Visceral fat, or abdominal fat, is the most harmful fat that exists in your body. A normal to full-bodied build in combination with a large belly can show that there is persistent belly fat. And not just belly fat. This is the fat that is stored around the internal organs.
In this article, you will learn why visceral fat is so unhealthy and what you can do best to reduce your belly size.
You also discover the following points:
How you ensure that your belly size does not increase every year
What exactly is visceral and subcutaneous fat?
11 simple but effective tips to lower your fat percentage
And much and much more …
What is visceral fat?
To keep this article as clear as possible, the medical processes that take place in your body are not discussed too deeply.
We will discuss two types of fat important for body fat. Visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is the most unhealthy. The subcutaneous fat is actually healthy and harmless.
Subcutaneous fat is under your skin. It is the fat you can touch and squeeze. This is also the fat that you see shaking and vibrating when you jog on a summer’s day. Although this fat is not the most attractive, it is harmless to your health.
Body fat is a storage location for energy. In times of famine, this is a way to get energy to continue to function. That makes subcutaneous fat an added value for your body to survive.
But times are changing. Because nowadays people get an abundance of calories – calorie intake has risen by an average of 400 calories a day in recent decades ( source ).
This is different for visceral fat.
Visceral fat is fat in your abdominal cavity. It sits around your organs and is not visible to the naked eye. Someone may seem slim, but full of visceral fat on the inside. So even though this person seems ‘healthy’, he/she can experience all the health disadvantages of visceral fat. These people are called TOFI (Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside).
How does visceral fat arise?
Why does one person suffer from visceral fat more than the other person?
There are several factors we know influence increasing or decreasing your visceral fat.
- Weight at birth
- Beverage use
As you can see, various factors play a role. So it’s not just a matter of overeating.
Visceral fat is mainly caused by an overall unhealthy lifestyle. It is a combination of several specific factors that make it all go from bad to worse.
Why is visceral fat dangerous?
One type of fat is not the other. Although subcutaneous fat is not particularly attractive if you want to walk around in a bikini or swimsuit, it is not dangerous for your health. But visceral fat is really unhealthy, no matter how small the amount is.
The more visceral fat you have, the greater the chance of the following conditions ( source ):
- Diabetes type 2
- Heart and vascular disease
- Insulin resistance
Researchers suspect that this is because visceral fat releases certain inflammatory substances (such as cytokines) ( source ). These substances enter the liver through the portal vein. They do damage by affecting your insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism. Enough reason to do something about it.
When do you have too much visceral fat?
Below you can see what a healthy visceral fat percentage is:
Measure yourself and see what number comes out of it. Are you in the danger zone or do you even have a high risk? Then it’s time to lower your fat percentage.
11 Tips for Burning Visceral Fat
In the tips below you will find several things you can do (or should avoid) to reduce the amount of visceral fat in your body. No one tip is a magic resort. But when you combine them you will sooner or later notice that your belly is significantly smaller. Every tip is scientifically substantiated.
#1 Eat less unhealthy food
Visceral fat does not increase if you eat less. You must consistently eat too much and unhealthy to ensure that your belly increases in size. Both factors are involved in the development of this type of unhealthy fat.
Eating too much does not immediately ensure that you get a lot of fat around your organs. ‘Normal’ fat is a slow process where the fat increases everywhere on your body. So not only around your stomach. Although one person has more talent than another person for certain places (apple figure compared to a peer figure), the process works the same for everyone.
But when you combine too much food with unhealthy food, the chance of more visceral fat increases. Unhealthy food disrupts the body and thereby stimulates the production of visceral fat. This has to do with the aforementioned story about the liver.
For unhealthy food, think of processed food full of added sugar and fat. To get rid of the fat around your organs it is important that you eat healthy and varied.
#2 Avoid trans fats
Not all types of fat in food are equally healthy. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as omega 3 fatty acids) are healthier than trans fats.
The most unhealthy fats are the so-called trans fats. These are artificial fats that do not occur in nature. They are made by manufacturers and used to produce food cheaper and easier.
Research shows that the more trans fats are in your diet, the more visceral fat you have.
It is therefore wise to remove trans fats from your diet as much as possible. The easiest way to do this is to avoid fried foods and processed foods.
#3 Moderate your alcohol intake
Alcohol has a love-hate relationship in the health world. Various studies show that a small amount of alcohol is healthy (such as a glass of red wine a day). Because even though alcohol may be considered poison, it appears to strengthen your immune system in small amounts.
But excessive alcohol consumption is not healthy.
As you have read before, your liver is involved in the development of visceral fat. Alcohol is broken down in the liver. When you drink large amounts of alcohol, your liver will work less well. Partly because it is constantly busy with the breakdown of alcohol and partly because alcohol itself affects the liver.
Especially if you also eat an unhealthy diet your liver will have to endure. Often you will see that someone who drinks a lot of alcohol has an unhealthy lifestyle anyway where unhealthy eating is considered normal.
Some people like to drink a glass of wine with dinner. This is not a problem as long as you keep it to one glass a day. Research shows that 4 or more glasses per day increases the risk of health problems ( source ).
#4 Eat proteins instead of sugars
Eating more protein in combination with healthy fats appears to have a positive effect on belly size. Both proteins and healthy fats contribute to a long-lasting, satiating feeling ( source ). Even consuming 5.5 times the recommended daily amount of protein does not lead to an increase in body fat ( source ).
