Belly Fat: Visceral Fat vs. Subcutaneous fat
Larger waistlines come with larger risks. However, abdominal, or visceral, fat is of particular concern because it's a key player in a variety of health problems — much more so than subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp with your hand. Visceral fat, on the other hand, lies out of reach, deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between our abdominal organs.
When people talk about losing belly fat, they often refer to subcutaneous fat, and it is often aesthetic: Smaller waist line, “six pack,” etc. However, one should not forget about visceral fat, as it has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.
Visceral fat is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
The good news is that visceral fat yields fairly easily to exercise and diet. However, Subcutaneous fat located at the waist — the “pinchable” stuff — can be frustratingly difficult to budge. Here’s how you can tackle both. For Subcutaneous fat, you will have to pay special attention to your diet.
1- Know Your Macros
Diet is key to reducing belly fat. Pay attention to portion size, and pick your macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) wisely. Emphasize complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and lean protein over simple carbohydrates such as white bread, refined-grain pasta, and sugary drinks. Replacing saturated fats and trans fats with polyunsaturated fats can also help.
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2- Hit Your Protein Goal
Eating enough protein will allow your body to build and repair its muscle tissue. As a result, this will help you maintain or develop your muscle mass.
Here’s an example of the required daily macronutrient intake for a female weighing 135lbs and whose exercise program is mostly composed of strength training 4-6 times per week.
3- Get enough sleep
You should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per day. Here’s how you can achieve this:
Improve your emotional well-being
Limit caffeine and alcohol
If you continue experiencing problems with your sleep, consider talking to a healthcare professional.
4- If you’re not active, start with some physical activity
The starting point for bringing weight under control, in general, and combating abdominal fat, in particular, is regular moderate-intensity physical activity — at least 30 minutes per day (and perhaps up to 60 minutes per day) to control weight.
This is especially important if you have not been active for a while, as it will reduce your risk of injury.
5- Add (a lot of) strength training
Strength training can help fight abdominal fat. When you’re losing weight through cardio exercises, you generally lose both fat and muscle, and you therefore do not decrease your body fat percentage. The absence of resistance training in your routine, could actually slow down your metabolism by losing lean muscle mass, especially if you are also restricting your calories.
With regard to the science and myths of “spot training,” the short answer is that “ab exercises” like sit-ups can tighten abdominal muscles, but it won't get at visceral fat.
Do heavy weights help?
When you lift weight that's closer to your one-rep max, you get a hormonal boost because your system senses you're under stress and that your skeletal system is under stress from lifting heavy, according to Rondel King, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center. This boost is in the form of testosterone, an anabolic hormone that helps your muscles grow.