THE TRUTH ABOUT LOSING LOWER BELLY FAT
Having Trouble Losing Stubborn Lower Belly Fat?
You’ve been training hard and have stayed consistent with your fat loss diet. You’ve dropped a decent amount of body fat. Now it’s high time to see about losing that lower belly fat.
You’re looking lean and defined overall, but that last bit of stubborn fat won’t seem to budge. I know firsthand how annoying that can be.
So, what’s the best way to get rid of it, and fully lean down your midsection from top to bottom?
We’ll touch upon the actual steps you need to employ in a bit. But first, there’s a much more important set of questions I want you to consider. The first one is a concept that a high percentage of people overlook…
Question #1: Is Losing Lower Belly Fat Actually A Worthwhile Goal In The First Place?
Achieving an impressively lean and muscular body is one thing. Anyone can do that with the right plan in place, and that’s primarily what my advice is all about.
But, you have to really consider the true pros and cons of dropping your body fat down that low. I mean, we’re talking about a low enough level where your midsection is fully lean with extremely little to no noticeable fat remaining at all.
You have to ask yourself: Am I actually willing to make the necessary sacrifices to do it?
The honest truth that most fitness influencers probably won’t tell you is that achieving a perfectly flat six pack isn’t something you should overly concern yourself with in the first place.
Understand that these people literally make a living off their physique. They probably just want to sell their ab shredding programs, special diets, and fat loss supplements (including scamming you with fat burners).
Stick with me here. This is not meant as some kind of feel good body positivity speech. I’m not trying to say that we should all give up on our physique goals and go prance around in a field somewhere holding hands with our massive rolls of sweaty belly fat gloriously flapping in the wind.
What we are discussing here is simply a logical, rational cost-benefit analysis.
What level of leanness is truly optimal for your overall fitness, physique, and health? As opposed to only focusing on stubborn lower belly fat without considering the downsides?
This is the plain reality: Unless you are genetically fortunate to have a body fat distribution that favors a lean midsection, having some noticeable lower ab fat is pretty damn normal.
The vast majority of people have the kind of lower belly fat that shows when sitting down or in a hunched over position. The extra bit of stomach fat bunches up to some extent unless you are very, very lean.
Unless someone’s content actually is centered around “body positivity,” they’re never going to post a relaxed photo or video of themselves where this can be clearly seen.
Instead, they’re going to be standing, twisting, and flexing in the best position. This makes their abs look as impressive as possible.
Keep in mind, though, that this might not even be representative of their actual year round condition. It could just be a snapshot of a certain phase where they were especially lean.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can definitely have a lean midsection. If your idea of “the last bit of stomach fat” is something along these lines, then you can definitely progress beyond that to where your abs are clearly visible.
But to fully drop even that last little bit of lower belly fat, you’re probably going to need to be in the top percentage of the population in terms of leanness. I’m talking, not even the top 1%, but more like the top 0.1%.
It is by no means an easy thing to do, and it is very rare.
If you still want to achieve that, then let’s go into more detail.
Remember that at the end of the day, your body is a survival machine. It is programmed to carry a certain amount of body fat for proper functioning.
What most people don’t understand–and this is a key point–is that you have to recognize that the difficulty of getting leaner doesn’t operate in a straight linear fashion.
Just like with gaining muscle (even with the best workout plan), it’s an exponential process. As you get leaner, each percentage point of body fat becomes disproportionately more challenging to drop further. Your body is just fighting back harder and harder to hold onto that remaining fat.
Survival is the body’s primary goal. Those hard wired evolutionary systems have no idea why you’re trying to get so lean in the first place. Evolution is unaware of the juicy Instagram likes, or the Chipotle that’s 50 feet down the street, or that you’re not in any real danger of starving.
Now, going from 30% body fat down to 20% should generally be pretty smooth sailing in most cases. As long as your diet and training are properly set up, you should be okay.
But, getting leaner than that becomes more challenging.
Going from 20% down to 15% will be more challenging for a smaller net amount of body fat lost. Going from 15% down to 12% will be even harder for a smaller pound for pound result.
Once you’re around 12%, and I mean a true 12%, getting leaner is going to be pretty difficult for most people. Going from 12% body fat to 10% will probably be more physically demanding than everything you’ve done up to that point.
Even at 10%, which is probably the minimum level the vast majority of guys can realistically sustain long term, it still doesn’t guarantee you a fully leaned down midsection. It might be nowhere close to what you might have been envisioning for yourself based on what you’ve seen online.
I’ve been around 10% body fat before. Even at that level, because I store a high percentage of fat on my stomach, I still had some noticeable lower belly fat. This was true even though the rest of my body was very lean and vascular.
I’m standing up and flexing in good lighting here, so you can’t really tell. But, even in this condition when I was relaxed and sitting down, I still had those last couple rolls of fat. My stomach still was not perfectly flat like you would think.
Question #2: What Are The Specific Challenges Of Trying To Cut That Low?
We’ve talked about the typical “low body fat side effects” many times before. But to quickly summarize, you’re going to be dealing with several negative ones.
The first is significantly increased hunger and food focus throughout the day. This is due to your calories dropping lower as you get leaner. You’ll have less energy and less strength in the gym as a result.
Cognitively, you won’t be at your best in terms of mood and mental sharpness. Your sex drive will also go down or even potentially be next to non-existent. Your sleep quality won’t even be as ideal as it was at a higher body fat percentage, and you’ll probably feel increasingly neurotic about your appearance.
All of these side effects will only increase in intensity the leaner you get.
