Skip to Content

Does puberty cause belly fat?

Belly fat is a common concern among teenagers, especially during puberty. As hormones fluctuate and bodies change shape, many teens notice new fat deposits around their midsection. This leads to the question: does puberty directly cause belly fat?

What causes belly fat during puberty?

Puberty doesn’t directly deposit fat around the midsection. The hormonal changes of puberty lead to growth spurts, muscle growth, and increased body fat overall. This means teens tend to gain weight during puberty. Where this weight settles is influenced by genetics, diet, and exercise habits.

For many teens, the weight gained during puberty is more likely to settle around the midsection. This is because hormonal changes during puberty promote fat storage around the belly:

  • Rising estrogen levels cause more fat storage around the hips, thighs, and belly in girls
  • Rising testosterone levels promote increased belly fat in boys
  • Cortisol levels also rise, further increasing belly fat accumulation

Additionally, insulin resistance rises during puberty. This makes it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it, especially around the midsection.

Other factors that contribute to belly fat during puberty

While hormones do promote belly fat during puberty, other factors also play a role:

  • Diet – An unhealthy diet high in processed foods, sugars, and saturated fats can easily lead to weight gain during puberty.
  • Lack of exercise – Teens tend to become less active as academic demands increase. Without regular activity, burning excess calories becomes more difficult.
  • Stress – School, relationships, and other pressures often spike during the teen years. High stress increases cortisol and insulin levels, making belly fat more likely.
  • Genetics – Genes influence where teens carry excess weight. Those prone to carrying weight in the midsection will deposit more fat around the belly during puberty.

While puberty itself doesn’t directly cause belly fat, the hormonal shifts make it more likely. A healthy lifestyle is important during puberty to counteract these changes.

Typical belly fat patterns during puberty

Both girls and boys tend to gain belly fat during puberty, but patterns differ:

Belly fat in girls

  • Tends to increase after the start of menstrual cycles as estrogen rises
  • Fat often deposits around the hips and thighs as well as the belly
  • Subcutaneous fat (under the skin) increases more than visceral fat (around organs)

Belly fat in boys

  • Tends to increase later in puberty as testosterone rises
  • Fat often concentrates around the belly more than hips/thighs
  • Visceral fat increases more than subcutaneous fat

Is belly fat during puberty normal?

Mild to moderate fat gain during puberty is normal, healthy even. Increased body fat provides energy for growth and sexual development. However, excessive belly fat is concerning and may indicate:

  • Genetic predisposition to carry weight in the midsection
  • Insulin resistance or prediabetes
  • Poor diet and lack of exercise
  • High stress levels
  • Other medical conditions

Teens who are overweight or have excessive belly fat should see a doctor to check for underlying issues. Maintaining a healthy weight should always be balanced with a healthy body image.

Can you lose belly fat during puberty?

It is possible to lose belly fat during puberty through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. However, extreme dieting is never recommended since caloric needs increase during puberty. Safe ways to trim down belly fat include:

  • Cutting back on sugary drinks, snacks, and processed foods
  • Choosing lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Engaging in at least 60 minutes of exercise per day
  • Reducing stress through yoga, meditation, or counseling
  • Getting enough sleep to balance hormones

Puberty causes major bodily changes, but remains a healthy time of growth. While frustrating at times, increased belly fat is often temporary. Maintaining healthy habits helps teens stay on track through puberty and beyond.


Puberty itself does not directly cause belly fat, but hormonal shifts tend to redistribute weight to the midsection. Belly fat remains common during puberty thanks to growth spurts, decreased activity, and lifestyle factors. Mild fat gain is normal, but excessive belly fat may indicate underlying issues. Staying active and eating well helps teens manage belly fat during this transitional time.