From observational studies have shown that people who eat more protein had less visceral fat. The explanation for this is probably that if you eat little protein, you automatically get more sugars and carbohydrates. This contributes to the development of belly fat.
In addition, unhealthy food contains relatively few proteins. Meat is the main source of protein for most people and as you may know, meat is not the cheapest ingredient in a dish. Manufacturers, therefore, prefer to use carbohydrates and sugars as the main ingredients. If you have a diet with a lot of processed food, you will unwittingly get a lot of sugar, carbohydrates and also trans fats.
There are several protein sources that you can eat every day to reduce your visceral fat:
- Dairy products
#5 Do strength training
In addition to following a healthy diet, sports can contribute to a healthy transformation.
You can do anything to burn more fat. But if you still have to choose something, choose a sport where you have to work with weights. This can mean a regular gym subscription or you can join the local Crossfit association.
As long as you do something with weights, it’s okay. It turns out that doing strength training is incredibly effective in losing visceral fat.
If your strength training seems like nothing at all but still wants to experience the benefits, doing group training can help. Although you still do some form of strength training, the team makes it a lot more fun to keep going.
#6 Don’t forget your HIIT
In addition to strength training, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is an effective workout for burning fat. This is the most challenging and effective form of cardio.
This type of endurance sport appears to ensure that you lose visceral fat, despite the fact that the ‘normal’ fat percentage does not decrease. This means that you can lose weight relatively specifically.
You can do HIIT in different ways:
- Draw sprints
- Jumping rope
- Jumping jacks
The intention is to perform these exercises for 30 seconds and then to catch a breath for 10 seconds. Repeat this until you are no longer exhausted.
#7 Improve your hormone level
As men and women get older, their visceral fat increases. Of course it may be partly because their diet changes over the years. But a large part can be explained by a change in hormone levels. Although this is part of the process of aging, you can influence and control it to a certain extent yourself.
A decrease in testosterone in men and testosterone and estrogen in women is the explanation for changing the so-called fat distribution. An increase in testosterone (through hormone therapy or through a natural increase) appears to decrease the amount of visceral fat in men.
Exercising, avoiding stress, sleeping well and eating healthy are healthy ways to keep your testosterone levels up at an older age.
#8 Lower your stress hormones
Stress is a silent killer for your health. It affects almost every aspect of your life.
Continuously having too much of the stress hormone cortisol in your body is disastrous for:
- Testosterone level
- Mental well-being
- Fat percentage
With regard to visceral fat, stress is also related. Too much stress in your life increases the appetite and the storage of visceral fat. Two things that will increase your belly considerably if you do nothing about it .
There are several things that can be done to lower cortisol levels. Earlier I mentioned sports. This is one of the best remedies against stress in your life. Good sleep also works effectively against this.
But the source of tackling your stress is of course the best. What this is will vary from person to person. If you do not control the problem, you will only remove the symptoms by, for example, exercising. But as soon as you get home, the stress will gnaw at you again.
Meditation techniques and yoga also seem to work well against stress. They teach you how to handle it. You also learn different mental acrobatics to manage stress.
#9 Sleep enough
Sleep is one of those things that people underestimate when it comes to their health. Often there are people for sale with how little they sleep. It is seen as a form of strength if you can function on little sleep.
But too little sleep appears to be disastrous for testosterone levels. A few days in a row 4 to 5 hours of sleep can halve your testosterone level. In addition, sleep causes your cortisol level to rise.
Researchers recommend – when it comes to visceral fat formation – to sleep no less than 6 hours and no more than 9 per night ( source ).
#10 The more fibers, the better
If you are in the process of increasing your fat and protein intake, it is also wise to increase your fiber intake.
Fiber does different things:
- Keep you full longer
- Nourish your healthy gut bacteria
- Ensure a slow uptake of sugars
- Stimulate your bowel peristalsis
All these effects have the consequence that you eat less and eventually lose weight. An observational study among 1100 people shows that increased fiber intake contributed to a decrease in visceral fat. With every 10 grams that the participants ate every day in fiber, the fat percentage of their abdomen decreased by 3.7% over a 5-year period.
Do you want to get more fiber in one day? Then go for good fiber sources such as beans and vegetables. .
#11 Take precautions
Prevention is always better than cure. This applies in particular to your health.
As you have read, you can burn visceral fat if you decide to eat a lot healthier. But preventing you from getting visceral is a lot better. But what is the best way to get started? By removing unhealthy food from view.
First you want to throw all the unhealthy food out of your house. We humans have a certain amount of willpower per day. As the day progresses, your willpower will decrease. It is therefore not strange that binge eating takes place mainly in the evening. That is the moment when your will power is at its lowest.
The second thing you can do to prevent you from eating unhealthily is to plan what you will eat every day. You do not have to have planned your meal for the rest of the year. But creating a weekly overview can help. There is then enough variation but at the same time enough structure.
Because you often leave home without food or come home and open an empty fridge. The chance is therefore much greater that you eat something unhealthy on the street or order food that is unhealthy. By taking food to work or studying, you can avoid turning to juices and unhealthy sandwiches and cookies.
Knowing what you are going to eat at home means that you will eat less fast food and ready-made meals. Two types of foods that contain a lot of trans fats. that increase your visceral fat.