Visceral fat: Dangers and tips to lose and burn it

Heather Campbell
 min read

Visceral fat, or belly fat, is the most harmful fat found in your body.

Visceral fat: Dangers and tips to lose and burn itA regular to overweight stature combined with a hefty belly may indicate stubborn belly fat. And we’re not talking about just some belly fat here. Visceral fat is the type of fat stored around the internal organs.

As a whole, there are two types of fat, visceral and subcutaneous fat. The latter is relatively harmless, while the former is unhealthy, encompassing your vital organs, and resulting from various factors. Healthy eating combined with regular exercise can help fight this precursor to disease.

Read on to learn why visceral fat is so unhealthy and what you can do best to reduce your belly size.

Visceral fat: Introduction

We need to discuss 2 types of fat that are important when it comes to body fat:

  • Visceral fat
  • Subcutaneous fat

Visceral fat is the most unhealthy, while subcutaneous fat is relatively healthy and harmless.

Subcutaneous fat is fat that is under your skin. It’s the grease that you can touch and squeeze. This is also the fat you see shaking and twitching when you decide to jump rope or jog on a summer day.

While this fat is not the most aesthetically pleasing, it is actually quite harmless to your health.

Body fat is basically a storage site for energy. In times of famine, this is a source of energy to keep functioning. That makes subcutaneous fat an added value for your body to survive.

What makes visceral fat different?

Visceral fat is fat that is in your abdominal cavity. It is around your organs and is not visible to the naked eye. So a person can appear slim but be full of visceral fat on the inside.

So despite appearing “healthy,” this person may be experiencing all the health disadvantages of visceral fat. These individuals are also known in the jargon as TOFI (Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside).

Remark: A large abdominal circumference may indicate too much subcutaneous fat in some cases. If in doubt, have an accurate measurement taken by a nutritionist or physician.

How does visceral fat form?

Why does one person suffer more from visceral fat than another?

Several factors influence the increase and decrease of your visceral fat.

Those factors include the following:

  • Beverage consumption
  • Age
  • Hormones
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Weight at birth
  • Genes

As you can see, several factors come into play. So it’s not just a matter of overeating.

Visceral fat is created primarily by a generally unhealthy lifestyle. It is a confluence of several specific factors that make it all go from bad to worse.

Why is visceral fat dangerous?

One kind of fat is not another. Even though subcutaneous fat is not exactly attractive if you want to walk around in a bikini, boxers, or swimming trunks, it is not dangerous for your health.

But visceral fat, on the other hand, is really unhealthy, no matter how small the amount.

The more visceral fat you have, the more likely you are to have the following conditions:

  • Dyslipidemia
  • Insulin resistance
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Type 2 diabetes

Researchers suspect this is because visceral fat gives off certain pro-inflammatory substances (such as cytokines). These substances enter the liver through the portal vein.

There they do damage by affecting your insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism. So plenty of reason to do something about it and spring into action before it’s too late!

11 tips to burn visceral fat

Below are several things you can do (or should avoid doing) to decrease the amount of visceral fat in your body.

No tip from the list below is a magical panacea. But when you combine several tips, you will notice that your belly becomes significantly smaller sooner or later. For your information: Each tip is scientifically based.

Eat less unhealthy food

You must consistently overeat and eat unhealthy food to cause your belly to increase in size.

In fact, both factors (overeating + unhealthy eating) are responsible for developing this type of unhealthy fat.

Overeating does not directly cause you to gain a lot of fat around your organs. Normal fat gain is a slow process in which fat increases all over your body. So it’s not just around your belly.

Although one person may be more predisposed than another to certain areas of the body, the process works the same for everyone.

Did you know that when you combine overeating with unhealthy eating, you are more likely to get more visceral fat? An unhealthy diet disturbs the body and thus stimulates the production of visceral fat.

For example, unhealthy foods include processed foods full of added things like sugar, preservatives, and fat.

So to get rid of the fat around your organs, it is essential to eat a healthy and varied diet with plenty of vegetables, fiber, and fruit.

Avoid trans fats

Not all types of fat in food are equally healthy. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (think omega 3 fatty acids) are healthier than trans fats.

The most unhealthy fats are the so-called trans fats. These are artificial fats that are created and used by manufacturers to produce cheaper and easier food.

Research shows that the more trans fats in your diet, the more visceral fat you have.

Therefore, it is wise to eliminate trans fats from your diet as much as possible. The easiest way to do this is to avoid fried and processed foods.

Moderate your alcohol intake

Alcohol has a real love-hate relationship with the health world.

For example, several studies show that a small amount of alcohol can sometimes positively affect health (such as a glass of red wine a day).

And even though alcohol is essentially a toxic substance, according to some sources, it seems to be able to boost your immune system to a limited extent.

But excessive alcohol consumption is unhealthy in any case, and it is definitely to be avoided.

Your liver develops visceral fat, and alcohol is broken down in the liver.

When you drink large amounts of alcohol, your liver will not work as well. Partly because the liver is constantly breaking down alcohol and partly because alcohol affects the liver.

Especially when you also eat unhealthily, your liver has a hard time.

Often you will find that someone who drinks a lot of alcohol has an unhealthy lifestyle anyway, where unhealthy eating is considered normal.

Tip: Some people like to drink a good glass of wine with dinner. This is not a problem as long as you keep it to one glass a day.

Drinking several glasses of alcohol a day increases the risk of health problems.

Eat protein instead of sugars

Eating more protein combined with healthy fats has been shown to positively affect belly size.

Both protein and healthy fats contribute to a long-lasting feeling of satiety.

