Fat. We’ve all got it, and we all need it. Too much, however, is not a good thing. In the quest for better health, fitness, and longevity, losing visceral fat is emerging as a crucial goal for many.

Even thin people, myself included, need to be concerned about visceral fat. Anyone can have a significant amount of visceral fat, regardless of how they look or how fit they appear.

This hidden enemy, lurking within the abdominal cavity, poses significant risks to our health, far beyond what meets the eye. Reducing visceral fat is not about improving our appearance; it’s about enhancing our overall well-being.

Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Losing visceral fat

Your Complete Guide to Losing Visceral Fat

Understanding Visceral Fat

What is visceral fat? It’s not just any fat – it’s fat stored within the abdominal cavity, wrapping around your vital organs, including the liver, stomach, and intestines. It’s sometimes referred to as “active fat” because it can actively increase the risk of severe health problems.

Unlike its counterpart, subcutaneous fat, which is stored just beneath the skin, visceral fat plays a unique role in our bodies, affecting our health in ways we might not even be aware of.

High levels of visceral fat, also called hidden fat, are associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndromes, making it a critical factor to monitor for anyone concerned with their health.

Visceral Fat vs Skinny Fat

A “skinny fat” person is typically defined as under-muscled. They may or may not have much visceral fat, and you probably wouldn’t see it if they did. I’ve been under-muscled most of my adult life but have relatively low levels of visceral fat. If I didn’t workout regularly, that would be different.

While “skinny fat” refers to a body composition with a seemingly paradoxical combination of average weight and high body fat percentage, visceral fat relates explicitly to the fat stored around internal organs.

A “skinny fat” person may have a significant amount of visceral fat, contributing to the health risks associated with this condition. Conversely, not all people with high levels of visceral fat are skinny fat; some may visibly appear overweight or obese.

An alternative and often-used definition for “skinny fat” is someone with a normal body weight and high visceral fat. Under the first definition, I’m considered skinny fat, but under the second I am not. Either of these definitions however would include a metabolically unhealthy profile.

Visceral Fat vs Body Fat

The primary difference between visceral fat and body fat lies in where the fat is stored. While body fat includes all fat reserves in the body, visceral fat specifically refers to fat stored deep in the abdominal cavity.

Although excessive body fat is a health concern, visceral fat is particularly harmful due to its metabolic activity and proximity to vital organs. It has a more direct link to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.

Measuring total body fat can be relatively straightforward and done through various methods accessible to the general public. In contrast, accurately measuring visceral fat often requires more sophisticated imaging technologies typically found in medical settings.

While all visceral fat is body fat, not all body fat is visceral. The distinction between the two is crucial for understanding health risks and effectively targeting efforts to reduce fat.

Reducing visceral fat, in particular, can have significant health benefits, including lowered risk of chronic diseases and improved metabolic health.

What causes high visceral fat?

High visceral fat accumulation is primarily influenced by lifestyle factors, dietary habits, genetic predispositions, and hormonal imbalances.

Consuming a diet rich in high-calorie foods, sugary beverages, and unhealthy fats, such as trans fats and saturated fats found in processed and fast foods, directly contributes to the increase of visceral fat around the abdominal area.

Additionally, a sedentary lifestyle marked by a lack of regular exercise and low muscle mass can further exacerbate the situation, as both factors lead to a reduction in metabolic rate and calorie burning, facilitating the storage of fat, including visceral fat.

Genetic factors also play a crucial role, as those with a family history of obesity may be more predisposed to storing fat in the abdominal region.

Hormonal imbalances, particularly those related to stress and the hormone cortisol, as well as insulin resistance, are significant contributors to visceral fat accumulation. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels are closely linked to increased abdominal fat storage.

Similarly, insulin resistance can lead to higher blood sugar levels and more significant fat accumulation around the organs.

Age and hormonal changes, especially during menopause for women, can alter fat distribution as well, storing more fat around the abdomen.

In addition, excessive alcohol consumption is known to contribute to visceral fat increase due to its high-calorie content and the way it can alter metabolism and hormone levels.

Poor sleep patterns, including lack of sleep or low-quality sleep, have also been identified as factors contributing to weight gain and an increase in visceral fat, affecting hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism.

It’s a lot, isn’t it? Addressing these various factors through comprehensive lifestyle changes, however, can significantly impact visceral fat levels and overall health, even in the face of genetic predispositions.

Assessing Your Visceral Fat Levels

Determining the amount of visceral fat you carry is more complex than stepping on a scale. It often requires specific tests, like imaging scans.

A DEXA (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan can provide information about visceral fat levels. Originally developed to assess bone density, DEXA scans have become a valuable tool for measuring body composition, including body fat percentage, muscle mass, and bone mineral density.

When it comes to visceral fat, DEXA scans can differentiate between subcutaneous and visceral fat, giving a detailed picture of fat distribution in the body. You should receive guidance on appropriate levels of visceral fat for you when you get your assessment results.

I received a scan recently and learned a lot from it, even beyond visceral fat. The scan was easy, quick, and unbelievably inexpensive. It’s one of the most convenient forms of preventive care within our reach.

Why is it important to reduce visceral fat?

Reducing visceral fat is crucial because high levels of it are linked to various health issues, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, insulin resistance, inflammatory diseases, and other metabolic syndromes.

