By Michael Colgan, Ph.D.
Even with a stringent diet and exercise program, the Chihuahua on the belly and muffin atop the hips often refuse to leave the building. In many folk who hit this plateau, there is usually a lot more visceral fat hidden deep inside, plumping them up like a goose.
You can’t see visceral fat. It hides around your liver and kidneys, intestines and reproductive system. Visceral fat clings to your organs. It can add 3 to 6 inches to your waist and hips even after you lose most of the pooch and muffin top.
The Internet, Facebook, and YouTube portray hundreds of exercise programs claiming to get rid of muffin tops. The beautiful and well-intentioned young men and women who present them (most of whom never had a muffin top) seem to have forgotten their high school human biology. Fat oxidation (fat burn) by the body is unrelated to the particular muscles being worked. Fat is taken from throughout the body and used through a complex process to provide energy. No matter how hard you do these exercises, you will not budge the muffin.
Here’s the bottom line: You are exercising particular muscles. You are not exercising the fat that surrounds them. You are hardly affecting that fat at all. A solid hour of muffin top exercises in the gym uses less than half an ounce of fat (1). And that is fat from the whole body fat store, not just from around your hips. You can’t spot reduce fat. No matter how much the muscles ache, an insignificant amount of the energy burned comes from the fat surrounding them.
These abominations of exercise, including leg lifts, sit-ups, knee kicks and bum wiggles, are usually done lying on the floor. They have zero effect on muffin tops. Standing exercises are just as bad. Often targeted to small muscles like the obliques, standing muffin top “melters” such as side bends with dumbbells, and twists with a pole on your shoulders may cause you to quickly feel a burn in those muscles. But they burn insignificant amounts of fat from that area–less than a tenth of an ounce per hour of work.
In fact, these exercises can actually make muffin tops worse. Over a period of months the exercises develop the targeted muscles; however, most of the overlying fat remains, while the muscles grow bigger. This is especially so with the obliques, those two muscular bulges at the sides that work to twist the body. The net effect is an increased waist, making the muffin top look even bigger.
Working with top modeling agencies who want their models to have hips the size of their bust and a waist 10 to 12 inches smaller than both, we know that neither particular exercises nor starvation diets work. Exercises increase muffin tops and starvation strips off your subcutaneous fat (the fat that you can pinch) before touching visceral fat.
Starving and exercise targeted at muffin tops are useless for models, who depend on their looks for a living. We had to develop some special strategies to remove the muffin and the visceral fat. Together with decent proteins, such as Isagenix® IsaLean® Shake every day, and the full complement of micronutrients provided by the Ageless Essentials™ Daily Pack, these strategies have helped many people lose fat in a healthy way including those in the modeling industry.
Lose Your Muffin Top Through Thermogenesis
Thermogenesis means creation of heat. When you are not exercising, the body creates heat through activating a mechanism called brown-adipose-tissue (BAT). Activating BAT permits production of heat directly from body fat without going through the energy cycle or being burned in muscular activity (2). That is, you can lose body fat without moving a muscle, even while you sleep. Animals that hibernate, such as the grizzly bear, activate BAT to burn up to one quarter of their total bodyweight during winter without any exercise.
Most fad diet and exercise programs do not activate BAT—they do just the opposite. If you go on sudden food restriction yet force yourself to exercise excessively, the body automatically turns down heat production and drastically reduces energy production as a defense mechanism to conserve fat. That’s why strict dieters generally feel cold and exhausted, and tend to stop exercising after a while.
Scientists used to think that thermogenesis would not work for people, because, unlike bears, humans cannot hibernate. A hibernating bear can lose 300 pounds of fat while it sleeps, as its body converts fat directly to BAT, which then creates the heat required to keep it from freezing over the winter. Recent technology, however, has allowed us to measure human BAT. Though not as efficient as bears, the body of a 40-year-old man or woman can make sufficient BAT to provide 15 percent of their total energy, and get all of it from body fat without any exercise (3).
There are four steps to activate thermogenesis to burn fat. You need to follow all of them carefully to succeed. Make them a habit along with IsaLean Shakes and Ageless Essentials Daily Pack, and your muffin will slowly disappear.
Step 1: Melatonin
The first and most important step in increasing thermogenesis is to use melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that turns on in the brain for your sleep cycle. It’s no accident that bears turn on copious melatonin to activate BAT during the sleep of hibernation. In bears and humans, melatonin is essential to convert white body fat to BAT and heat (4).
After about age 20, melatonin declines in the human body. By age 40, it has declined by half. You can get some melatonin from almonds, sunflower seeds, coriander, cardamom, and mustard greens. Unless you eat a lot of them, however, it is insufficient to activate much BAT (5).
The alternative is to supplement with melatonin. But most melatonin pills do not work. About 90 percent are deactivated by digestive acids in the gut. A liquid melatonin spray such as the Isagenix Sleep Support and Renewal spray is much better. It’s quickly absorbed so that it can more easily pass through the blood-brain barrier into the brain.
