subcutaneous fat vs visceral fat; what athletes should know about bodyfat


the body breaks down food into compounds that can be used for fuel. When there is excess fuel, it is eventually converted into triglyceride and stored in fat.

There are two types of body fat(also called adipose tissue): visceral fat and subcutaneous fat

adipose tissue accumulated under the skin is called subcutaneous fat, In contrast, Adipose tissue found around our internal organs is called visceral fat.

Fat accumulated in the lower body (the pear shape) is subcutaneous, while fat in the abdominal area (the apple shape) is largely visceral. since the mid-1990s, One of the most important developments is the realization that the fat cell is an endocrine organ, secreting hormones and other molecules that have far-reaching effects on other tissues. Where fat ends up is influenced by several factors, including heredity and hormones. As the evidence against abdominal fat mounts, researchers and clinicians are trying to measure it, correlate it with health risks, and monitor changes that occur with age and overall weight gain or loss. People with a large amount of subcutaneous fat often have a large amount of visceral fat but the opposite is not always true.

approximately 90 percent of body fat is Subcutaneous fat and 10 percent is visceral fat.

A 2015 study found that people with a lot of visceral fat, or the kind not visible from the outside, were more likely to die when they had less subcutaneous fat. This means that people who have less visible fat are, at least in some cases, at a greater risk of death. Other studies have reached similar conclusions.

Subcutaneous fat produces a higher proportion of beneficial molecules, and visceral fat a higher proportion of molecules with potentially deleterious health effects. In most people, about 90% of body fat is subcutaneous.

Both subcutaneous and visceral fat are energy stores, and help to make sure we have the energy we need to live an active lifestyle. Fat also supports the endocrine system, releasing vital hormones and proteins which help regulate other organs and processes in our bodies. A body composition monitor will tell you if your overall body fat percentage is within a healthy range. The American Council on Excercise says an acceptable range for body fat percentage in women is 25-31%, and 18-24% in men. Beyond that is considered obese.

The World Health Organization suggests overweight and obese adults exercise at least 150 minutes throughout the week, which comes out to about 21 minutes per day, or slightly longer workouts with a couple of rest days in between.

Evidence shows these fat cells disrupt the balance and functioning of hormones within the body as well. Good news is It is possible to lose both subcutaneous and visceral fat. While subcutaneous fat loss might be the goal for people who want to fit into smaller clothes, losing visceral fat improves health.

Research has shown that even if your weight and your level of total body fat remains the same, as you age the distribution of that fat can change with it more likely to sit round your abdominal area.  Men tend to develop more visceral fat as they age (sometimes called a ‘beer belly’) and women tending to store more fat subcutaneously when they are younger, switching to more visceral fat storage after the menopause. In a four-year study at Louisiana State University tracking healthy middle-aged women, every one of them put on some subcutaneous belly fat, but only those who entered menopause added significant amounts of visceral fat.

Lowered estrogen levels (which increase the proportional influence of testosterone) contribute to the shift toward a male pattern.

As for diet, you’re going to want to cut down on processed foods, added sugars, saturated fats, and junk food in general. What specific diet you choose to follow isn’t necessarily as important as sustainability. It should be a diet that’s healthy and something that will work for you long term, to lose the weight and keep it off. we will go through diet in details below as well.

Mental health matters for people trying to lose weight. Chronic stress causes the body to continually release a hormone called cortisol. In small, short-lived bursts, cortisol is harmless. But prolonged exposure to cortisol can undermine weight loss. This means that managing stress may help in the effort to shed subcutaneous fat. Cortisol is particularly harmful to weight loss in people who eat a high-sugar diet. People experiencing bouts of stress should also avoid stress-eating, particularly eating a lot of sweets and carbohydrates. we talk about psychological factors as well in this article.

also if you do not know what BMI is, it stands for Body mass index and is a formula for how much you weigh relative to your height. Kianabolik BMI calculator is present in our app section. A BMI of 30 or higher is overweight. That could be a sign of visceral fat. If you’re Asian American, a BMI of 23 or higher could be a concern.

People are more likely to accumulate both visceral and subcutaneous fat when:

  • They are sedentary, or spend a lot of time sitting.
  • They get little or no aerobic exercise.
  • They have little muscle mass.
  • They eat more calories than they burn.
  • They are insulin resistant or have diabetes.

what is Subcutaneous fat and how to lose it?

Pinch your skin with your thumb and forefinger and you will be pinching subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is stubborn and can be a challenge to get rid of it through diet and exercise alone. You can find this type of fat all over the body, like on the arms and legs. Our body regards subcutaneous adipose tissues as an energy reserve and will only tap into it when we are in a continuous calorie deficit. It is difficult to target these local fat areas when one is trying to get rid of excessive fat. If you are grossly overweight, having too much fat of either kind can lead to serious health consequences.

