- Visceral fat is particularly dangerous because it lies deep in the abdominal cavity. Here it wraps around your vital organs and releases inflammatory compounds.
- This type of adipose tissue has been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and dementia. If left unaddressed, it may lead to premature death.
- Bad eating isn’t the only cause of visceral fat gain. A sedentary lifestyle and chronic stress promote abdominal fat storage too.
- You don’t have to be overweight or obese to carry visceral fat. Even skinny people struggle with this problem. What matters is your body composition.
- Spot reduction is just a myth. The only way to lose visceral fat is to get leaner overall. A low-carb or ketogenic diet combined with strength training, HIIT, and adequate rest can make all the difference.
Did you know that belly fat is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and premature death? That’s right — this kind of fat surrounds your vital organs and keeps them from functioning optimally.
But that’s not all. Belly fat, or visceral fat, is biologically active, according to Harvard Medical School. This means it produces hormones and chemicals that promote inflammation and affect overall health.
Unlike subcutaneous fat — which accumulates beneath your skin, visceral fat lies deep within the abdominal cavity. It wraps around your liver, pancreas, heart, and intestines.
Even skinny people carry belly fat. The only way to get rid of it is to lose fat overall.
A low-carb, high-protein diet combined with strength training and HIIT can make all the difference. With this approach, you’ll torch fat and build mass, which in turn, will improve your body composition.
Beware, though — all those crunches and as-seen-on-TV ab machines are pretty much useless. While it’s true that crunches can build core strength, they’re ineffective for fat loss.
Instead, you should focus on compound movements, full-body workouts, and high-intensity training. This way, you’ll pack on mass and optimize your metabolism. Clean eating is a must.
So, what’s the deal with visceral fat? Most importantly, what does it take to get rid of it? That’s exactly what we’ll discuss today, so read on to find out more!
What Is Visceral Fat?
Adipose tissue can be either visceral or subcutaneous. Its distribution throughout the body depends on age, sex, hormone levels, genetics, diet, and other factors. Women tend to carry more fat than men, according to a review published in the British Journal of Radiology.
Not all fat is created equal, though. Deep abdominal fat, or visceral fat, is an integral component of total body fat mass. What differentiates it from other types of adipose tissues is that it’s hormonally active.
This kind of fat releases pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1, resistin, and tumor necrosis factor. Clinical research has linked these compounds to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and cancer.
As the British Journal of Radiology notes, visceral fat can significantly raise the risk of breast, prostate and colon cancers. Furthermore, it interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize lipids and sugars, which in turn, may lead to diabetes and its comorbidities.
Other potential risks of excess visceral fat include:
- Prolonged hospital stays
- Higher odds of infections
- Elevated blood pressure
- Ischemic heart disease
- Type II diabetes
- Increased cholesterol
- Premature death
Researchers have first identified these risks back in the ’80s. Their studies revealed that abdominal obesity may lead to metabolic disturbances and heart disease. This type of fat is now considered a strong predictor of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems.
How Visceral Fat Affects Your Brain
This may come up as a surprise, but there’s a link between your belly and the size of your brain.
As mentioned above, excess visceral fat increases the risk of metabolic disorders. According to a recent review featured in Frontiers in Neuroscience, metabolic disturbances may affect brain function and promote the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.
Obesity and brain health are strongly connected.
Excess weight has been shown to affect memory, cognition, gray matter, and executive performance. At the same time, it may contribute to anxiety, depression, and dementia, as the researchers point out.
The volume of gray matter in certain brain regions is smaller in obese people, which may lead to hippocampal atrophy and various forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. These differences in the gray matter have been attributed exclusively to obesity.
Middle-aged adults may also be at risk for mild cognitive impairment, according to the above review. Additionally, they’re more likely to have their short-term memory and executive functioning altered.
Excess adipose tissue is a major risk factor for leptin deficiency. If your body doesn’t produce enough of this hormone, you may experience changes in brain volume and structure.
The same review indicates a positive association between diabetes, dementia, and cognitive impairment.
Excess visceral fat increases diabetes risk, which in turn, may affect cognitive performance. It also promotes inflammation, which may further raise your risk of neurodegenerative disorders.
To put simply, a beer belly now could mean dementia later in life. Do you really want to take this risk?
