Visceral Fat: What Is It? How to Get Rid of It

Visceral Fat: What Is It? How to Get Rid of It

Video | Definition | Insulin Resistance | Low Carb Dieting | Intermittent Fasting | Exercise

Visceral fat is what most of us think of as belly fat. It is the term used to describe the fat that builds up within the abdomen. Visceral fat cannot be pinched, but it does expand your waistline, crowd your internal organs, and actively contribute to disease. In this post, I’ll explain why this type of fat is harmful and how you can get rid of it. 

Get Rid of Visceral Fat – Summary


  • Visceral fat lies behind the abdominal muscles within the cavity that holds your liver, stomach, and intestines.
  • Too much visceral fat increases your risk of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance, a common weight loss barrier.
  • Eating a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet stabilizes your blood sugar and insulin levels, allowing your body to burn fat. 
  • Practicing intermittent fasting keeps insulin levels low, putting you in that state that favors fat-burning.
  • Moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise is effective for reducing visceral fat. 

Visceral Fat: What Is It? How to Get Rid of It [Video]

In this video, you’ll learn…

  • The definition of visceral fat.
  • How it affects your body!
  • Ways to reduce its presence in your body!

Visceral Fat vs. Subcutaneous Fat

Two main types of fat get deposited on your body: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. The word subcutaneous means under the skin. The term visceral refers to your viscera or internal organs. A common name for visceral fat is belly fat, which is how most of us would describe it. However, it is possible to have both types of fat stored in your midsection.

what is visceral fat

Generally speaking, the fat you can pinch is subcutaneous, whereas visceral fat lies behind the abdominal muscles within the cavity that holds your liver, stomach, and intestines.

The crowding of your organs is one reason this type of fat is undesirable. Even more concerning is the fact that visceral fat is more “metabolically active” than subcutaneous fat.

This higher level of metabolic activity increases the release of inflammatory substances and free fatty acids into the blood. As a result, you have an increased risk of health problems, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and a related condition called insulin resistance (1) (2) (3) (4).

too much visceral fat increases your risk of health problems.

Visceral Fat and Insulin Resistance 

Insulin resistance is a common barrier to fat loss. Insulin is your energy-storing hormone. When you develop insulin resistance, your cells no longer respond as they should to insulin.

As a result, your body cannot utilize carbohydrates and other food nutrients as efficiently as it once did. This leads to chronically high blood sugar and insulin levels that block the release of fat from fat cells.

Therefore, it hampers fat loss when we get too much visceral fat, putting us into this vicious cycle where the undesirable conditions work together to perpetuate themselves. 

How to Get Rid of Visceral Fat

Follow a Low Carb Diet to Reduce Visceral Fat

Fortunately, a low carb diet disrupts this cycle by keeping your blood sugar low and essentially lessening the amount of work insulin is required to do. This works because blood sugar and insulin rise to differing degrees depending on the macronutrient breakdown of the food you eat.

Of the three macronutrients that supply your body with energy, carbohydrates are the ones that cause the most significant increase in blood sugar. Fats cause little, if any, rise, and protein has a moderate impact.

Therefore, eating a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet will prevent blood sugar and insulin spikes. This allows your body to move into the low-insulin state needed to release fat from your fat cells. 

In fact, many studies have shown that low carb diets are more effective than low fat diets for reducing visceral fat (5) (6).

eat a low-carb diet

From the research, we see that lowering carbs was effective even when the reduction was modest. One study had participants consume 43% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. This is a fairly high percentage, with a more typical range being less than 25% of your calorie intake.

However, despite the modest reduction in carbs, participants who consumed the lower-carbohydrate vs. the lower-fat diet lost more visceral fat and 4.4% more total fat than those on a low-fat diet (5).

Use Intermittent Fasting to Reduce Visceral Fat

Another way to get rid of visceral fat is by practicing intermittent fasting, which is a weight-loss strategy that involves splitting your day between a period of eating and fasting. The mechanism by which fasting works is similar to that seen with a low-carb diet.

By choosing low carb foods, you prevent the insulin spikes that block fat loss. When you fast, there is no food coming in to influence your insulin level, keeping you in that state that favors fat-burning. 

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting is beneficial for reducing belly fat. A clinical study found that limiting the number of hours you eat in a day to 10-hours was effective for treating metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that include increased belly fat (7)

A review study published in 2016 showed that four weeks of fasting reduced total weight, BMI, and waist circumference, preventing metabolic disorders that are common in older women (8).

Exercise to Reduce Visceral Fat

Getting regular exercise provides direct and indirect metabolic advantages that will help you reach your goal of losing abdominal fat. Weight lifting and other activities performed against resistance have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.

This increased sensitivity is enhanced when resistance exercises are combined with aerobic exercises, like biking, swimming, or using a treadmill (9) (10)

However, when directly targeting visceral fat, aerobic exercises may have the edge over other forms of exercise when performed at a moderate or high-intensity level (11)

exercise is effective in reducing visceral fat.

Takeaway

Carrying around excess visceral fat increases your risk of disease and leads to insulin resistance, making fat loss harder. But, you can get control of visceral fat and get rid of it.

By combining fasting with a low carb diet, you attack visceral fat with two very effective tools. As you start to feel better and gain energy, you can enhance your results with exercise. 

There is a lot to learn when it comes to putting together an effective low carb diet. I have two 21-Day Challenges that provide you with daily low-carb or keto menus, so you learn low carb dieting by doing it. Learn about the challenges through the links at the top of my website. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!

References:

(1) Jung, Suk Hwa, Kyoung Hwa Ha, and Dae Jung Kim. “Visceral fat mass has stronger associations with diabetes and prediabetes than other anthropometric obesity indicators among Korean adults.” Yonsei medical journal 57.3 (2016): 674.

(2) Hardy, Olga T., Michael P. Czech, and Silvia Corvera. “What causes the insulin resistance underlying obesity?.” Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity 19.2 (2012): 81.

(3) Nesto, Richard W. “Obesity: a major component of the metabolic syndrome.” Texas Heart Institute Journal 32.3 (2005): 387.

(4) Ebbert, Jon O., and Michael D. Jensen. “Fat depots, free fatty acids, and dyslipidemia.” Nutrients 5.2 (2013): 498-508.

(5) Gower, Barbara A., and Amy M. Goss. “A lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet reduces abdominal and intermuscular fat and increases insulin sensitivity in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes.” The Journal of nutrition 145.1 (2015): 177S-183S.

(6) Volek, Jeff S., et al. “Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women.” Nutrition & metabolism 1.1 (2004): 1-13.

(7) Wilkinson, Michael J., et al. “Ten-hour time-restricted eating reduces weight, blood pressure, and atherogenic lipids in patients with metabolic syndrome.” Cell metabolism 31.1 (2020): 92-104.

(8) Nair, Pradeep MK, and Pranav G. Khawale. “Role of therapeutic fasting in women’s health: An overview.” Journal of mid-life health 7.2 (2016): 61.

(9) AbouAssi, Hiba, et al. “The effects of aerobic, resistance, and combination training on insulin sensitivity and secretion in overweight adults from STRRIDE AT/RT: a randomized trial.” Journal of Applied Physiology 118.12 (2015): 1474-1482.

(10) Suh, Sunghwan, et al. “Effects of resistance training and aerobic exercise on insulin sensitivity in overweight korean adolescents: a controlled randomized trial.” Diabetes & metabolism journal 35.4 (2011): 418.

(11) Vissers, Dirk, et al. “The effect of exercise on visceral adipose tissue in overweight adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” PloS one 8.2 (2013): e56415.

About the Author

Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.

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