The culprit here is high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

What causes belly fat? Women's Health & Fitness

When you stress, you secrete excess cortisol, activating fat-storage enzymes in cells, which can lead to that dreaded spare tyre.

Researchers from Yale University found a direct link between high cortisol levels and belly fat in lean women. And if the ordeal of buttoning up your skinny jeans wasn’t bad enough, countless studies reveal that as our waistlines expand, so do our health risks.

HOW TO FIX IT

DIET

Stress less. Easier said than done, but the key is to reduce your exposure to stressors, the most common of which Poliquin suggests is food intolerance.

“Wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, yeast and corn are the common suspects,” he says. Reducing stress on your gastrointestinal system will significantly lower cortisol excretion. Restricting the consumption of alcohol, caffeine and sugar will help, too.

SUPPLEMENTS

Omega 3 fish oils, vitamin D and the stress less herb, rhodiola will help calm that cortisol down, along with B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and licorice root. A component of licorice, Glycyrrhizin, is actually capable of inactivating cortisol.

EXERCISE

Ploughing into 40 minutes of continuous cardio training can trigger cortisol. Try weight training and don’t forget to eat afterwards. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone – one that reduces protein synthesis, reversing the effects of your training. A post workout snack or protein shake will help clear cortisol levels after exercise.

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