The dreaded saddle bags
Having had a few conversations with my female boot camp, personal training and nutrition clients’ recently one issue that has been raised is the dreaded saddle bags – the body fat that sits under the buttock on the hamstrings and on the groin. I get asked “what can I do about this”, “what exercises can I do to burn this fat”. I often don’t have the time to go in to a detailed response to these questions so I thought I would write a blog post on it.
The first thing I would say is that there are no specific exercises that are going to burn the fat in those areas. Doing butt exercises, groin squeezes and hamstrings exercises will make those muscles stronger but they will not directly burn fat from those area. You see the deposition of fat in those areas is hormonally mediated (but more on that in a minute).
The exercises you can do burn fat in those areas is what is known as body comp work. This involves doing exercises that uses as much muscle as possible – basically whole body exercises. Another gem you need to know is that when you train you should be working so hard you get a build up of lactate in the muscle to point that that muscle is burning and you can barely move it any more. These types of training will often times make you feel a little nauseous. You should do this type of training for around 30-40 minutes for a good effect. This is the type of training we do at boot camp so just ask some of our regular customers what this involves but here is a sneak preview
The next thing you need to know and much more importantly is that these areas of body fat are hormonally mediated. Basically the more oestrogen you have in your body (either in total – or unopposed by other hormones such as progesterone) – the more fat you will store on the lower body. This doesn’t need to be the oestrogen that your ovaries produce 9as many menopausal women have saddle bags as well) but the oestrogen that is made in your fat cells and the oestrogen you come in to contact with through your environment.
Fat cells contain an enzyme called aromatase. Its job is to create oestrogen from testosterone. This mechanism is perfect for post menopausal females as fat cells and the adrenal glands produce oestrogen as the ovaries slow down production. However this mechanism goes awry when you are overweight. You basically have more fat cells with more aromatase activity releasing oestrogen in to your system. So the best thing you can do is lose weight and reduce the activity of aromatase.
The best way to lose weight is to eat a Palaeolithic style diet. The basic premise of this is so easy it’s insane. Before you eat a food ask yourself – “was this food around 10,000 years ago?” if you answer “yes” then eat it, if you answer “No” don’t eat it! For example was a chicken, nuts carrots or an apple around 10,000 years ago – yes so eat them. Was a doughnut, snickers, pasta or bread and jam around 10,000 years ago – no so don’t eat them. Eating Paleo means you basically eat protein in the way of meat, fish, seafood or poultry with lots of vegetables and snack on nuts, seeds and fruits. I have written on this before so read these blog posts
Staunch Paleo diet enforcers also suggest we avoid grains, legumes and dairy. I would be a little bit more moderate on this. I suggest avoiding all gluten containing grains (see below) and eating other grains like rice, corn, millet and quinoa infrequently.
It is a good idea to avoid dairy if you are dairy intolerant, however if you are not intolerant probiotic yoghurts can be enjoyed. I would also not eat too many legumes – you may enjoy some humus of falafel from time to time but I would not eat soy products
The liver’s job is to detoxify chemicals that we come into contact with, and it also has to detoxify steroid hormones such as oestrogen. The liver has 3 ways to do this – through methylation, glururonidation and sulphation. Bear with me on this, but the take home point is to eat foods that provide you with a host of B vitamins (this is not grains – the best source of B vitamins is animal protein and vegetables), foods that contain sulphur (which is eggs, onions, leeks, garlic) and foods that contain glucuronic acid which is broccoli, apples and grapefruit.
There is another group of foods that are “super foods” for the liver packed full of indoles, sulphur and other nutrients that help oestrogen detoxification – cruciferous vegetables. These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, radishes and chard. Watercress is also particularly good and is packed full on these nutrients. However these vegetables must be eaten raw or lightly steamed as boiling or microwaving them destroys all the active cancer killing nutrients.
Another area where women constantly fall down with their diet is that they don’t eat enough protein. Women MUST eat enough protein, especially vegetarians, as liver detoxification is also determined by amino acids not just vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Once again mat, fish, seafood and poultry provide amino acids – so doing things like juice fasts as a detox is a bad idea as juice does not contain any protein.
Take home point: Eat protein at every meal (yes including breakfast) then fill up on cruciferous and other vegetables, which contain indoles and sulphurophane that detoxify oestrogen. Snack on fruits, nuts and seeds.
Chemicals in our environment
Unfortunately we are bombarded with chemicals in our environment such as our drinking water (traces of Prozac and the pill have been found in our water), pesticides, plastics, cosmetics, HRT and the pill and industrial chemicals and heavy metals. These xenoestrogens chemical shape is identical to the shape of bodies own oestrogen and can bind on to oestrogen receptors in the body. However these chemical oestrogens are much more powerful than our bodies own oestrogen and send the cells haywire. Here is a link to an extensive series of articles on the topic.
Decrease sources of xenoestrogens
- Filter your drinking water with a Britta filter.
- Use a shower filter (Aki water filter).
- Eliminate plastics by storing your food in parchment paper, glass jars and cook in stainless steel.
- Eat organic food
- Reduce medications (especially the pill – it depletes folic acid – consider the coil)
- No spray / fake tans (yes I know you will hate this one, but do you want to be brown with fat legs for the rest of your life?)
- Avoid parabens found in creams, shampoo, moisturisers, toothpaste, cosmetics and deodorant.
There are certain nutrients in supplement form that can help you get rid of the saddle bags as well. These include DIM, sulphurophane, calcium D glucurate and fibre. DIM and sulphurophane are concentrated extracts of the nutrients found in cruciferous vegetables, where as calcium D glucurate is a concentrated form of glucuronic acid found in apples, broccoli and grapefruit – it is not a form of calcium. You could also consider doing an oestrogen based nutritional cleanse
- Do high intensity interval type exercise including using resistance equipment
- Lose weight. Eat protein at every meal (yes including breakfast) then fill up on cruciferous and other vegetables. Snack on fruits, nuts and seeds
- Decrease sources of xenoestrogens
- Use foods and supplements to detoxify oestrogens or do an oestrogen based cleanse