Another factor people often don’t consider is that even from a pure aesthetics perspective, being very lean isn’t all upside either. The benefits are that you’ll obviously have more definition, more vascularity, visible abs, and you’ll look more impressive when you’re shirtless.
On the flipside, keep in mind that you’re also going to lose a good chunk of muscle fullness both from reduced glycogen stores and having less intramuscular fat.
So, once you get very lean, you’ll be flirting with straight up “do you even lift” status when you’re in normal clothes. I’m assuming this is how you spend the vast majority of your time anyway.
Your face is also going to get sucked down, which some people like. Personally, I’m not a fan of it. I remember when I got really lean in the past, my girlfriend at the time used a term to describe my face: “gaunt.” I didn’t exactly consider this a compliment.
Just remember that in order to gain something, you also have to give something up. You can’t just look at some given result without considering the potential costs involved.
When I see some guys who are extremely lean, they just look emaciated and unhealthy to me. I honestly don’t even think it looks great overall in a lot of cases. But, to each his own.
Now so far, we’ve just been talking about losing body fat in general and not how to lose lower belly fat specifically. But, here’s the reality…
The Only Way To Lose Abdominal Fat Is To Just Get Leaner In General
There’s no way to spot-reduce stomach fat.
The 15 minute ab shredding workouts you see online are mostly just a waste of time because of this. They really don’t target the fat around your midsection. You’re better off just doing regular straight sets in the same way you’d train any other muscle group.
There are no top secret diet hacks, supplements, creams, or devices that are going to do the trick. Stripping off that last layer of belly fat comes down to pushing forward with your training and diet. Doing this consistently will reduce your overall body fat percentage in general.
For the majority of guys, unfortunately that lower midsection area just happens to be the last place where your body will tend to pull significant fat from.
There are certain strategies you can use to make your calorie deficit easier and help reduce hunger while cutting. You can really focus on low calorie dense foods to fill yourself up as much as possible. For example, try and eat more vegetables, fruits, lean, good protein sources, etc.
You can experiment with different meal frequencies as well. Find what works best for you in terms of regulating hunger. This can look like smaller feedings more frequently, or larger feedings less frequently. You might find that employing some kind of fasting protocol (like intermittent fasting) could help, too.
You can also read my article on the best cutting diet to lose fat and stay lean for more tips.
Other tips to lose lower belly fat
Try and incorporate higher volumes of low intensity movement, such as walking, to increase your calorie expenditure without excessively stimulating your appetite.
Refeed days where you increase your calories, say, once a week to give yourself a boost can also be helpful. You can even try incorporating full on diet breaks for a 1-2 week period here and there. (This might be especially helpful when you’re wondering how to stay on track with your diet during the holidays).
So, there are some little tips and strategies you can employ. But at the end of the day, dropping your overall body fat will lead to a lean midsection, plain and simple. The same general principles of a calorie deficit apply. They just get much harder to implement the leaner you get and the longer you try to maintain a super low body fat percentage.
If you’re in a situation where you’ve hit a plateau and you’re wondering why your midsection isn’t getting any leaner, it’s simply because you’re no longer in a calorie deficit.
Remember that as you get leaner and lose overall body weight, your metabolism down regulates. This is your body’s adaptive response, and thus the daily calories that represented a deficit for you at one point might not be a deficit any longer. You have to adapt again to keep that deficit going.
So, you can reduce your daily intake slightly by maybe 100-200 calories depending on the situation. Or, try to increase your calorie expenditure, or do some combination of both. Just be mindful that you’re going to need to be much more diligent once you’re very lean. All it takes is a few tracking errors here and there to unknowingly erase your calorie deficit.
Question #3: What Amount of Effort and Sacrifice is Worth a Particular Result For You?
For this one, you really have to look at your fitness program and your life as a whole. The answer will be different from person to person.
But based on my own experience in 20 years of training and 15 years of coaching, I would say that unless you’re competing or you make a living off your physique, the tradeoffs that are involved with cutting that low are probably not worth it for most guys.
This is aside from maybe temporary phases where you just want to challenge yourself for some reason. But the state of leanness we’re talking about isn’t sustainable as an ongoing condition.
That’s because the disproportionate amount of effort and sacrifice it requires is not worth the small extra result you gain. The juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.
Giving up that extra dietary and even general lifestyle freedom is only one aspect of being that lean. You also have to monitor and restrict things very closely every single day just to be a couple percent body fat leaner.
This isn’t even all upside for your physique in the first place. For most people, the overall input-output equation just doesn’t make sense.
Keyword there is “most” people.
For those who truly want that super lean physique and understand what goes into it, then knock yourself out. If you’re in the fitness industry and your physique is part of how you advertise yourself, you might have to get (and stay) that lean.
But for the majority of people, having some remaining lower ab fat is completely normal, it’s probably not going to disappear completely, and it’s really not a big deal and no one else even notices it or gives a crap either.
It is possible that you can become impressively lean, probably leaner than 97% of the general population. If your approach is dialed in, you can have solid definition, visible abs, and an overall ripped physique.
But, very, very few people are going to be maintaining anything less than 10% body fat year round. Even that is pretty low.
12% is more than ideal for men as a realistic minimum level for the long term. 12-14% body fat is a good balanced level between leanness and muscularity for most people, even with that little bit of extra lower ab fluff.
This all comes at the benefit of having a comfortable amount of dietary and lifestyle freedom. You’ll also be operating at your peak physically and mentally.
These will benefit not just your training, but in all areas of your life in general. Work or school, social life, and other hobbies and interests don’t have to suffer along with you to get completely shredded.
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