If you notice that you have too much fat around your waist (especially on sides) and want to know how to get rid of muffin top, then this post is for you!
Muffin top is the funny name that people use to define body fat that extends horizontally over the edges of the waistline and get very noticable while wearing tight pants or skirts. And this look can remind you the shape of the muffin.
If you feel that you’re carrying extra weight around your middle, I’m going to help you understand where it comes from and how to ditch it.
Muffin top fat
The abdominal area is made up of two different types of fat: visceral and subcutaneous. Visceral fat wraps around your organs and offers a bit of padding. Unfortunately, too much visceral fat can be detrimental to your health—it is often called “active fat” because it actively increases your risk of developing health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Too much visceral fat can also put excess pressure on organs like your liver and heart, disrupting their ability to function properly.
Subcutaneous fat makes up the majority of fat found on the human body and sits just under the skin. This type of fat serves the body in five ways:
- it stores energy the body needs to function
- it offers padding and protection in the event of a fall
- it provides a pathway for nerves and blood vessels to travel between your muscles and skin
- it insulates the body
- it attaches your skin to your muscles and bones
So, when people refer to a “muffin top” they are usually referring to subcutaneous fat found in the lower abdominal area.
What causes muffin top
Muffin tops are like snowflakes—no two are the same. There are a variety of causes for muffin tops, and you may have more than one of these contributing factors. Let’s take a look at the most common causes.
When your body is under constant and repeated stress, it begins producing cortisol (also known as the “stress hormone”). Cortisol is used by your body to trigger the fight or flight response during stress-inducing situations.
If your body is in a continuous state of stress and regularly produces cortisol, you often see an increase in weight gain around the abdomen.
And, let’s not forget about stress eating. How many times have you found yourself in a stressful situation and rewarded yourself by “eating your feelings”? Comforting ourselves with food during stressful times is a common response, but if you’re constantly stressed and constantly eating comfort foods, you may be contributing to muffin top development.
Many of you hate to hear this, but it must be said—alcohol and belly fat are often fast friends.
Alcohol slows down the body’s ability to break down fat. Like it or not, your body sees alcohol as a toxin. Once alcohol is in your system, the body prioritizes breaking it down before anything else, including fat.
And, let’s be honest—alcohol makes us eat more than we would without it, and there’s scientific proof to back this statement up. When you consume alcohol it begins to suppress the brain hormones that tell your body you’re not hungry. It literally tricks your body into thinking it’s starving, making you much more likely to binge on food your body doesn’t need.
Some of you may be thinking, But what about wine? It’s good for me…right?
The answer is yes…sort of. While red wine does provide health benefits like reducing your risk of heart attacks and strokes, the truth is you don’t need much to reap the benefits—one serving a day for women and two for men is all you need. And that serving? It’s not the generous 9 oz pour some restaurants offer…5 ounces is the max. Any more than that and you’re doing more harm than good.
Insulin is known as the fat storage hormone and is produced by the pancreas. When insulin levels in your body are too high, the body begins storing excess fat, often around the abdomen, which creates muffin top appearance.
If insulin levels remain too high for too long, the body eventually becomes resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance puts the body on a fast track to a myriad of health problems including fatigue, high cholesterol, low sex drive and blood clotting issues.
Muffin top aside, if you are living in a state of insulin imbalance, the sooner you can get it regulated the better off you will be in the long run.
You may be less familiar with this potential cause but, believe me when I tell you, if your gut microbiome is off your abdomen can suffer.
Inside your body, there are hundreds of different organisms and bacteria hanging out in your intestines. While a few of them can occasionally make you sick, the majority of those bacteria help to keep your body healthy. Gut bacteria actually produces some vitamins and works with your immune system to fight infections.
Additionally, these bacteria come into direct contact with the food you eat and can help break down fiber and carbohydrates. Gut bacteria can also influence how fats are absorbed by the body, which may help with weight loss.
When it comes to keeping your gut microbiome happy, steer clear of sugary foods, artificial sweeteners and saturated fats. Instead, try to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds into your diet. For more information check out my post about “Gut health“.
Fermented foods are chock full of healthy bacteria and a great way to boost your gut health. Foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut can increase the number of good bacteria in your gut and reduce the bad bacteria that can cause illness.
Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable feeling when it feels as if someone is blowing up a balloon in your stomach? Belly bloat can often contribute to the appearance of a muffin top, even though it is not usually a permanent condition. Check out my post “How to get rid of bloating” for the best practical tips on getting a flat stomach.
Belly bloat can happen when you eat too much in one sitting. Eating too quickly and ingesting large amounts of air along with your food can also be a culprit of belly bloat.
