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How To Get Rid Of Hormonal Belly? Signs, Causes & Helpful Tips 2023

Ellie Busby

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

how to get rid of hormonal belly
Tips Help You Lose Hormonal Belly Fat Effectively. Photo: Shutterstock & Team Design

Unexplained weight gain around your belly can be annoying, especially if you’re doing all the “right” things. In fact, it might be due to your hormones rather than your eating habits. In this article, we go through why it happens and how to get rid of a hormonal belly.

Your hormones play a crucial role in regulating your hunger, fullness, metabolism, weight gain, and fat storage. Many conditions, such as diabetes, underactive thyroid, stress, and menopause, can increase hormone belly fat.

Read on to learn why you have a hormonal belly and tips to get rid of it.

3 Tips To Lose Hormonal Belly Fat Effectively

Getting rid of hormonal belly fat needs a combination of dietary changes, a healthy eating schedule, exercise, and lifestyle. Here are our top three tips to get started (read on for more below).

  1. Time-restricted eating: eat within an 8-10 hour window every day (e.g., 9:00-19:00).
  2. Eat a whole-food plant-based diet: focus on eating as many different plant-based foods as you can, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  3. Do high-intensity exercise: the best option is high-intensity sprinting for 10 minutes a session, a minimum of three times per week.

How To Get Rid Of A Hormonal Belly?

Whatever the cause of your belly fat, here are some things everyone can do to balance hormones and reduce hormone belly.

Time-Restricted Eating

Eating late at night is one of the worst things you can do for weight gain and belly fat. That’s why time-restricted eating – where you eat within a certain timeframe during the day – might help you lose weight more than standard calorie restriction. 

Eating at night encourages weight gain (especially abdominal weight gain) because it disrupts your:

  • Sleep hormones 
  • Hunger hormones
  • Insulin levels

Sleep Hormones

Your metabolism is slowest at night. So the later you eat, the more likely you are to gain weight[1]. During the daytime, your metabolism is faster[2], you burn more energy, and there’s a lower risk of weight gain. So the earlier you eat in the day, the better.

Hunger Hormones

To understand your hunger levels, you’ve first got to understand how your hunger hormones work. Ghrelin is your “hunger” hormone – it tells your brain when you’re hungry. Leptin is your “fullness” hormone – it tells your brain when you’re full and to stop eating.

Small studies[3] suggest that eating at night lowers leptin levels and increases ghrelin levels. This means you’re more likely to eat more, resulting in weight gain.

Insulin Levels

Late-night snacking is the worst time for your insulin levels and weight gain because your body is less sensitive to insulin at night[4].

So the later you eat dinner or a snack, the higher your blood sugar levels and the greater your risk of developing insulin resistance and hormonal belly fat.

Why Time-Restricted Eating Helps

Fasting can help burn hormonal belly fat by increasing the number of gut bacteria associated with better insulin sensitivity and healthy weight loss[5].

One type of fasting is called ‘time-restricted eating, where you eat all your food within an 8-12 hour window each day. This discourages late-night eating and reduces the risk of a hormonal belly. 

Get 8 Hours Of Sleep Per Night

Craving unhealthy foods when you’re sleep-deprived? You’re not imagining it. Studies show[6] that a chronic lack of sleep increases your risk of:

  • Weight gain
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease

Lack Of Sleep Goes To Your Belly

A large study[7] found that people who sleep less tend to have a larger waist. Even depriving people of sleep for just two weeks[8] leads to eating more calories and gaining hormonal belly fat. 

So sleep deprivation increases hunger and increases body weight, but it doesn’t seem to change your hunger hormone levels[9] – leptin and ghrelin. So what could it be? 

It’s more about how your fat and sugar intake changes when you’re sleep-deprived.

You Eat More Sugar And Fat When You’re Sleep Deprived

It turns out it’s not just about calories – sleep deprivation changes your food choices. Studies show[10] that people who frequently sleep 6 hours or less per night eat less healthily. Specifically, when you’re low on sleep, you’re more likely to eat more fat[9] and simple sugars[11].

That’s a problem for weight gain because fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient.  Simple sugars also raise your blood sugar more quickly than complex carbohydrates, putting you at risk of insulin resistance and abdominal obesity.

So, make it a priority to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Set an alarm to remind yourself to wind down by a certain time, and establish a relaxing bedtime routine that makes it easier to fall asleep faster.

Do High-Intensity Exercise

It’s crucial to exercise to burn body fat and boost your metabolism[12]. But there’s one type of exercise that is particularly good for getting rid of hormonal belly fat – without losing muscle mass.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is great for getting rid of belly fat because it’s more time efficient[13] than moderate-intensity exercise.

You can do high-intensity aerobic (i.e., sprinting) or resistance (i.e. weight lifting), but aerobic exercise is best[14] to reduce belly fat – especially sprinting[15].

Whoever you are, you should be doing high-intensity exercise a few times per week to get rid of hormone belly fat.

However, suppose you’re not into high-intensity exercise at all. In that case, Tai Chi[16] could also be a good option for reducing body weight, and waist circumference and lowering cholesterol levels.

Eat More High-Fiber Foods

Scientists have found that the gut bacteria of overweight people are different[17]. An imbalanced gut microbiome can trigger insulin resistance[18], leading to abdominal weight gain.

