Visceral Fat: The Fat You Should Be Worried About

14th July 2021
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Visceral Fat: The Fat You Should Be Worried About

When it comes to fat, it’s not all equal; while there are some fats we need for our bodies to function properly and safely, there’s one type that, if excessive, can have extremely serious consequences: visceral fat.

When it comes to fat, around 90% of our body fat is stored just below the skin surface – this is subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is fat stored deeper than belly fat, inside the abdominal cavity, so is not always seen yet is far more dangerous while it’s infiltrating your pancreas and wrapping itself around vital organs. If left to build up, it leads to metabolic syndrome, which can lead on to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia. 

How does visceral fat form?

When we become insulin resistant, our bodies load energy into our fat cells and we eventually exceed our ‘personal fat storage’. When this happens, there is no longer any room left for us to store fat safely and it begins to overflow into our internal organs, such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. This is visceral fat. 

Although unseen, it’s much more important to reduce visceral fat as it has far more dangerous consequences than the fat you might find around your thighs. 

Carrying excess visceral fat is detrimental to our health and can increase the risks of developing: 

  • Type 2 diabetes;
  • heart disease;
  • breast cancer;
  • colorectal cancer; and 
  • Alzheimer’s disease.

How can visceral fat be managed?

Fortunately, with every pound you lose, you will be decreasing the amount of visceral fat in your body. In other words, the best way to lose visceral fat is to lose weight. 

Diet 

Changes to your diet can have a huge impact on your belly fat and overall weight. A low-carb diet has been scientifically recognised to be far more effective than a low-fat diet in reducing visceral fat. 

A 2013 study put the two diets side by side over a period of 8 weeks, taking 69 overweight participants and placing them on either a low carb or a low fat diet. After 8 weeks of intervention, those following a low carb diet were found to have lost an astounding 10 per cent more visceral fat than the counterpart, low fat dieters. [1]

While a diet lower in carbohydrates is an effective way to lose visceral fat, there are other things you can do:

  • Limit your intake of sugar; multiple studies have connected increased abdominal fat to diets with a high sugar intake. 
  • Eat a protein rich diet; you should be aiming to eat 60-70g of good quality protein each day to make sure you feel full after each meal and away from the snack cupboard. If you’re finding it difficult to track your protein intake, The Fast 800 meal plans can do this for you. 
  • Experiment with time-restricted eating; there’s evidence that shortening your eating window to 12 or 10 hours per day can have great effects on weight management and the reduction of belly fat. 

Exercise 

Along with improving your diet, exercise is one of the best ways to attack visceral fat and see it off for good. HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercise specifically targets visceral fat; it increases the number of chemical receptors in our abdominal fat, which helps to reduce the number of fat stores in and around our organs. 

High intensity exercise has the potential to reverse insulin resistance, in turn reducing hunger, tiredness and giving you a higher chance of losing weight. HIIT is also an extremely time efficient form of exercise, which studies have recognised is key to maintaining a realistic exercise routine; knowing that it takes just 20 minutes from your day, while providing excellent results, can be a great motivator. [3][4]

If you’re looking for a way of incorporating high intensity exercise into your lifestyle for effective fat loss, The Fast 800 Online Programme has the tools in place to help you. Our team of professionally qualified fitness coaches have designed beginner, intermediate and advanced courses, consisting of just twenty minutes of exercise each day,  to complement the lifestyle of our members. You can read more about our comprehensive exercise courses here

Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been scientifically recognised to reduce stress levels through cortisol management and weight loss as a result.[5][6] Multiple studies have found an association between increased appetite and elevated cortisol levels. One particular study also found a connection between a high cortisol response in 172 participants and high levels of visceral fat, recognising that overeating may be as a result of high stress levels. [7]

A 2018 study took two groups of volunteers – one meditated daily and the other did not – and monitored the participants over a period of six months. Significant changes were seen in the meditation group as blood glucose and insulin sensitivity improved. The study also concluded meditation could decrease levels of cortisol, improving blood sugar levels as a result and promoting weight loss. [8]

When it comes to meditation, not many people know where to start but it is far easier than you may think. Although diet and exercise are great for weight loss in the short term, weight loss programmes that also incorporate mindfulness generally have better long term results for both weight loss and maintenance. This is why mindfulness is a core pillar of The Fast 800 Online Programme with 23 guided meditations available to our members.

Click here to explore the programme and sign up to our 7 day free trial.

The bottom line is that although visceral fat is an extreme danger to your health, there are things you can do to effectively reduce it; however, it’s important to start making the first steps. The Fast 800 Online Programme can give you the tools to facilitate your healthy lifestyle with meal plans, ongoing exercise courses and a suite of guided meditations to make sure we’re not just ‘another diet’ but a way of life.

References arrow down

Goss AM, Goree LL, Ellis AC, Chandler-Laney PC, Casazza K, Lockhart ME, Gower BA. Effects of diet macronutrient composition on body composition and fat distribution during weight maintenance and weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jun;21(6):1139-42. doi: 10.1002/oby.20191. Epub 2013 May 13. PMID: 23671029; PMCID: PMC3735822. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23671029/ 

Goss, A.M., Gower, B., Soleymani, T. et al. Effects of weight loss during a very low carbohydrate diet on specific adipose tissue depots and insulin sensitivity in older adults with obesity: a randomized clinical trial. Nutr Metab (Lond) 17, 64 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-020-00481-9

Wewege M, van den Berg R, Ward RE, Keech A. The effects of high-intensity interval training vs. moderate-intensity continuous training on body composition in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2017 Jun;18(6):635-646. doi: 10.1111/obr.12532. Epub 2017 Apr 11. PMID: 28401638.

Gillen JB, Gibala MJ. Is high-intensity interval training a time-efficient exercise strategy to improve health and fitness? Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Mar;39(3):409-12. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2013-0187. Epub 2013 Sep 27. PMID: 24552392.

Steptoe A, Kunz-Ebrecht SR, Brydon L, Wardle J. Central adiposity and cortisol responses to waking in middle-aged men and women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Sep;28(9):1168-73. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802715. PMID: 15211363.

Sinha SS, Jain AK, Tyagi S, Gupta SK, Mahajan AS. Effect of 6 Months of Meditation on Blood Sugar, Glycosylated Hemoglobin, and Insulin Levels in Patients of Coronary Artery Disease. Int J Yoga. 2018;11(2):122-128. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_30_17

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