There are a few specifics when losing weight with an apple-shaped body that, if overlooked, may lead to more frustration than progress. Not to worry, we’ve got your back!
So, how do you lose weight when you’ve got an apple shape?
If you’ve got an apple shape, you’ll need to pay close attention to the type and quantity of carbohydrates you consume as well as incorporate a mix of moderate to high-intensity cardio with strength training in order to maximize your weight loss and reduce the amount of belly fat you may be carrying.
Apple shapes carry more of a worrisome type of belly fat that can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, if left unchecked. Thankfully, there are a few simple, but specific steps that you can take to start decreasing that risk today.
After reading this article you’ll feel more confident knowing:
- What defines “Apple Shaped”
- Main causes of Apple shape
- How to overcome the challenges of having an Apple shape
- Nutrition tips to reduce abdominal belly fat
- How to train most effectively as an Apple shape
- The simple “lever” that can significantly enhance your weight loss efforts
What Is An Apple Shaped Body?
An Apple Shape is someone who carries most of their body fat in their upper body, in particular around the midsection, where it is easiest for them to gain weight.
An Apple shape may also have skinny legs and arms, and for women with an Apple shape, they may also have a larger bust.
A thicker waist becomes a problem when waist circumference exceeds 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men, according to the Center for Disease Control.
What Causes An Apple Shape?
There are 3 main factors that lead to a person developing an apple shape:
The number one driver of having an Apple shape is your genetics, according to research conducted by Duke University.
And, while we can’t change the genes or DNA that we are born with, we can significantly influence how our genes affect our health by focusing on the next two factors.
What we eat, and how much we move can determine which genes get turned on or off.
2. A Diet High in Processed Foods
It is estimated that almost 60% of Americans’ calories come from processed and “ultra-processed” foods, and almost 90% of daily sugar intake is coming from these same foods.
Ultra-processed food products (such as breakfast cereal, cakes, cookies, chips, soda) are high in added sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white flour.
These foods are digested rapidly and easily stored as belly fat. They usually also contain oils that are inflammatory (e.g. canola, soybean and vegetable oil) because these oils give a “moist” texture to the food products.
According to FeastGood’s Registered Dietitian, Brenda Peralta, to maximize weight loss efforts, no more than 20% of your daily diet should be comprised of processed and ultra-processed foods.
3. Sedentary Lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle is one in which more than 6 waking hours per day are spent seated or reclining. The average American is spending 7.7 hours in a sedentary fashion. This lowers our metabolic rate meaning that we burn less calories every day.
In contrast, the CDC defines the minimum amount of activity required for adults to be healthy as 150 minutes of activity weekly, or just under 3 hours per week.
Ultimately, when we combine genetics with a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, we create the perfect conditions for this body shape to develop. And once this body shape develops, it can be rather tricky to try and reshape it.
- Related Article: The 7 Most Effective Ab Exercises For A Flat Stomach, According To Experts
What Challenges Exist When Losing Weight With An Apple Shape?
One of the biggest challenges associated with an Apple shape is that visceral fat (the fat that is stored around your organs) is very pro-inflammatory. Whenever excess inflammation is present in the body, this means that losing weight becomes more difficult.
In addition to that, because apple shapes have a higher percentage of body fat stored around their middle, after initial visceral fat is lost, efforts to lose fat in this particular area will appear to slow down, which can lead to discouragement.
In actual fact, what has happened is that the body will preferentially choose visceral fat to burn first, but when it comes to subcutaneous fat (the fat that is stored under your skin), such as “love handles” or “pooch”, there is no way to force the body to preferentially choose this fat to burn, versus fat stored on the arms or thighs.
Does this mean that Apple shapes might not be able to have a flat tummy?
Absolutely not! While the road to shrinking the apple shape might be difficult, there are ways to make the road shorter, and we’re going to dive into those here.
Top 4 Nutrition Tips For Losing Weight With An Apple Shape
An apple-type body typically responds better to a low- to moderate- carbohydrate diet. In addition, because belly fat in particular is associated with increased inflammation, we want to emphasize anti-inflammatory foods.
Here are our top 4 nutrition tips for losing weight with an Apple shape:
1. Limit Consumption of Pro-inflammatory Oils and Fats
Certain fats and oils that are ultra-processed (soybean and canola oil in particular) are a real problem for Apple shapes because they contribute significantly to inflammation, which in turn slows down fat loss efforts.