Subcutaneous fat is also known as the passive fat.

It’s found in the spaces surrounding the liver, intestines, and other organs. It’s also stored in the omentum, an apron-like flap of tissue that lies under the belly muscles and blankets the intestines. The omentum gets harder and thicker as it fills with fat. It can also build up in the arteries.

Subcutaneous fat produces more of certain beneficial molecules, including the hormone leptin, which acts on the brain to suppress appetite and burn stored fat. Adiponectin, another hormone produced mainly by subcutaneous fat, helps protect against diabetes by regulating the processing of fats and sugars; it also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the linings of blood vessels. Adiponectin is made by visceral fat, too, but production falls as fat volume increases.

The top layer of your skin is the epidermis. The middle layer is the dermis. Subcutaneous fat is the deepest layer. Since it is accumulated under the skin, the best way to measure the amount of Subcutaneous fat is Skinfold caliper. Skinfold caliper is a small handy tool for measuring body fat percentage and since it only measures skin, unlike Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis and other methods which target the whole body. The disadvantage to skinfold calipers is that it is not easily reproducible and can vary from more accurate direct measures of percent body fat by up to 10% or more.

what are the functions of Subcutaneous fat?

  1. It’s the one way that your body stores energy.
  2. It functions as a padding to protect your muscles and bones from the impact of hits or falls.
  3. It serves as a passageway for nerves and blood vessels between your skin and your muscles.
  4. It insulates your body, helping it regulate temperature.
  5. It attaches the dermis to the muscles and bones with its special connecting tissue.

Subcutaneous fat is normally harmless and may even protect against some diseases but too much of it may might put you in the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, and kidney disease.

The two most reliable methods for losing excess subcutaneous fat are diet and physical activity. People with lots of subcutaneous fat often make the mistake of trying to spot-reduce the fat by, for example, doing lots of abdominal exercises. This strategy is less effective than trying to burn fat throughout the body.

The exercise routines that are most effective at doing this include:

  • Aerobic exercise and cardio: This group includes most fitness routines that increase the heart rate, such as running, swimming, and jumping rope. The more intense the routine and the longer it is performed, the more calories it will burn.
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT): HIIT is a way to increase the fat-burning power of aerobic exercise. It involves short bursts of activity followed by periods of lower activity. For example, a HIIT routine might include running for 1 minute, followed by a 2-minute walk, then another 2 minutes running or doing another intense exercise, such as jumping rope.
  • Strength training: Strength-based exercises, such as weightlifting, burn little or no fat. However, muscle burns calories, so building muscle is one strategy for boosting metabolism. People with more muscle burn more calories, even when they are not exercising.

the ease of losing subcutaneous fat versus visceral fat can vary from person to person. It’s hard to predict how or where one loses fat first. The important thing is that the clinician and patient are working towards that healthy goal. Ultimately, the best way to achieve weight loss involves living a sustainable lifestyle.

what is visceral fat and how to lose it?

since it is inside our muscle walls, it really is hard to feel it with hands. Before researchers recognized that fat acts as an endocrine gland, they thought that the main risk of visceral fat was influencing the production of cholesterol by releasing free fatty acids into the bloodstream and liver. We now know that there’s far more to the story. Researchers have identified a host of chemicals that link visceral fat to a surprisingly wide variety of diseases.

You might feel you have too much subcutaneous fat when you see a bulge around your bra straps or the ‘muffin top’ effect at your waistband. Too much of any body fat is bad for your health. But compared to subcutaneous fat, the visceral kind is more likely to raise your risk for serious medical issues. Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and high cholesterol are some of the conditions that are strongly linked to too much fat in your trunk.

visceral fat is also known as the active fat. Scientists are looking to find answers as to why visceral fat is stored by the body. Adding more high-quality protein to your meals can help you lose subcutaneous fat and maintain a healthy weight, according to studies.

A 2017 meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that visceral fat loss is linked to subcutaneous fat loss. Researchers suspect that visceral fat makes more of certain proteins that inflame your body’s tissues and organs and narrow your blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure go up and cause other problems.

Imaging scans, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are the most accurate way to determine whether someone has visceral fat. A tape measure is your best home option for keeping tabs on visceral fat. you can figure out your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) at home or ask your healthcare provider to determine this measurement for you.

To calculate your WHR at home, follow these instructions:

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Find, and measure, the smallest part of your waist. It’s usually right above the belly button. This measurement is your waist circumference.
  3. Find, and measure, the widest part of your hips or buttocks. This measurement is your hip circumference.
  4. Divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference. This is your WHR.