What you eat may be a contributing factor as well—carbonated beverages and beer can cause bloating. Eating foods high in carbohydrates, lactic acid (found in dairy products) and fructose (found in fruit and processed foods) can all ferment in the belly and produce gas which leads to bloating. Eating large amounts of vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are known for creating gas and, well, we all know the havoc beans can wreak on the body.
How to get rid of muffin top
If you are worried about health implications or just looking to create a new, equally stunning shape, we’ve got some tips on how to minimize the muffin top.
There’s no two ways around it—what you eat affects the size and shape of your abdomen. Don’t assume that the word “diet” means severe food restriction. When we say diet, we mean making some strategic changes in the food you use to fuel your body, changes that will increase your energy and decrease bloating and inflammation.
- Up Your Fiber: Fiber is not just for the elderly. Once consumed, fiber binds with water and slows down the digestion process, keeping you feeling full for longer. Shoot for 10 grams of fiber each day in your diet. Leafy greens and other vegetables are great sources of fiber, as are fruits (a hint – don’t juice your fruits and vegetables! Juicing removes all of the valuable fiber, so eat your veggies and fruits like a big boy or girl). Chia seeds, hemp hearts and flax seeds are also high in fiber and easy to add to salads or yogurt to get those 10 grams in.
- Eat Protein: Protein will get your metabolism revved up and keep you feeling full longer. Eggs, fish, seafood, meat, nuts, and legumes are all high-protein foods. You can also try low-carb protein powders if you feel that you struggle to get enough protein from other foods.
- Incorporate Probiotics: Taking a high-quality probiotic supplement can help reduce belly fat because they improve digestions, reduce bloating and inflammation.
- Ditch Carbs: Reducing the amount of refined carbohydrates you consume can go a long way to reducing abdominal inflammation and help you to get rid of muffin top really fast. By eliminating simple carbs you also reduce water retention and bloating. Try cutting out foods made with white flour (breads, pastas, etc.). If that sounds too ambitious, swap refined carbs for whole grain options.
- Say “no” to Sugar: Study after study has found a direct correlation between sugar consumption and weight gain. Minimize your intake of sugary foods and drinks. Satisfy your sweet tooth (and up your fiber intake) by eating berries/low-sugar fruits/nuts.
There are exercises that can improve the overall look of your body and help to lose fat, including muffin top:
- HIIT Training – High intensity interval training (HIIT) involves brief bursts of intense aerobic exercise followed by a short recovery period. If you want to burn a high number of calories in a short amount of time, this may be the activity for you. Check these “Fat-burning workouts at home“.
- Planking – Planks are great, and not only for the abdomen. A proper plank can also improve the tone of legs and glutes. To plank, lay on your side on the floor, making sure your feet, knees, hips and shoulders are in line with one another. Carefully raise your torso and hips, keeping your weight on your elbow and feet. Hold the position for up to 15 seconds then repeat on the other side.
- Spiderman Crunch – Start in a push up position, with your arms extended (as if you’re at the top of a push up). Bring your right leg up toward your torso and try to touch your knee to your right elbow. Move your leg back into starting position and repeat with your left leg.
As it was already mentioned previously, stress hormone cortisol contributes a lot to abdominal fat. So if you want to get rid of muffin top, you have to learn how to manage your stress levels.
One of the most important things here is to know the methods of reducing stress that work for you. We all different but there are some ideas that can be helpful:
- spending time on nature
- playing with animals
It’s also crucial to get planty of sleep during stressful times. It will help you to balance your hormones and reduce the hunger (which can arrise due to high levels of cortisol).
Some natural herb supplements can be very effective: Ashwagandha, Lemon balm, Rhodiola, Chamomile. There are many calming teas out there so it makes sense to create a habit of drinking some of them in the evening or when you feel stressed.
As a wrap-up: getting rid of muffin tops is a long process. But if you pay attention to your diet (insulin levels), keep cortisol under control and include fat-burning exercises to your daily routine, you can expect significant results! So don’t get discouraged, weight loss always takes time but with the right strategy you can make your body look slimmer and healthier.
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I have a BMI of 25 but I’m quite muscular. However, I can’t seem to shift the muffin top. I do extreme HIIT every three days, low carb, zero sugar, sleep 7-8 hours, no stress, eat around 2200cal per day (all healthy whole foods), active job which burns 650cal per shift. I wish the fat would just burn off my hips already. It’s been almost 3 months!
Have you noticed any weight loss for these last 3 months? If not, then it means that you need to create more calorie deficit, try to reduce your intake by about 200-300 calories and see how it goes.