When you are choosing oils to use, it’s important that you choose “Cold-Pressed” to ensure that all of the beneficial nutrients remain intact.
Cold-pressed oils are anti-inflammatory in nature, and when consumed within your calorie and macronutrient limits, give a boost to your fat loss efforts.
Examples of cold-pressed oils include Extra-virgin Olive Oil, Flaxseed oil and Avocado oil.
2. Ditch the Refined Carbohydrates
Unfortunately, as an apple-shape, you’re going to be more sensitive to refined carbohydrates found in bread, bagels, muffins, and all of the added sugar in highly-processed foods.
Carrying extra weight around your midsection means that you don’t regulate glucose (sugar) as well as someone with a lower body fat percentage.
As such, it’s important for apple shapes to focus most of their carbohydrate consumption on quality starchy carbs (such as yams, oats, and sprouted grains).
PRO TIP: Breakfast cereals, even those without a lot of added sugar (bran flakes, corn flakes, puffed rice), get digested like sugar because they are so highly refined. Swap these for steel cut oats, or even better a high-protein breakfast such as a veggie egg omelet.
3. Eat More Protein to Keep Hunger at Bay
If you’re dialling back the refined carbs, there’s a good chance you’ll be putting the brakes on snacking, meaning that you want to make sure that you’re staying full for longer after meals. Enter protein.
Because protein is a more complex molecule, consuming protein at each meal ensures that you stay full for longer, as food spends more time in your stomach being digested.
When it comes to weight loss, the ideal range of protein intake is going to be around 0.64-0.82g per lb of bodyweight. If we use 0.82g/lb for this example, a 180lb person would aim to consume 148 grams of protein per day.
To determine how much to consume at each meal, divide total daily protein intake by the number of meals you consume.
In our example, a 180lb person requires roughly 148g of protein per day. If they eat 4 meals per day, that would equate to 37 grams of protein per meal.
As you become more active, particularly if you engage in resistance training, your daily requirement for protein may increase.
4. Eat Colorful Fruits and Veggies Daily
The vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables are responsible for their amazing benefits, not the least of which is their ability to fight inflammation, which provides a big boost to our weight loss efforts.
And yet, according to the CDC in the US, only 1 in 10 adults is getting sufficient fruits and veggies in their daily diet.
On top of being packed with powerful disease- and inflammation-fighting phytonutrients, colorful fruits and veggies give us amazing bang for our calorie buck.
In particular, non-starchy vegetables are incredibly filling, and when paired with protein at each meal, keeping us full for hours so that we avoid unhelpful snacking.
PRO TIP: A good quality salsa (one that doesn’t contain added sugar) makes a great condiment while giving us 3 colors of veggie: Red (tomatoes), Green (peppers) and White (onions).
Top 3 Training Tips For Losing Weight With An Apple Shape
With exercise, choose what you can do consistently and safely 3-5 times per week for at least 30 minutes.
That being said, when looking to reduce visceral abdominal fat, strategically pairing resistance training with cardio will give a powerful boost to your fat loss efforts.
1. Put Your Training Sessions on Your Calendar
The best workout in the world isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on if it doesn’t happen.
Research showed that an astonishing 91% of people who wrote down WHEN and WHERE they were going to work out completed their workouts, compared to less than 40% who didn’t write it down.
Whether you use a digital calendar app, or a paper diary, write the specific time and location where you plan to work out. For example Monday, at 4pm, weight training at Anytime Fitness.
2. Incorporate Resistance Training 4 Times Per Week
When trying to lose weight, it isn’t enough to simply create a calorie deficit with nutrition alone. You can only decrease calories so far before it becomes unsustainable long term.
If you really want to increase your fat loss efforts, you need to increase your Basal Metabolic Rate (the number of calories your body burns at rest each day).
Building muscle through resistance training is akin to upgrading the engine in your car. Every activity you do burns more calories when you have more muscle.
Resistance training is the most difficult form of exercise for the body to adapt to, meaning that even as you get fitter, your exercise-related calorie burn remains high.
For optimal results, aim to include 2-4 sessions per week of resistance training.
- If you are only able to fit in 2 sessions per week, focus on each workout being a full-body workout, doing 3 sets of each exercise and 8-12 reps per set. Be sure to leave 3 days between workouts for optimal recovery from full-body training.