For stubborn fat loss we have used up to 15 milligrams of liquid melatonin taken right before bed every night and held in the mouth for 30 seconds. Some folk sleep too soundly on that much and wake up groggy. So, if you use it, start with 1 to 3 milligrams.
Step 2: Sleep
Inadequate sleep disrupts BAT activity. So you have to get sufficient sleep (about 7 to 8 hours). To ensure an effective melatonin rhythm, sleep in the natural dark cycle rather than during daylight hours to optimize melatonin production. It can also help to sleep in a room at a cool temperature, which encourages heat production.
Don’t use your cell phone or computer in bed. The wavelength of light used to backlight these devices effectively turns off your melatonin rhythm (6). Alternatively, you can get an app called f-lux. F-lux changes the backlight wavelength so that it does not affect melatonin.
Step 3: e+ Natural Energy Shot for Morning Thermogenesis
To continue the thermogenesis and fat loss after you wake up in the morning, take a strong cup of coffee on an empty stomach. The Isagenix e+ Natural Energy Shot with its botanicals from green tea and yerba mate may be even more effective (7,8).
Also, do some light exercise for just 5 to 15 minutes to raise your metabolic rate when you wake up. We encourage push-ups, crunches, lunges, squats, and high kicks. But even walking the dog will work. Do only what you know you can do again tomorrow because missing a day puts you two days behind. Make this routine a habit and thermogenesis can continue for up to four hours afterwards (7).
Remember, each day you get a new 24-hour circadian cycle of growth and development that controls all the function and growth of your body. Whatever you do during each cycle will reflect in your growth that night. If you miss a cycle it is gone forever. Learn to live in tune with your circadian cycles, each one born pure and new, ready to be made your personal masterpiece.
The botanicals in the e-shot, especially the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), in green tea, make it likely more effective than coffee (7,8). The Isagenix Brain Boost and Renewal, designed for use in the morning, is also a good way to get more EGCG. It contains 40 milligrams per dose. For muffin tops in fitness and fashion models, we use 100-300 milligrams EGCG every day.
In a recent controlled study, two groups of healthy men used a moderate reduced calorie diet plus tea for 12 weeks. One group had green tea extract added to the tea to yield high levels of EGCG. The group consuming the higher levels of EGCG lost an average of 5.4 pounds of body fat, approximately twice the loss of the control group. One important finding was that much of the fat loss was visceral fat from around the organs (8). Loss of visceral fat can help reduces the appearance of muffin top.
4. IsaOmega Supreme for All-Day Thermogenesis
To turn on thermogenesis, the body has to produce proteins called “uncoupling proteins.” These uncouple the use of some of our oxygen from the production of ATP (our energy molecule). The oxygen can then go direct to production of heat by mixing with and burning the BAT you have activated. But whenever its visceral fat that is under threat, the body turns uncoupling proteins way down.
Recent research shows that high levels of the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, from marine sources strongly turn up the uncoupling proteins again (9). Isagenix IsaOmega Supreme is a great source. As with every nutritional supplement, you should start low and slow. Spread out use with each meal during the day to aid digestion.
Summary Steps to Really Melt the Muffin:
1. IsaLean Shake and Ageless Essentials Daily Pack
2. Melatonin from Sleep Support and Renewal spray every night.
2. Sleep in a cool, dark, and quiet room 7 to 8 hours every night.
3. Use e+ shot, and Brain Boost and Renewal each morning.
4. Get enough EPA plus DHA (8 grams from IsaOmega Supreme) spread throughout the day.
As with all supplementation, use these fat-loss strategies at your own choice and risk. Given the right information your body has ample power to make it fit and healthy.
1. Melanson, EL, et al. Exercise improves fat metabolism in muscle but does not increase 24-h fat oxidation. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2009 April; 37(2): 93–101.doi: 10.1097/JES.0b013e31819c2f0b
2. Stock MJ. Thermogenesis and brown fat: relevance to human obesity. Infusionstherapie, 1989;16(6):282-284.
3. Giralt M, Villarroya F. White, brown, beige/brite: different adipose cells for different functions? Endocrinology. 2013 Sep;154(9):2992-3000. doi: 10.1210/en.2013-1403.
4. Jiménez-Aranda A, et al. Melatonin induces browning of inguinal white adipose tissue in Zucker diabetic fatty rats. J Pineal Res. 2013 Aug 12. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12089.
5. Colgan M. Sound Sleep. American Fork UT: Sound Concepts, 2012.
6. Wood B, et al. Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Applied Ergonomics 2013 Mar;44(2):237-40. doi:10.1016/j.apergo. 2012.07.008.
7. Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Green tea catechins, caffeine and body-weight regulation. Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):42-6. Doi10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.02.005.
8. Wang H, et al. DJ: Effects of catechin enriched green tea on body composition. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2010, 18:773-779.
9. Flachs P, et al. Cellular and molecular effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on adipose tissue biology and metabolism. Clin. Sci. (Lond.) 2009;116:1–16.