Fat loss is already a whole lot of not fun. But trying to lose stubborn fat is even worse. Kinda like shoving a long spear from the Middle Ages through your body that really isn’t supposed to have a long spear shoved into it.

a spear in the body

Yeah, er, let’s forget indescribably terrible self-torture methods and get back to the stubborn fat.

So why some spots are way harder to lose? The heck is wrong with fat resting on the belly, hips, thighs, and lower back? Three main reasons:

1. Different distributions of alpha-2 and beta-2 adrenoreceptors in different body parts

I can’t be bothered to explain the human metabolism in detail but in essence, to burn off stored body fat, you first need to get those fatty acids out of the fat cell. How well or poorly this process occurs depends on the alpha-2 and beta-2 adrenoreceptors — receptors to which hormones that are responsible for the mobilization of fatty acids, namely catecholamines, bind to.

I’m sure most of you have no interest in hearing these boring scientific terms. You are probably openly vomiting due to boredom already so let’s put it this way — alpha-2 receptors are the “bad guys” — they inhibit fatty acids mobilization out of the fat cell. Conversely, beta-2 receptors are the “good guys” — they increase fatty acids mobilization:

Now, if you look inside those stubborn body areas — lower abs, hips, thighs, etc. — all you would ever find would be alpha-2, alpha-2, alpha-2, or alpha-2 with some alpha-2 receptors on top of alpha-2 receptors:

The most extreme example of this lower body fat (hips and thighs), which have been found to have roughly 9 times as many alpha-2 receptors as beta-2 receptors. Some research suggests that men’s abdominal fat has higher alpha-2 receptor density (relative to, say, visceral fat). Lower back fat is likely to also have a greater alpha-2 receptor number.

So one reason for those stubborn body parts not giving up stored fat easily is simply due to being richer in alpha-2 receptors.

2. Stubborn fat areas have poor blood flow

Once the fatty acids are mobilized out of the fat cell, they then need to be carried to other tissues to be “burned off.” The amount of blood flow in a given body part determines how well/much fat will be transported out of that particular body part.

For example, gluteal (lower body) fat tissue has 67% lower blood flow compared to other body parts. And if you think I pulled this percentage out of my posterior orifice, here’s the study that found this:

Upper and lower body adipose tissue function: a direct comparison of fat mobilization in humans

Poor blood flow = harder to transport fatty acids from the fat cell. That’s all I have on the matter of blood flow. Let’s get to the last reason why stubborn fat is so damn stubborn.

3. Stubborn fat areas have higher insulin sensitivity

Insulin is a regulatory hormone — it helps nutrients to enter the cells. Fat cells respond differently to insulin. Stubborn fat, for example, is often very sensitive to insulin, and when insulin is present fat mobilization is inhibited. 

But if you read my article on insulin and fat loss, you know that insulin doesn’t prevent fat loss from occurring as long as you are in a calorie deficit.

And with that, let’s jump into the “what to do about the stubborn fat” part.

How to lose stubborn fat?

By now, you might be thinking to yourself this Egis dude just talked about receptors, catecholamines, and shit so he clearly knows a secret solution to losing stubborn fat.

Ha! Nope. Fuggedaboudit. Overcoming the stubborn fat problem comes down to the same four rules that you would follow for losing weight in general (with one caveat):

Rule #1: Sustainable calorie deficit

To lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories than you expend. There’s no way around it whether you want to lose 50 pounds or that last bit of stubborn fat. Ideally, calorie deficit should come from a combination of exercise and dietary adjustments:

What is calorie deficit

Keep in mind that, due to metabolic adaptations, you will have to decrease calorie intake by 50-150 calories every time weight loss stalls for at least 3 weeks.

Rule #2: Exercise

Exercise increases beta-2 receptor activity and helps mobilize the fat out of the fat cells. Not only that but exercise also increases fat tissue blood flow. Resistance training should be your go-to exercise form but feel free to experiment with a combination of resistance training and cardio.

And if you have no inkling of how to create a resistance training program, here are 9 variables to consider. You are welcome.

Rule #3: Try low-carb diets

Low-carb diets inhibit the activity of alpha-2 receptors and reduce insulin levels. Both of those improve fat mobilization.

Now, when I say “low-carb diets” I don’t mean giving a hearty go fuck yourself, carbs, and live off 50 grams of carbs per day. Scientifically speaking (rather than I’m a keto expert and you shall not eat more than 50 grams), low-carb diets have been defined as having an upper limit of 40% of total daily energy from carbohydrates.

When you create a calorie deficit protein intake will go up while carbs and/or fat will naturally have to go down. So I don’t think you have to intentionally go full-blown keto.

Rule #4 and the previously mentioned caveat: Be extra patient

There’s a reason why the top natural bodybuilders take ~24 weeks (5-6 months) to prep for a fitness show (including diet breaks):

International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition

It’s because the body will always touch the stubborn fat at the end of the long diet. So you have to give your body a chance to get to the stubborn body areas. Nothing can be done in the short term.

Sustainable calorie deficit + exercise + TIME = less stubborn fat. Time is key here. As long as you will be in a consistent calorie deficit, eat enough protein, and resistance train to maintain/build muscle mass, every patch of stubborn fat will go away. 

Dieting for half a year sounds as enticing as stabbing your own eyes with knitting needles. Which is why most people say fuck it and bug out before the body gets to the stubborn areas. And why wouldn’t they? The ab-toning contraption from an infomercial is a lot more fun after all.

But you, you be different, okay? Take your time.

8Weeks2Lean program | 14-Day Fat Loss For Life Free Course

Originally published by me on Medium on March 7, 2022

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