On average, 2.9k of you search ‘how to get rid of love handles’ every month. If losing them will give you more confidence, we’re here to help, but know that the deposits of fat around the side of your waist are completely normal. In fact, you evolved the tendency as a way of cocooning some of your body’s most key functions.
‘This area is one of the most common sites to store fat due to a primitive mechanism designed to protect visceral and reproductive organs,’ says body composition expert Elliott Upton, a NASM-certified personal trainer and Head of LiveUP Online Training at Ultimate Performance.
That said, excess fat in this area counts as visceral fat (fat around the organs), which could be harmful to your health since it can inflame tissues and organs and narrow your blood vessels, thereby causing heart issues. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but if you think you could fall into this camp, we’d advise seeing a GP for individual advice.
Otherwise, the best route to take is one that betters your body composition with sustainable and healthy habits, and that’s exactly what we’re here to debunk. Behold, a complete guide on how to get rid of love handles.
What causes ‘love handles’?
‘Essentially, if you are consuming more calories than you expend through activity, you will gain fat, and the hips is one of the potential places this extra fat will be stored,’ says Upton.
Tom Ward, Director of Personal Training at embody Fitness, notes that: ‘Body fat will be distributed around different areas of the body depending on a person’s genetic predisposition to fat storage sites.’ However, as previously mentioned, said predisposition is all about giving your body a buffer between your visceral and reproductive organs and the outside world.
So, it’s sort of your body’s way of protecting itself.
Are ‘love handles’ genetic?
Partially. As with most things related to your body, there’s a blend of your genetic predisposition to certain fat-storage sites, as well as your lifestyle decisions around what you eat, how much you exercise and your stress levels – all of which we’ll come onto below.
How long does it take to get rid of ‘love handles’?
This is super variable on the exercise and diet approach you adopt, and depends on how much time you put in. ‘The more compliant you are with your training and nutrition programme, the faster you will reduce them,’ says Upton.
As ever, you definitely shouldn’t go on a restrictive binge diet, rather opt for a realistic and gradual plan. Ward explains that a healthy fat loss is around 0.5 – 1% body fat per week, which means, ‘You should see a noticeable difference to body fat levels within 8-12 weeks if following a structured exercise and nutrition plan.’
Exercises for love handles
As with any other part of your body, you can’t spot reduce fat. You also can’t pick and choose where your body sheds the weight first. But with regular exercise and a healthy diet you will eventually hit the area in question.
Ward suggests, ‘A structured and balanced weight training regime targeting your body’s biggest muscle groups, as this will have an optimal effect on excess body fat.
‘We would generally choose exercises such as squats, deadlifts and lunges, progressing or regressing the exercise based on your current ability. Generally working in a heart rate range of 80-85% of a persons maximum will see the best fat burning effect.’
Love handle workouts
Both experts agree that while there are certainly benefits to running, if getting rid of love handles is your goal, then weight training is a better use of your time. ‘You will get more bang for your buck in a shorter time period,’ says Upton.
‘If you are trying to lose fat and shed some unwanted pounds, lifting hard and heavy is incredibly effective.’
You should be aiming for three to four gym sessions per week. But it’s worth noting what you do outside the gym, too.
‘Many people think their hour in the gym will cut it for weight loss, but if you are sedentary for the other 23 hours in a day, your energy expenditure will be low and you will struggle to lose weight quickly,’ says Upton. ‘Your activity levels play a big part in whether you successfully lose weight or not.’
‘One of the biggest weight loss tools that everyone overlooks is something called ‘non-exercise activity thermogenesis’ (NEAT).
‘Put simply, this is the energy you use doing day-to-day activities that aren’t exercise – things like shopping, cleaning, walking and even fidgeting at your desk. It can be a game-changer where weight loss is concerned.’ So taking the stairs, walking to the shops rather than driving and a 10 minute stretch in the morning all count.
Diet for love handles
A healthy diet will help keep you healthy, but for your diet to aid in fat loss you need to control your intake. ‘Aim for a 10-20% daily calorie deficit for controlled and sustained fat loss,’ says Ward. ‘The old saying “you can’t out train a bad diet” is often proved correct.’
Note, when we say ‘diet’, we don’t mean in the traditional short-term sense, we mean a lifestyle change, implementing meals and foods that you’ll eat forever.
‘Diets that are higher in protein, higher in fruits and vegetables, higher in fibre, lower in processed ingredients, and have a lower glycemic load are ultimately better for fat loss,’ says Upton.
‘Protein and fibre will help keep you satiated and less hungry between meals and eating lower-calorie, higher-volume, nutrient-dense foods like foods and vegetables will also fill you up more than nutrient-dense, lower-volume processed foods.
‘We recommend building every meal around a quality protein from meat, fish or plants. When losing weight, we want to preserve muscle tissue which keeps our metabolic rate higher. Protein is an essential for the repair and growth of muscle tissue while training, and is even more important while in a calorie deficit.’
Prioritise these foods:
- Protein (think nuts, beans, fish and meat)
- Green vegetables
- Healthy fats (such as those found in avocados and almond butter)
‘A good combination of high protein, healthy fats and plentiful greens will keep your blood sugar stable, your energy levels constant and take you off the blood sugar ‘rollercoaster’ of energy spikes and crashes, which will make your diet more sustainable,’ notes Upton.
You can compound these efforts by largely avoiding these foods:
- Processed foods
- Foods with lots of added sugar
- High calorie drinks, such as fizzy drinks
The link between love handles and stress
While it’s only one piece of the puzzle with things like weight lifting, NEAT and a healthy diet being some of the other pieces, stress can play a part. ‘High levels of stress can lead to elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body, which have been shown to have a negative influence on body fat storage especially around the mid section,’ says Ward.
‘Stress management strategies such as yoga, controlled deep breathing or mindfulness may have a positive influence on cortisol levels and play a part in reducing body fat levels.’
Now you know all about ditching love handles, this is how to get rid of ‘bingo wings’.
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