Reducing abdominal fat is a common goal for my personal training clients looking to lose weight and improve their physique. But there are actually two different types of fat that affect the body and they play a different role in a person’s health and appearance. These two types of fat are called subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.
Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can see and touch on the body. It is underneath the skin, lies on top of the muscle and covers our entire bodies. On the belly, an excess amount of subcutaneous fat can look like roles and shifts as one moves. It is the fat that is measured in a caliper test to determine body fat composition and is the fat that people most often complain about and aim towards losing. Usually one associates extra subcutaneous fat with signs of being overweight and this can prompt a negative body image. Although excess subcutaneous fat has health risk factors it is visceral fat that is more dangerous for the body.
Visceral fat is fat that cannot be seen or grasped on the body. It is the fat that lies deep within the body and surrounds the organs. A person with an excessive amount of visceral fat in the abdomen has the look of a hard “beer belly” appearance and waist circumference is a good indicator of visceral fat in the abdomen. Visceral fat increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, dementia and some types of cancer. It has been found to release more inflammatory molecules in the body creating more health risks. People can have visceral fat yet not look obese which creates a false sense of well-being.
Reducing Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat
Fortunately, visceral fat is easier to reduce than subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat responds more quickly to diet and exercise and is metabolized more quickly into fatty acids in the body. There is no way to decrease fat in spot specific areas, but through a healthy diet and routine strength training and cardiovascular exercise program, both visceral and subcutaneous fat levels can be reduced to healthy levels.
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