Podcast Episode #007: How to Reduce Visceral Fat. Why Being an “Apple” Is Dangerous
Visceral fat (aka "Belly Fat") is different than fat found in other parts of your body. It's more dangerous. This episode of the podcast will help you understand why visceral fat is such a problem AND whether or not it's a problem you need to tackle.
LOSE 10 IN 4 PODCAST: EPISODE #007
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- Waist-to-Hip Ratio and Comparison Chart
- Research Study: Predicting Visceral Fat
- Food Choices For Weight-Loss (Podcast Ep. #002)
- Best Exercise for Burning Fat (Podcast Ep. #003)
- Drinking Water to Lose Weight?
- 42 Strategies to Reduce Your Stress
Questions & Comments: Please Add Your Thoughts!
How to Reduce Visceral Fat [Full Text]
Today I have a really great question, it's from Kenneth in Vancouver BC. Kenneth can get straight to the point, he asked:
"What's the best way to lose visceral fat?"
Thanks so much for your question Kenneth and I want to start by explaining the difference between our two main types of fat.
The Two Common Types of Fat
The most common type of fat is called subcutaneous fat and basically the way I like to describe that is basically imagine you put on a sweat suit and it covers your entire body. It gives a little bit more bulk to your entire body. That's what subcutaneous fat looks like except for it's underneath the skin.
As we accumulate more and more subcutaneous fat it's like putting on extra layers of clothing. Another sweater, another pair of track pants, and we get a little bit bigger, and a little bit puffier with each level of this fat that is accumulated.
Contrast this with visceral fat, Kenneth the type of fat that you referenced. Picture a bowl and in that bowl is jello and the bowl itself represents our abdominal cavity and the jello represents visceral fat.
If you think back to the 1980's, maybe 1990's, it was really popular if you were going to a pot luck dinner to bring jello salad. Within that bowl of jello there would be suspended pieces of fruit, or maybe raisins, or maybe nuts, whatever it is. Those represent our organs.
Well, if you have more jello, there's more jello separating those organs. Our organs get more spaced out, there is more jello in between them. That is the same thing that happens in our abdominal cavity as we get more and more fat accumulating in our abdominal cavity. There is more pressure or there is more space being created between these organs because the fat needs a place to reside.
The Dangers of Too Much Visceral Fat
Some visceral fat is definitely necessary because, like that jello separates the pieces of fruit, we need our organs to be separated, we need them to have some buffer zone, or some cushioning for protection. It is necessary that some visceral fat is there but when we start to accumulate too much visceral fat that's when all sorts of problems begin to happen.
One of the problems, like I was alluding too, is just the physical pressure of having more visceral fat in our abdominal cavity. As the organs get more pressure our blood pressure also tends to rise which increases our risk for heart attack and stoke.
Another problem with building up too much visceral fat is its impact on a hormone called Adiponectin. Adiponectin is sometimes referred to as our fat hormone because of the role is has in regulating our metabolism. The problem with visceral fat is that it actually inhibits adiponectin.
You can imagine this vicious cycle. The more belly fat or visceral fat we accumulate the more it inhibits Adiponectin, the more our body thinks it needs to store the healthy amount of fat, and the more fat we accumulate.
Another big problem with visceral fat is it's impact on our insulin sensitivity. Lots of research has shown that the more visceral fat a person is carrying the more likely they are to develop type two diabetes later in life. Visceral fat has also been linked to mental health problems as people age and all sorts of other health problems that we really want to avoid.
How Much Visceral Fat Do I Have?
The next obvious question becomes, how much visceral fat do I actually have?
In the show notes I give a link to a really interesting study that compares a couple of different metrics for measuring fat. They take a look at BMI, body mass index. They look at a body fat percentage. They look at body weight and then they look at a ratio, it's called a waist to hip ratio. Basically the research is trying to figure out which of those measurements best predicts how much visceral fat a person has.
Surprisingly, it is the simple ratio. Measuring your waist versus measuring your hips. As a general guideline for women they want that ratio to be less than 0.8 to 1. If you took a measurement of your waist, and that's done around your belly button, and you divided that by the measurement of your hips, and that's done around the biggest part of your hips. Ideally that ratio would be 0.8 or less. It means your waist is smaller than your hips. That makes sense. That suggest a smaller waist, less abdominal fat, or less visceral fat.
For men it's a little bit more. The ratio is 0.95. Less than 0.95 is a healthy ratio to be at. In the show notes I'm going to link to that research study and I'm also going to show you the different statistics that show what happens as your ration increases. For women a 0.8 is your healthy waist to hip ration but as that grows to 1.0 or even beyond that's when we start to get into a really risky situation for accumulating too much visceral fat. Same thing for men except for the ratio in the healthy range again is 0.95 and you can see what happens as that number increases.
If you take a look at your waist to hip ratio and your either in the moderate zone or maybe in a dangerous zone where you know you need to do something, the question is what can I do about it? How can I shed this visceral fat?
Reducing Your Visceral Fat
I've got a really exciting statistic for you. For every 10% of body weight that you lose, you'll reduce your visceral fat by about 30%. That's a really reassuring statistic because it suggest that the more body weight your able to lose the even greater impact your going to have on reducing your visceral fat. Visceral fat is one of the first places your body uses up its fat, in that abdominal cavity.
How do you do it? How do you reduce visceral fat? It's the same way you reduce fat anywhere else in your body. I like to use the five pillars of fat reduction.
- Number one is eating a clean diet.
- Number two is exercising regularly.
- Number three is staying properly hydrated.
- Number four is getting enough sleep every single night.
- Number five is reducing your stress.
I'd love to go into greater detail for each of those five pillars of fat loss but they're all topics I've covered in other episodes of the Lose 10 in 4 Podcast or my blog. In the show notes for this episode of the podcast I'll include links to some of the best resources for each of the five pillars and you can take a look at the ones that your most interested in.
One really important thing to note when it comes to losing or reducing visceral fat is that there is absolutely no way to target visceral fat versus subcutaneous fat. If you read of any diet or any particular workout program that says this is going to target your belly fat, or your abdominal fat, or your visceral fat, run away. It is not true. Our body distributes fat and burns fat based on its own genetic makeup, our own metabolism, and there's nothing you can do to pin point fat in one particular area of your body.
That's why the five pillars of fat loss, again, clean eating, exercise, hydration, sleep, and reducing your stress are so important. Yes, they are going to burn up subcutaneous fat, they're also going to burn up visceral fat.
Your "10 in 4" Takeaway
So your "10 in 4 takeaway" for the day is a reminder. Accumulating too much body fat is always going to lead to negative health consequences but this is especially true for visceral fat. Visceral fat is linked to heart problems, it reduces our metabolic rate, and it causes our body to store even more fat, it leads to type two diabetes, and the list goes on and on.
What I'd like you to do right now is to take that waist to hip ratio measurement. Grab a measuring tape and measure your waist around your belly button then measure your hips at the greatest circumference or the greatest distance around your hips. Grab the calculator and take that number for your waist and divide it by the number for your hips.
Again, females we're looking for 0.8 or less. Men we're looking for 0.95 or less. If your ration is greater than that it's time to take a closer look at the five pillars of fat loss and start making some simple changes in your life today.