Reasons for Gaining Upper Belly Fat

Upper belly fat has many potential causes. Your genetics, sex, diet, exercise program or lack thereof, and stress levels can all contribute to excess upper belly fat. You can, however, change many of these variables to reverse your current condition. Target these elements of your lifestyle to change your body and achieve your fitness goals.

A woman is eating an ice cream cone. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)


Storing excess upper belly fat can occur as a result of a genetic predisposition. However, you do not need to give in to your genetics. By changing your diet and exercise habits, you can fight your genetics and reverse how they are expressed in your physical makeup.

Male Pattern Fat Storage

Upper belly fat can also manifest as a result of male pattern fat storage. Females tend to distribute their fatty acid stores to the hips, thighs and buttocks. On the other hand, men typically store fat around the midsection. However, women can also display male pattern fat storage, particularly during the hormonal changes associated with menopause. Like genetics, this predisposition can be reversed through lifestyle changes.

Total Caloric Intake

Over-eating or taking in too many calories can cause upper belly fat storage. Your caloric intake minus your daily calories burned determines whether or not you will store body fat. However, not all calories store as readily. For example, the thermic effect of protein makes it far less likely to be stored than carbohydrates or fats, according to "The Abs Diet."


Our bodies' primary source of fuel, carbohydrates, readily store as body fat when over-eaten. Any carbohydrates exceeding the amount you burn or use for other body processes can store as upper belly fat. Moreover, eating refined carbs such as white rice or flour increases the likelihood of body fat storage because of the effect on the hormone, insulin, according to "The Fat Burning Bible."

Saturated Fat

Like carbohydrates, excess saturated fats also readily store as body fat, according to "Combat the Fat." By switching these fats out for healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, you can decrease your likelihood of heart disease and promote healthy body weight. For example, replace saturated fats with olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds or natural peanut butter.


Stress can cause you to store more belly fat. According to "The Abs Diet," the stress hormone, cortisol acts to stop fat burning and promotes belly fat storage. Chronic stress, poor nutrition and lack of sleep can all escalate this effect to increase upper belly fat.

Lack of Exercise

One of the most important things you can do to decrease belly fat is engage in both resistance and cardiovascular exercise. A combination of the two helps you lose belly fat and build muscle simultaneously, leading to better results than you'd achieve with cardio or weight training alone.

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