But a healthy gut microbiome can help balance your blood sugar[19] and make it easier to lose weight[20] – especially around your belly.

However, it’s not as simple as saying certain bacteria cause weight gain. In fact, it seems to be the diversity of gut microbes that matters more.

Menopause And Microbiome

This also explains why postmenopausal women are at higher risk of a hormonal belly. Menopause is associated with a lower microbial diversity[21] – perhaps because some gut bacteria “feed” on female sex hormones such as estrogen.

When estrogen levels decrease during menopause, the estrogen-metabolizing bacteria die, making it even more important for menopausal women to support their microbiome through diet.

Increase Microbial Diversity With Fiber

The best way to increase microbial diversity is to eat more plant-based foods. For example, oats are high in healthy fibers, and eating them daily has been shown to reduce belly fat[22]. Every plant food contains different types of fiber which feed different gut microbes. 

The more different plants you eat, the more diverse your gut colony is. You should aim to get a minimum of 30 different plant foods a week for optimal gut microbe balance[23]

Drink Less Alcohol (One Type In Particular)

We’ve all seen many “beer bellies,” – but why does alcohol lead to gaining weight around your middle, and why mostly in men[24]

First off, alcohol is high in calories[25]. And men suffer from beer bellies more[26] than women because men drink more alcohol than women – three times more[27], to be exact.

But the type of alcohol matters, too (there’s a reason it’s called a beer belly). Men tend to drink more beer[28] than women, which is higher in calories and carbohydrates than wine or spirits.

Also, beer is made with hops, which are high in phytoestrogens[29] and may contribute to higher estrogen levels in male beer drinkers.

To avoid belly fat, choose wine and spirits over beer, and avoid binge drinking. One alcoholic drink 2-3 times per week is typically okay. One standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, 1 ounce of liquor or spirits, and 5 ounces of wine. 

Reduce Stress Levels

Being stressed occasionally is normal, but being stressed all the time can increase your risk of higher body fat – especially hormonal belly fat.

Our primary stress hormone is called cortisol. Under normal circumstances, cortisol helps determine our sleep-wake cycle. High cortisol in the morning wakes us up, while low levels of cortisol in the evening help us get ready to go to bed.

However, cortisol is also released when we’re stressed because it activates our “fight-or-flight” mode. So feeling sensitive to stress or “on edge” all the time means your cortisol levels are probably too high – and chronically raised cortisol is linked to abdominal obesity[30]

You can balance your cortisol levels by:

  • Hugging your partner. Studies show[30] that hugging your romantic partner before a stressful event, such as an interview, can lower your cortisol response to the event. (Strangely, this only works for women.)
  • Fixing your sleep. Sleep apnea, when you stop breathing for short periods during the night, may be associated with changes in cortisol levels[31] – especially in children. If you think you might have sleep apnea, losing weight and doing more exercise can help.
  • Eating more healthily. Studies show[32] that eating a whole food diet for eight weeks – with no refined or processed foods and minimal added salt – can reduce stress levels and balance morning cortisol levels[33].

Signs Of Hormonal Belly

  1. Feeling hungry all the time
  2. Gaining weight around your belly
  3. Losing muscle mass, especially in the arms and legs
  4. Sugar cravings
  5. Eating more high-fat unhealthy foods
  6. Never feeling completely full
  7. Mood swings

What Causes A Hormonal Belly?

There are different causes of hormone belly. It differs a bit between men and women, but many of the overarching causes are still the same:  

  • Insulin resistance/type 2 diabetes
  • Too much stress
  • Not enough good quality sleep
  • Eating too much sugar
  • Underactive thyroid (e.g., Hashimoto’s)
  • Environmental toxins (e.g., bisphenol-A in plastic packaging)

In Females

  • Menopause
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

In Males

  • Low testosterone levels
  • Drinking too much beer

Final Thought

Hormonal belly fat can develop for many reasons, but a lot of the advice on how to get rid of it is the same. Remember, belly fat isn’t always your fault – but you need to know how to get rid of hormonal belly fat in order to do something about it. 

So, whether you’re going through menopause or all that beer is finally catching up with you, follow our steps to balance your hormones and reduce belly fat.


+ 33 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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Ellie Busby

Written by:

Ellie Busby, MS, RDN

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Ellie Busby is a Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT) and nutrition writer. She holds a bachelor's in Chemistry and a Masters in Nutrition. Ellie specializes in plant-based nutrition for health and fitness. She is also the Founder of Vojo Health, a personalized nutrition service based on genetic testing.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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Academic Publishing Division of Informa PLC
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WHO

Database from World Health Organization

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Journal of Neurology

Peer-reviewed Medical Journal

American Academy of Neurology Journal
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ScienceDirect

Bibliographic Database of Scientific and Medical Publications

Dutch publisher Elsevier
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Wiley Online Library

American Multinational Publishing Company

Trusted Source
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. National Public Health Agency

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
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Trusted Source

Database from U.S. National Library of Medicine

U.S. Federal Government
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U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Federal Agency

U.S Department of Health and Human Services
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PubMed Central

Database From National Institute Of Health

U.S National Library of Medicine
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