- If you are able to do 4 sessions per week, you can split the workouts into upper body and lower body training sessions. Upper body training can also be split into “push” exercises (e.g. bench press, shoulder press, dips, tricep extensions) and “pull” exercises (e.g. Seated cable rows, lat pulldowns, reverse flys, and bicep curls). A 4-day split might look like this:
- Monday – Upper Body Push
- Tuesday- Lower Body
- Wednesday – Rest
- Thursday – Upper body Pull
- Friday – Core & Abs
- Saturday & Sunday – Rest
If you want a more personalized workout routine or diet plan, book a free consult with one of our coaches.
3. Use Cardio Strategically as a “plateau Buster”
The temptation when embarking on a weight loss program is to try and do all the things all at once (calorie deficit / meal plan / weight training / cardio) but it can be really powerful to keep something “In your back pocket” for when you hit a sticking point with your weight loss.
This isn’t to say to do absolutely zero cardio, but rather to focus first on creating consistency in nutrition and resistance training to allow your body to adapt to an increased workload, and once you hit a plateau with your weight loss, to ramp up your cardio efforts.
PRO TIP: High-Intensity Interval Training is fantastic but can only be done for a short amount of time. Adding on 10-15 minutes of steady-state cardio at the end of a HIIT session gives an extra shot of fat-burning to your efforts.
For example, after a short warmup, you might do 8 minutes of HIIT training, where each round is a 30-second sprint followed by a 90s walk. Once you’ve completed 4 rounds of this, you could move into 10-15 minutes of steady-state cardio to finish off your session.
Stress: The Hidden Lever
While a lot of focus (rightly) goes into training and nutrition, any discussion around weight loss would not be complete without discussing the important role that stress management plays in influencing our fat loss efforts.
In short, high levels of chronic stress lead to chronically elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, and that in turn leads to an increase in central fat storage that is the hallmark of the apple shape.
While this seems rather daunting, it also points to some “low-hanging fruit” that can easily give our fat loss efforts a boost.
Practicing some simple controlled breathing exercises daily for as little as 5 minutes per day can have a significant effect on lowering stress and cortisol levels.
An example of this would be the breathing rhythm 4-6-8 (breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 6 seconds, and slowly breathe out for 8 seconds) practiced for 3-4 rounds once or twice a day.
Frequently Asked Questions
While we’ve covered a lot in this article, there are some specific questions that frequently arise when talking with clients with apple-shaped bodies who have struggled with weight loss in the past.
Where Do Apple Shaped Bodies Lose Weight First?
Unfortunately, there is no way to target specific fat deposits on the body. For those with an apple shape, because belly fat is so prominent relative to thighs and arms, it may appear as though it is the last spot for fat to disappear, but this is more a function of the total volume of fat present in the midsection.
Can Apple Shapes Lose Belly Fat?
Yes. While visceral fat (the fat around organs) is more dangerous, it can also be easier to burn because there is an increased blood supply to visceral fat versus subcutaneous fat (under the skin).
Researchers have shown that one of the easiest ways of doing this is simply increasing your protein intake.
Can You Get Rid Of An Apple-Shaped Body?
Yes, through dedicated nutrition and tracking, you can shrink the belly fat that leads to the “apple” shape.
However, there is a genetic factor that influences where fat is stored on the body, and a return to old habits may lead to the return of the apple shape.
Having an apple-shaped body can be frustrating, and downright worrisome when considering the increased risk of certain health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes that comes with increased belly fat.
However, it is encouraging to know that having an Apple-shaped body is not a life sentence. With a well-thought out nutrition and training plan, along with improving the quality of life through proactive stress management, it is possible to dramatically decrease your apple shape while significantly increasing your overall health for years to come.
What To Read Next
Now that you have a good idea of how to lose weight with an apple-shaped body, here’s what you might want to check out next to really strengthen your understanding of weight loss
- Do Macros Matter for Weight Loss? (Yes, Here’s Why)
- How To Count Calories Without Getting Obsessed (5 Tips)
- I Burned More Calories Than I Ate & Still Gained Weight (Why)
- Can You Undereat And Not Lose Weight?
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About The Author
Jon McLernon (aka Coach Jon) is a Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certified Master Coach. With a background in chemistry and psychology, Coach Jon has a passion for supplement/nutrition science and behavioral psychology. When he’s not helping his clients crush their nutrition goals, he’s usually trying to wrangle a busy toddler (and get him to eat more veggies), or he and his Aussie wife are off on another globetrotting adventure!