT could be a 20 second sprint followed by a 10 second slow jog to recover and then you follow this pattern for 10 – 20 minutes.
Whichever option you are looking at from the above the main focus will be on increasing energy expenditure over time in line with your decrease in calorie consumption.
To lose love handles and stubborn belly fat as an endomorph will come down to one key focus and that should be to lose as much body fat as possible overall, usually with a specific body fat percentage target in mind (10% is a good target to aim for).
There is no quick fix or secret way to target certain areas for fat loss, you will lose fat from all over your body and therefore need to focus on total fat loss and with this the results will come.
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