Even consuming a multiple of the recommended daily allowance of protein does not lead to increased body fat.

Observational studies have shown that people who eat more protein have less visceral fat.

The explanation for this is probably that if you eat little protein, you automatically ingest more sugars and carbohydrates (which contributes to developing belly fat).

In addition, unhealthy foods contain relatively little protein. Meat is the primary source of protein for most people (this is also not the cheapest ingredient in a dish).

If you have an eating pattern with a lot of processed food, you will unconsciously take in a lot of sugar, carbohydrates, and trans fats.

Did you know: There are several sources of protein that you can eat daily to reduce your visceral fat:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Meat

Do strength training

In addition to following a healthy diet, exercise can also contribute to a healthy transformation and weight loss.

You can do all sorts of things to burn more fat. But if you must choose something, choose a sport that requires you to work with weights. This could mean a regular gym or fitness membership, or you could join the local CrossFit club, for example.

As long as you are doing something with weights, it is already a first step in the right direction. In fact, exercising strength training is effective for losing visceral fat.

If strength training doesn’t appeal to you at all, but you still want to experience its benefits, group training can be an exciting option.

Although you are still doing a form of strength training in this, the teamwork makes it a lot more fun to keep up effectively.

Do interval training

Don’t forget your interval training (High-Intensity Interval Training) because, like strength training, this is an effective way to burn fat. This is the most challenging and effective form of cardio.

In fact, this form of endurance exercise appears to cause you to lose visceral fat without lowering your normal fat percentage. So this means that you can lose weight relatively specifically in the abdominal area with interval training.

HIIT can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Sprinting during a jogging session, interspersed with quieter walking moments to bring the heart rate back down
  • Jumping rope (calmly alternate with very fast jumping)
  • Performing Jumping Jacks

The idea is to perform these exercises for 30 seconds and then take a 15-second breath to get the heart rate down.

Improve your hormone levels

As men and women age, their visceral fat increases. Of course, part of it may be because their diet changes over the years.

But much of it can be explained by a change in hormone levels. While this is absolutely part of the process of aging, to some extent, you can influence and direct it yourself.

A decrease in testosterone in men and estrogen in women explains changing the so-called fat distribution.

Exercising, avoiding stress, sleeping well, and eating healthy are healthy ways to keep your testosterone levels up in old age.

Did you know: An increase in testosterone (through hormone therapy or through natural increase) has been shown to decrease the amount of visceral fat in men.

Lower your stress hormones

Stress is an assassin of your health and has a detrimental impact on virtually every aspect of your life.

Continuously having too much of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, for example, is particularly bad for you:

  • Appetite
  • Fat Percentage
  • Sleep
  • Testosterone level
  • Mental well-being

Stress also has an impact on visceral fat. Too much stress (and lots of cortisol) in your life increases your appetite, stimulating the storage of visceral fat.

There are several ways to lower your cortisol levels and stress levels. For example, exercise is one of the best remedies for stress in your life. Sleeping well is also a panacea for stress.

But addressing the source of your stress is, of course, best. The precise source of stress varies from person to person.

If you don’t fight the problem at its root, you will only eliminate the symptoms by exercising or sleeping, for example. But as soon as you get busy again, the stress will start gnawing at you again.

Did you know: Meditation techniques and yoga appear to work well against stress. They teach you how to deal with it, and that is a great help in fighting all that stress brings with it.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is one of those things that people severely underestimate when it comes to their health.

It is often seen as a strength if you can still function reasonably well with little sleep.

But too little sleep turns out to be disastrous for testosterone levels.

For example, getting only 4-5 hours of sleep a few days in a row can cut your testosterone levels in half.

Researchers recommend sleeping no less than 6 hours and no more than 9 hours per night to limit visceral fat formation.

A high-fiber diet is an absolute must

The more fiber you eat, the better.

Fiber does several things:

  • They stimulate your intestinal peristalsis
  • Fiber also slows down the absorption of sugars
  • They feed your healthy gut bacteria
  • Fiber also makes you feel satiated longer (without hunger)

All of these effects of a high-fiber diet result in you eating less and losing weight in the long run.

An observational study of more than 1,000 subjects found that increased fiber intake contributes to a decrease in visceral fat.

Tip: Want to get more fiber in a day? Then go for good sources of fiber such as beans and vegetables.

Avoid making mistakes

Prevention is always better than cure, which is especially true for your health.

You can burn visceral fat if you decide to eat and live healthier.

But preventing you from getting visceral fat is a lot better. The best way to get started on this is to remove unhealthy food from sight and store it in a not constantly visible place.

Avoid and discard unhealthy foods

Most of all, you want to throw all the unhealthy food out of your house and into the trash. After all, we only have a certain amount of willpower, and as the day progresses, it can diminish.

Not surprisingly, binge eating occurs primarily in the evening because that is precisely when your willpower is at its lowest.

Create a weekly meal plan

The second thing you can do to avoid eating unhealthy is plan smartly what you will eat each day. Of course, you don’t have to plan all your meals for the rest of the year.

But doing a weekly review can already help. Focus on sufficient variety and structure.

Bringing food to work or school will prevent you from turning to unhealthy sandwiches and cookies.

Knowing what you are going to eat will make you opt less for ready-made meals and fast food. Instead, you’ll eat out less and proactively avoid an empty fridge.

This makes it a lot less likely that you will eat something unhealthy on the street or order unhealthy food.

Visceral fat: Conclusion

Visceral fat can easily lead to health problems from a relatively young age.

Although various factors come into it, it is no secret that healthy eating and regular exercise can prevent its formation.

Related posts:

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More