Stress and Abdominal Obesity Are Strongly Connected
A diet rich in sugars promotes abdominal fat gain. By sugars, we mean fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and so on — not just table sugar.
For example, a 2016 study published in Circulation has found that drinking sugary beverages may increase visceral fat. Diet soda doesn’t cause this issue.
Sugar isn’t the only culprit, though. Prolonged or chronic stress can be just as dangerous as bad eating from a health perspective.
As it turns out, abdominal obesity could be a physiological adaptation to stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, appears to promote abdominal fat storage in certain people, according to a review in Current Obesity Reports.
Another study, which was published in the journal Obesity in 2018, suggests that chronic stress combined with impulsive risk-taking may lead to visceral fat gain in the long run. Again, cortisol is to blame.
This hormone affects appetite, food preferences, and fat distribution. When secreted in excess, it causes fat to be stored in the abdominal area. That’s why some people, such as those with Cushing’s disease or severe depression as well as those who work night shifts, tend to carry belly fat.
Strict Dieting and Strenuous Exercise Increase Stress Levels
A good starting point to lower your stress levels is to change your diet and training plan. While it’s true that you must eat clean and stay active to lose fat, you shouldn’t go to extremes.
Both strict dieting and strenuous exercise raise cortisol levels. This could explain why 30 to 64% of low-calorie diets fail, according to a report in Psychosomatic Medicine. Furthermore, stress is often the culprit behind weight regain after dieting.
Calorie restriction is psychologically stressful.
Over time, it may result in chronic stress and make it harder to lose weight. Chronic stress may also affect immune function and put you at risk of high blood pressure, insulin resistance, cardiovascular problems, and diabetes.
The same goes for exercise.
You see, there’s a fine line between training hard and overtraining.
Even moderate to high-intensity workouts may raise cortisol. In general, this effect is temporary. However, if you work out every single day or push yourself too hard, your cortisol levels will remain elevated.
Over time, increased cortisol levels may affect metabolism and endocrine function, leading to abdominal obesity. That’s why it’s recommended to gradually lower your calorie intake and get enough rest between workouts.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to go on a so-called reverse diet after cutting for competitions.
This strategy helps counteract the changes in hormone levels, energy expenditure, and mitochondrial efficiency resulting from severe caloric restriction. If left unaddressed, these changes may promote weight gain and cause metabolic damage.
Think of reverse dieting as a way to “reboot” your metabolism. With this approach, you’ll slowly increase your calorie intake back to a maintenance level.
Is Reverse Dieting Right for You?
As discussed earlier, you must lose fat overall to get rid of abdominal fat. This requires cutting sugar and calories, among other measures.
However, if you’ve been dieting for months, your metabolism might not be functioning optimally. Over time, your body adapts to a calorie deficit and becomes more effective at conserving energy. In other words, your metabolism slows down.
For example, a study published in the journal Obesity assessed the long-term changes in resting metabolic rate in Biggest Loser competitors.
Six years after the competition, subjects were still dealing with a large metabolism adaptation. This effect was most noticeable in those maintaining the greatest weight loss in the long term.
These findings show that drastic weight loss can suppress your resting metabolic rate for years. Plus, it may increase the risk of weight regain. Reverse dieting may help prevent these side effects and get your metabolism back on track.
Switch to a Ketogenic Diet
We’ve already mentioned that sugar promotes fat storage in the abdominal area. Unfortunately, cutting out added sugars may not enough to lose visceral fat. You might need to eliminate carbs altogether.
And that’s where the keto diet comes in.
After ingestion, sugar turns into glucose and serves as a source of fuel. The excess is stored in fat cells as well as in the liver and muscles as glycogen. Your body uses stored glycogen for energy.
If you just cut out carbs, you won’t have enough energy for your workouts and daily activities. On top of that, your body will start to break down muscle protein for fuel. This can lead to fatigue, muscle loss, poor recovery, and diminished performance.
Therefore, you need to provide your body with an alternative source of fuel. Dietary fat is a good choice. To put it simply, you must eat fat to burn fat and function at your peak.
The ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs. Some versions restrict carbs to 10 or 20 grams per day.