Visceral fat is considered more dangerous than subcutaneous fat because of its location near vital organs and its role in producing inflammatory markers and hormones that can negatively affect the body’s functions.

Reducing Visceral Fat

Diet and Nutrition

Diet plays a pivotal role in managing visceral fat. Emphasizing whole foods rich in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, alongside lean proteins and healthy fats, can make a significant impact.

Conversely, reducing intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-fat meals is crucial. Incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense foods not only helps reduce visceral fat but also supports overall health.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Exercise is a powerful tool in the battle against visceral fat. Both aerobic exercises (like walking, cycling, or swimming) and strength training are effective.

The key is consistency and intensity; aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week is a solid guideline.

Aerobic exercise is not enough, however, a common misconception. Resistance training is critical. Resistance training has been shown to have unique and beneficial effects in managing and reducing visceral fat. Here’s why.

1. Boosting Metabolism

Resistance training effectively builds lean muscle mass and increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR). A higher BMR means that your body burns more calories at rest, aiding in overall fat loss and reducing visceral fat.

Resistance training can also lead to a significant increase in oxygen consumption after exercise. This means your body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate even after the workout, further contributing to fat loss.

2. Regulating Blood Sugar

Building muscle through resistance training can improve insulin sensitivity, which helps in better regulation of blood sugar levels.

Improved insulin sensitivity means your body is more efficient at using glucose for energy rather than storing it as fat, reducing visceral fat accumulation.

3. Hormone Regulation

Engaging in regular resistance training can alter hormone levels that influence fat storage.

For instance, it can increase levels of hormones that promote fat breakdown and decrease levels of hormones that encourage fat storage.

These hormonal changes can help specifically in targeting visceral fat reduction.

4. Direct Impact on Visceral Fat

Studies have shown that resistance training can directly affect visceral fat reduction, independent of overall weight loss. This means that even if the scale doesn’t show a significant drop in weight, the internal distribution of fat is improving, which is crucial for health.

Beyond the direct impact on visceral fat, resistance training improves cardiovascular health, strength and endurance, and overall physical and mental health. These improvements can indirectly support visceral fat reduction by fostering a healthier lifestyle.

Lifestyle Changes

Beyond diet and exercise, other lifestyle factors play a role in managing visceral fat. Ensuring adequate, quality sleep each night and managing stress through meditation or yoga can help regulate the hormones that control fat storage.

Additionally, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake are essential steps in reducing visceral fat and improving overall health. While smoking is often associated with reduced body weight, smokers tend to have larger waist circumferences and more visceral fat than non-smokers.

How to get rid of visceral fat quickly?

Reducing visceral fat is a journey, not a sprint. Your fastest route involves a healthy diet, regular exercise, and resistance training.

Regular check-ups with a healthcare professional can help track your progress. Adjust your strategies as needed, and remember, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to keeping visceral fat at bay long-term.

What are some signs you are losing visceral fat?

Losing visceral fat can have a profound impact on your overall health. Still, because it’s hidden around your organs, it’s more complex to measure than subcutaneous fat (the fat you can pinch with your fingers). However, several signs indicate you’re going in the right direction.

Reduced waist circumference

One of the most tangible signs is a reduction in waist size. Since visceral fat accumulates in the abdominal region, a decrease in waist circumference can indicate that you’re losing visceral fat.

Decreased overall body fat

While these scales and devices might not specifically isolate visceral fat, a decrease in overall body fat percentage can suggest that you’re losing visceral fat, especially if you’re engaging in activities known to target it, like aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Improved insulin sensitivity

Lowering visceral fat improves insulin sensitivity, leading to more stable blood sugar levels. If you’ve noticed better fasting blood sugar readings or improved HbA1c levels, it’s a good sign that your metabolic health is improving, possibly due to a reduction in visceral fat.

Reduced blood pressure

High levels of visceral fat are linked to increased blood pressure. Observing a decrease in blood pressure without significant changes in diet or medication can be another indicator of visceral fat loss.

It’s important to note that these signs can vary from person to person and may be influenced by other factors unrelated to visceral fat loss.

For a more accurate assessment, consider methods like DEXA scans, which can precisely measure visceral fat, or consult with a healthcare professional who can evaluate changes in your health markers and body composition.

Losing visceral fat is a gradual process, and the signs of success might not be immediately apparent. Consistency in your health and fitness regimen is key, as is patience.

Celebrate the small victories, like feeling better and enjoying a more active lifestyle, as these are significant indicators of your progress.

FAQs on Losing Visceral Fat

Is visceral fat hard to lose?

Visceral fat can be more responsive to diet and exercise than subcutaneous fat, making it relatively easier to lose with a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and lifestyle changes despite its profound health implications.

Is visceral fat the same as body fat?

No, visceral fat is a specific type of body fat stored deep within the abdominal cavity around vital organs, distinct from subcutaneous fat located just beneath the skin.

Final Thoughts on Losing Visceral Fat

Reducing visceral fat is crucial for more than just aesthetic reasons—it’s about improving your health from the inside out.

Taking proactive steps can significantly reduce your visceral fat levels and pave the way for a healthier future. Remember, every step counts on this journey, and it’s never too late to start making changes.

Don’t wait for a better moment to start reducing your visceral fat—it’s time to take action today. Whether making small changes to your diet, incorporating more physical activity into your day, or simply consulting with a healthcare professional for personalized advice, every step forward is a step toward a happier, healthier you.