Fitness, Tips & Techniques, Wellness / Self-Care

How do you lower your visceral fat level?

Fact: excess fat could cause health risks.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Aug 12, 2021

For eight whole months of the pandemic, I was seeing a personal trainer to gain more muscle and further tone my legs, at leas that’s what I originally planned for. Among working with my trainer, I would step on a very fancy scale every four weeks and have my entire body measured. This machine, the InBody, shows you how much weight is in each arm, thigh, leg weight, as well as your ass, your stomach, BMI and water intake. And then on the side of the print out report shows a number, ranged from 1-20 describing how much visceral fat. Although, I was tracking properly in terms of gaining muscle and toning my legs, my visceral fat level was 14 and as I soon found out, that was a high number and posed as a health risk. Why you ask? Good question.


Ahead, discover what visceral fat is and how it impacts your overall health. And then of course, ways to lower it.


So what exactly is visceral fat?

90 percent body fat on the average person is subcutaneous, or fat that lies under the layer just beneath the skin. Translation: if you poke your belly, the fat that feels soft is in fact, subcutaneous. The remaining 10% is called visceral or intra-abdominal fat — placed beneath the abdominal wall and found in liver, intestines and other organs. It can also be stored in the omentum, a flap of tissue under the belly muscles that covers the intestines. When the omentum gets filled with fat, it becomes harder and thicker.


The tricky thing about visceral fat is because it’s underneath the skin, you can’t see it or feel it. An easy way to tell is if you notice your waistline increasing, even if you don’t actually gain weight because the visceral fat pushes out against the abdominal wall.


How do I figure out my visceral fat level?

Since visceral fat pushes the belly out, a tape measure is a great way to track your progress. Measure your waistline at the level of your bellow button (crucial to not do the narrowest part of the torso) and always measure in the same place. Try your best not to suck in or pull the tape tightly to compress the area. It might be beneficial to focus on if your waist is growing or if your clothes feel tight than to focus on a specific goal number. After a month of measuring, you should have a good idea if you are at an unhealthy visceral fat level.


Additional ways to measure visceral fat is with: a full-body MRI scan, CT scan, waist-height ratio (WHtR) or stepping on a high-tech scale like I did. Having a high waist to height is a good indicator of a high percentage of visceral fat. Some experts even say it’s more accurate than BMI (body mass indication). To calculate your WHtR: divide your waist circumference (either in inches or centimeters) by your height, if it is greater than 0.50, you have high visceral fat.


So why is it scary? 

The trouble with visceral fat is that fat cells act as an endocrine organ, secreting hormones and other molecules that can affect other tissues. Visceral fat also influences the production of cholesterol by releasing free fatty acids into the liver and bloodstream.


Visceral fat makes more cytokines, proteins responsible for inflammation and creates a greater risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions. In addition, it also produces a precursor to angiotensin, a protein that causes blood vessels to constrict and blood pressure to rise.


And if that didn’t freak you out: visceral fat has been known to be an underlying cause of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer. Aka, it’s a good idea to monitor this number.


How do you lower visceral fat? Aka, loose fat in your belly.

And now for the good news: because visceral fat cells are more readily metabolized into fatty acids, it responds efficiently and effectively to diet and exercise. Here are some ways to lower that stubborn belly fat:


Move 30 minutes a day

Exercise can usually help most things. Even if you don’t loose weight per say, you will loose visceral belly fat and gain muscle mass. Make sure you are doing a moderately intense workout, one that you sweat a bit in. It is most effective when you do both aerobic and strength training. And then, add in extra steps to your day by walking instead of taking public transit, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and standing when working. Every little bit really will help.


Get on the green wagon

Diet will affect everything you do. Maintain a well-balanced diet to avoid belly fat deposition. Stay away from simple sugars like fructose-sweetened foods and beverages. Try your best to reduce your alcohol consumption and lay low on fast food.


Catch those Z’s

Sleeping 7-9 hours a night will drastically help keep visceral fat levels down.


If you need more help on your fitness journey, try counting macros.