Although dietary fat supplies more calories per gram than carbs (9 vs. 4 calories), it doesn’t cause weight gain. Here is why:
When you’re fasting or cutting out carbs for a few days, your liver begins to produce ketone bodies. These fatty acids provide energy and can replace glucose in your diet. Keto production causes your body to enter ketosis, a metabolic state that promotes fat loss.
Ketosis kicks in when ketone bodies reach 1.3 to 3 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). You may use urine testing strips, blood ketone tests, or a breathalyzer to check your ketone levels.
Get Faster Results with a Keto Fat Burner
Whether you choose keto or another diet, you’ll plateau at some point. Luckily, there are some things you can do to overcome it and ignite your metabolism.
If you’re on the ketogenic diet or want to start the diet, try out the Real Keto™ Fat Burner to bust through plateaus and get leaner faster.
Our latest fat-burning formula works best when used along with the Real Keto™ Pre-Workout, which will boost your energy and stamina while preventing fatigue — without the need for carb refeeds.
But what’s so special about the Real Keto™ Fat Burner?
Unlike other formulas on the market, this supplement doesn’t contain exogenous ketones and MCTs, two compounds that may hinder fat loss.
Instead, it features a unique combination of lipotropics to suppress appetite, increase fat burning, and rev up your metabolism.
Methionine, choline, trimethylglycine, and other lipotropic agents stimulate fat breakdown and support liver health. Choline, for example, is clinically proven to reduce body fat and improve lipid metabolism.
The Real Keto™ Fat Burner also contains caffeine, which can further increase your metabolic rate. DL-Phenylalanine, 5-HTP, and other key ingredients have the role to inhibit hunger by regulating mood and appetite.
But don’t just take our word for it. Try the Real Keto™ Fat Burner yourself and watch the fat melt away!
Replace Cardio with HIIT
When you have belly fat, it can be tempting to spend more time running, jogging, or cycling while in the gym. Unfortunately, this approach is often counterproductive.
People who are constantly stressed are less likely to torch fat from cardio. Their cortisol levels are already high — and too much cardio only makes things worse. This combo may actually result in weight gain.
Instead, lift heavy and engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to maximize fat loss and prevent cortisol spikes. HIIT is one of the few proven ways to burn abdominal and visceral fat mass. On top of that, it works a lot faster than steady-state cardio.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research compared the effects of HIIT versus moderate-intensity continuous exercise on visceral fat reduction. Both methods were effective, but HIIT produced faster results.
High-intensity interval training alternates between short, intense bursts of exercise and periods of rest. A typical interval lasts about 30 seconds. The entire training session takes five to 20 minutes, which is significantly less time compared to steady-state cardio.
We’ve compared HIIT and cardio in a previous post. Read it to get the facts and then choose the best training method for your goals.
HIIT Workout Tips
In the meantime, try these HIIT routines to supercharge your metabolism!
- Treadmill sprints (30 secs) followed by 30 seconds of active rest (walking or jogging)
- Plyo push-ups (30 seconds) followed by rest (30 seconds)
- 30 seconds of mountain climbers followed by 30 seconds of rest
- Burpees (30 seconds) followed by 30 seconds of rest
- 30 seconds of battle rope training followed by 30 seconds of rest
Depending on your preferences, you can also incorporate the rowing machine, prowler, StairMaster, or jumping rope into your routine.
As you progress, try more advanced HIIT workouts, such as Tabata. If you’re working out at home, try these cardio bodyweight exercises for a heart-pounding HIIT session!
Banish Belly Fat the Smart Way
All in all, you don’t need to follow a special diet or engage in strenuous workouts to lose visceral fat. Just make sure you eat clean and follow the rules of workout nutrition. For faster results, switch to the keto diet and add HIIT to the mix.
As far as strength training goes, prioritize compound movements. Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, push-ups, and chin-ups are all a great choice. These exercises hit all the major muscle groups and optimize your hormone levels, improving metabolic health.
Another strategy you may use is intermittent fasting.
This dietary pattern, which alternates between periods of feeding and food restriction, helps decrease visceral fat. Use it along with the keto diet to get better results in less time.
Do you have any tips on how to get rid of visceral fat? Are there any workouts or diet hacks you’d like to share? Drop a comment below to spread the word!