Let us start with a clear-cut definition. Visceral Fat is the type of fat that gets accumulated around and between our vital internal organs like heart, liver, kidney, intestines, and our torso. An excess of visceral fat leads to central obesity, a phenomenon that is more commonly known as the “pot belly”, “beer belly”, or “apple-shaped” bellies. This fat is the primary reason for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders like Type-2 Diabetes, Hypertension, and many others related issues. It is also the major cause of premature deaths in adults globally, and the primary factor responsible for overall degrading health conditions in the majority of the population in both developed and developing countries alike.
Accumulation of visceral fat starts with the inactive and unhealthy lifestyles of today, characterised by the high intake of calorie-dense food and processed and sugar-rich items, with an average calorie intake more than maintenance. In addition to that alcohol consumption, mainly the crowd favourite “beer,” has shown a direct relation in the gaining of visceral fat. Now the term “beer belly” makes complete sense, doesn’t it?
So what are our weapons in this fight against visceral fat?
Medication and a surgical substitute may sound promising in order to combat obesity, but these options are expensive as well as risky. The sudden reduction of fat has shown to be quite hazardous in some cases, due to lack of observation or even due to side effects of the steroidal process (where medication is involved).
But there is another cost-effective, safe and sure process that can not only combat obesity but even eliminate the conditions in a healthy, structured way. It is not rocket science – it is just the modification and management of food habits and the introduction of exercise into daily lifestyle.
Lifestyle change – easier said than done?
When we are talking about a vast segment of the population that covers different age groups with different acceptance level towards lifestyle changes, we also need to sensitize ourselves to the impact of the change process on individuals. We have to constantly help realign the individual(s) with their health goals, and also provide the necessary motivation to keep them on their fitness path. Diet management and exercise should be customized regularly on an individual level with adherence to the acceptance criteria.
A very common question that clients ask is “Is there any specific workout which can help to reduce the abdominal fat?” Sadly, ‘spot reduction’ or reducing fat in a specific area (and nowhere else) by working out that area more intensively than others, isn’t a reality. The body is smart and doesn’t believe in making things easy for you. After all, you’ve not made it easy on the body when you binged on junk.
However, by combining regular exercise with a structured diet, reduction of visceral fat even from most stubborn areas can definitely be achieved by the addition of exercise along with a structured diet.
Aerobics or Strength Training?
When it comes to weight loss/fat loss goals, some swear by aerobics, while many others have committed their allegiances to strength training. In fact, researchers have favoured aerobics in terms of visceral fat and body mass reduction under isocaloric conditions. So, does that mean you should only be doing aerobics?
This question merits a deeper look.
Even though aerobic exercises have shown a greater impact on visceral fat reduction compared to resistance training in obese people, they also have shown to cause no increase in, or even reduce existing lean body mass. Now, how is that significant for a fat loss goal, you may ask.
The gain in lean body mass is quite significant in managing metabolic disorders like Insulin resistance and Type-2 Diabetes. People doing resistance training have shown a greater increase in lean mass which helps in developing insulin sensitivity and better hormonal profile. VO2 max and the post-exercise oxygen consumption is found to be more in resistance training, which helps in continued calorie expenditure even after completion of the workout.
If the goal is to reduce visceral fat along with improving metabolism, then a combination of aerobic and strength training is the best choice to make. Training volume and intensity also significantly impact the reduction of visceral fat.
How and where to start?
The HIIT (High-intensity interval training) form of aerobic training has shown to be more effective in terms of visceral fat reduction as compared to low intensity. But adherence to the process is the first requirement. It is quite impractical to ask an obese and sedentary person to do HIIT from Day 1, and this might actually increase the chances of his/her dropping out of the process. So, the proper approach should be –
- Start with brisk walks along with following a structured diet. You can also include home workouts for strength training in the subsequent weeks.
- As the person sees some changes in his/her body and develops a positive attitude towards the entire process, start adding some HIIT sessions per week with equal importance to weight or strength training.
- Gradually increase the volume and the intensity of workouts over time. This will benefit the overall process and help in bringing down the visceral fat and improving glucose tolerance and other metabolic factors.
Change is never easy. Especially when your body has settled into a comfort zone for ages. However, simple adjustments and a commitment to get fit can help a lot in reducing visceral fat and achieving a healthy lifestyle. Visceral fat is a nightmare that can be fought only by gradual progression in training, dieting, and living healthy!
Article Credits – Suraj Ray