Measure your waistline at the level of the navel — not at the narrowest part of the torso — and always measure in the same place. According to official guidelines, the bottom of the tape measure should be level with the top of the right hip bone, or ilium — see the illustration — at the point where the ilium intersects a line dropped vertically from the center of the armpit. Don’t suck in your gut or pull the tape tight enough to compress the area.

According to a 2008 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), citing a 2001 study, a waist-to-hip ratio above .85 for women and .90 for men indicates abdominal obesity. If you’re a man and your waist is more than 40 inches, or if you’re a woman and your waist is more than 35 inches, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible to discuss potential health risks and lifestyle changes.

In women, a waist circumference of 35 inches or larger is generally considered a sign of excess visceral fat, but that may not apply if your overall body size is large. Rather than focus on a single reading or absolute cut-off, keep an eye on whether your waist is growing. That should give you a good idea of whether you’re gaining unhealthy visceral fat.

If a doctor uses an MRI scan or body fat composition device to measure a person’s visceral fat, the result will fall somewhere on a scale between 1 and 59.

A research study, published in 2011 by Newcastle University, showed that a very low calorie diet can significantly reduce levels of visceral fat in people with type 2 diabetes. Along with the reduction in visceral fat, the study participants recorded improved blood glucose levels and a number of them were able to reduce or come off their diabetes medication. This is because protein helps keep you full between meals and may also help you reduce the urge to snack. In studies, such as one titled ‘Quality protein intake is inversely related with abdominal fat’, people who eat more protein tend to carry less visceral fat.

as mentioned, visceral fat inhibits adiponectin. As a result your body produces more fat than you actually need. A high level of visceral fat also influences your insulin sensitivity. Which means that it can lead to type 2 diabetes later in life. Visceral fat is correlated with insulin resistance, which can make it hard to lose both visceral and subcutaneous fat. Some research suggests that visceral fat releases immune system chemicals called cytokines that increase inflammation. This inflammatory response is linked to weight gain and may increase subcutaneous fat.

cytokines create tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6. these two can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. These and other biochemicals are thought to have deleterious effects on cells’ sensitivity to insulin, blood pressure, and blood clotting.

Researchers at Harvard have discovered that, compared with subcutaneous fat, visceral fat secretes more of retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4), a molecule that increases insulin resistance. As the volume of visceral fat increases, so do levels of RBP4. The connection is so strong that researchers are developing a blood test for RBP4 as a way for physicians to measure an individual’s store of visceral fat.

what diseases visceral fat causes?

heart disease: Several studies have documented this effect. For example, a large study of European women ages 45 to 79 concluded that those with the biggest waists (and those with the largest waists in relation to their hip size) had more than double the risk of developing heart disease. The risk was still nearly double even after adjustment for several other risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, and BMI. Even in healthy, nonsmoking women, every 2 inches of additional waist size raised the risk for cardiovascular disease by 10%.

Higher visceral-fat volume also has a deleterious impact on several other heart disease risk factors. It tends to increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, raise triglyceride levels, and lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Taken together, these changes, known as metabolic syndrome, create a serious risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In 2009, a consensus group of medical professional organizations agreed that abdominal obesity should be recognized as a major feature of metabolic syndrome.

Dementia: Researchers at Kaiser Permanente found that people in their early 40s with the highest levels of abdominal fat, compared with those who had the least abdominal fat at that age, were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) by their mid-70s to early 80s. Dementia was not associated with increased thigh size.

Asthma: In a large study of California teachers, women with high levels of visceral fat (a waist circumference of more than 35 inches) were 37% more likely to develop asthma than women with smaller waists, even if their weight was normal. The risks were highest for women who were both large-waisted and overweight or obese. The investigators believe that belly fat raises the risk of asthma more than other poundage because it has inflammatory effects throughout the body, including in the airways.

Breast cancer: A combined analysis of several studies found that premenopausal women with abdominal obesity (the largest waist size in proportion to their height) were at greater risk for breast cancer. Large waists were also linked to breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women, but that effect was not significant once BMI was taken into account.

Colorectal cancer: People with the most visceral fat have three times the risk of developing colorectal adenomas (precancerous polyps) than those with the least visceral fat, according to a Korean study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The relationship was found after many other risks were accounted for. The researchers also confirmed that adenomatous polyps in the colon are associated with insulin resistance, which may be the mechanism that increases the cancer risk.

there are several ways you can minimize the accumulation of visceral fat. The good news is that because it’s more readily metabolized into fatty acids, it responds more efficiently to diet and exercise than fat on the hips and thighs.

how to reduce visceral fat?

stay active: Exercise can help reduce your waist circumference. Even if you don’t lose weight, you lose visceral fat and gain muscle mass. In the Louisiana study, the women going through menopause (those who gained visceral fat) also became less physically active.

Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days, such as brisk walking or bicycling at a casual pace. create opportunities to add motion to routine tasks. For example, park farther from your destination and walk the rest of the way, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and stand while you talk on the phone.

Studies have shown that you can help trim visceral fat or prevent its growth with both aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) and strength training (exercising with weights). Spot exercises, such as sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles but won’t get at visceral fat.

Exercise can also help keep fat from coming back. In a study at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, dieting women lost an average of 24 pounds and reduced both visceral and subcutaneous fat, with or without aerobic or strength-training exercise. In the following year, those who maintained their exercise programs — a modest 40 minutes twice a week — maintained their visceral fat loss, while those who didn’t exercise or abandoned their programs showed a 33% average increase in visceral fat.

be careful about your eating regiment: Choose a balanced diet that helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Include plenty of calcium: according to another study from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, the more calcium a woman consumes, the less visceral fat she gains. Avoid products that seem to encourage belly fat deposition, including trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils) and fructose-sweetened foods and beverages.

Studies suggest that more calcium and vitamin D in your body may be linked to less visceral fat. So load up on leafy greens like collards and spinach. Tofu and sardines are also good picks, as are dairy foods like yogurt, cheese, and milk.

On the other hand, certain foods seem to encourage belly fat. One of them is trans fats, which are found in meats and dairy as well as in deep-fried or processed foods. Also bad are sodas, candy, processed baked goods, and other foods sweetened with fructose. So read the labels and avoid ingredients like “partially hydrogenated oils” or “high-fructose corn syrup.” And follow the usual rules for healthy eating, with lots of fresh produce, whole grains like wheat breads and oatmeal, and lean protein like skinless chicken, fish, eggs, beans, and low-fat dairy.

Low carb diets, such as the keto diet, may also help you lose visceral fat. also, Eating soluble fibre has been found to help suppress appetite, which can therefore reduce visceral fat. Soluble fibre is found in oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils, as well as many vegetables.

One study (‘Short-chain fatty acids stimulate glucagon-like peptide-1 secretion via the G-protein-coupled receptor FFAR2’) found short-chain fatty cards help increase levels of fullness hormones.

It’s not secret that eating too much sugar an lead to weight gain. Studies (including ‘Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes: Epidemiologic evidence’) have also suggested people who eat more added sugar usually have more visceral fat. Adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, according to the NHS.

also avoid Trans fats. trans fat is a type of fat created by pumping hydrogen into vegetable oils. They have a longer shelf way which is why they are added to many processed foods.

But a study shows trans fat can increase visceral fat and cause a number of health problems (‘Health effects of trans-fatty acids: experimental and observational evidence’). Most supermarkets in the UK have removed trans fats from their own-brand products.

Drinking too much alcohol can also worsen your adipose tissue condition. A study polished in The Journal of Nutrition (‘Alcohol Drinking Patterns Differentially Affect Central Adiposity as Measured by Abdominal Height in Women and Men’) said those that drink too much alcohol may encourage fat to be stored as visceral fat.

Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, but try cutting down to see significant weight loss results.

quit smoking: The more you smoke, the more likely you are to store fat in your abdomen rather than on your hips and thighs.


get enough sleep: Too little is bad. A five-year study found that adults under age 40 who slept five hours or less a night accumulated significantly more visceral fat. But too much isn’t good, either — young adults who slept more than eight hours also added visceral fat. (This relationship wasn’t found in people over age 40.)

calm your nerves: In the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, middle-aged women who showed more hostility and had more depressive symptoms also had more visceral fat — but not more subcutaneous fat. In other studies, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol were associated with a buildup of visceral fat even in lean women.

Stress can also play a role in storing excess visceral fat. This is because when someone is stressed, their body releases cortisol, which increases how much visceral fat a person’s body stores. Some doctors recommend that people with high levels of visceral fat try to reduce their stress levels.

Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing can be beneficial and help a person lose visceral fat more efficiently.

Forget Liposuction: Liposuction for cosmetic fat removal doesn’t reach inside the abdominal wall. Liposuction only removes subcutaneous fat and therefore should not be undertaken as a procedure for improving health. As with any form of surgery, liposuction carries the risk of infection which can negatively affect our health.

If you have any of the signs of visceral fat, talk to your doctor about your health. You can learn if you’re at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and other diseases.

Your doctor also can check your blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs. They also may test samples of your blood or pee to get a full picture of your condition.