Visceral fat is a specific type of fat that accumulates around your abdominal organs and can contribute to a variety of health problems. Luckily, reducing this type of fat can help you avoid these complications. But how do you get rid of visceral fat?
Eating a balanced diet and exercising frequently can help with overall weight loss, including burning visceral fat. But that's not all: Below, browse those and other tips for how to lower visceral fat.
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What Is Visceral Fat?
Your body contains several types of fat, including visceral and subcutaneous fat, per the Mayo Clinic. You may be most familiar with subcutaneous fat, which is stored directly below your skin and that you can feel by pinching yourself.
Visceral fat, on the other hand, is much harder to identify, as it's stored around the organs in your abdomen, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Per the Cleveland Clinic and Harvard Health Publishing, the dangers of visceral fat include increased risk for conditions like:
That's in part because extra fat produces fatty substances that can get into your blood stream, travel to your liver and mess with your body's ability to regulate insulin and cholesterol, per Harvard Health Publishing. Visceral fat also produces hormones and immune system chemicals that, in excess, can put you at higher risk for the conditions listed above.
How to Know if You Have Visceral Fat
Visceral fat is not as easy to detect as subcutaneous fat because it's not directly under your skin. The best way to keep track of visceral fat loss and gain is to measure your waistline (at navel level) to monitor any changes, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Per a February 2020 article in Nature Reviews Endocrinology, these waistline measurements may indicate you're carrying excess visceral fat, even if you don't have overweight:
- People assigned female at birth (AFAB): 35 in.
- People assigned male at birth (AMAB): 40 in.
However, it's important to note these measurements are estimates that may not apply to everyone depending on your natural body size. Work with your doctor to get the most accurate measurement of visceral fat.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Perhaps the most important tip for how to burn visceral fat is eating a balanced diet, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Foods to incorporate in your meals include:
- Whole grains like whole-wheat bread, barely and brown rice
- Legumes like lentils, peas and beans
- Lean proteins like chicken and fish
Research suggests that eating a low-carb diet may also help you get rid of visceral fat, according to a January 2015 study in the Journal of Nutrition, which found that people who ate fewer carbohydrates lost more fat mass than those who did not.
Another smaller study of 76 people likewise found that following a low-carb diet was linked to visceral fat loss in people AMAB, per May 2015 research in Metabolism. However, more research is needed to better understand the effects of a low-carb diet on visceral fat in people AFAB.
Low-carb foods you might eat with this diet include:
- Non-starchy vegetables like peppers and mushrooms
- Beneficial fats like olive oil and nuts
- Proteins like chicken and fish
Limit Trans and Saturated Fats
And it's just as important to remember which types of foods to limit or avoid, per Harvard Health Publishing. For instance, trans and saturated fats, which can contribute to increased visceral fat, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. These fats can also raise your cholesterol levels, putting you at higher risk for issues like heart attack or stroke, per the Mayo Clinic.
Common sources of these fats include:
- Full-fat dairy products like milk or cheese
- Red meats like beef or venison
- Baked goods
- Fried foods
Instead, opt for sources of beneficial fat such as:
- Nuts and nut butters
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Oils like olive oil, flaxseed oil and walnut oil
Limit Added Sugars
- Baked goods
- Flavored yogurts
- Condiments like ketchup or barbecue sauce
- Peanut butter
- Flavored drinks like coffee or water
You can work with your doctor or dietitian to design a nutrition plan for you.
Heavy alcohol drinking can contribute to weight gain (including visceral fat) compared to light or moderate drinking, according to January 2015 research in Current Obesity Reports. That's because many alcoholic drinks are high in empty calories that lack nutritional benefits, per the Cleveland Clinic.
And when it comes to abdominal fat specifically, you may not need to drink a whole lot to notice a change in your waistline. For instance, a February 2013 review in Nutrition Reviews found that drinking more than 500 milliliters of beer per day (that's about a can and a half) may be linked to higher abdominal obesity in people AMAB.
However, more research is needed to better establish the relationship between alcohol and visceral fat in general and when it comes to people AFAB.
Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise), per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines also recommend that adults do strength training activities like weight lifting at least twice a week to complement cardio.
Burning visceral fat isn't just about diet and exercise. Making health-supporting lifestyle choices like quitting smoking can also help you to get rid of visceral belly fat.
That's because smoking cigarettes can add to abdominal and visceral fat, according to September 2012 research in PLOS One. But quitting the habit could help prevent visceral fat gain and the health risks that can come with it.
Get Enough Sleep
Not sleeping enough or getting poor sleep can contribute to your risk for having obesity, per April 2013 research in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. For instance, sleeping less than five hours a night has been linked to excess visceral fat, according to a May 2013 study in Sleep.
The same study also found that having sleep apnea was associated with extra visceral fat.
Fortunately, you may help get rid of visceral fat in your stomach by getting quality sleep. One study found that people who increased their amount of sleep from six hours to seven or eight hours experienced less visceral fat gain than people who did not, per May 2014 research in Obesity.
So, how do you get good sleep to get visceral fat down? Develop good sleep hygiene practices, including:
Manage Your Stress
When you're stressed, your cortisol hormone levels can spike. And over the long term, high cortisol levels can contribute to accumulating visceral fat, according to an April 2018 review in Current Obesity Reports.
Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and quitting smoking are all key ways to lower your stress levels (and, consequently, how to potentially lose visceral fat), per the Cleveland Clinic. Other methods include:
Explore different types of therapy to determine what type of counseling may work best for you.
It can be difficult to make the lifestyle changes that can help you lose weight and lower visceral fat. But having support along the way can help you stick to new habits.
For instance, June 2016 research in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that receiving positive support from family and friends (like compliments and active participation in weight-loss habits) helped people maintain weight loss more effectively than instructional support (which is verbal directions for how to lose weight and keep it off).
- Mayo Clinic: "Belly fat"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Want to Lose the Belly Fat?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal fat and what to do about it"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Taking aim at belly fat"
- Nature Reviews Endocrinology: "Waist circumference as a vital sign in clinical practice: a Consensus Statement from the IAS and ICCR Working Group on Visceral Obesity"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Journal of Behavioral Medicine: "The role of social support in weight loss maintenance: results from the MedWeight study"
- PLOS One: "Cigarette Smoking Increases Abdominal and Visceral Obesity but Not Overall Fatness: An Observational Study"
- Nutrition Reviews: "Is beer consumption related to measures of abdominal and general obesity? A systematic review and meta-analysis"
- Current Obesity Reports: "Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Does Drinking Alcohol Prevent You From Losing Weight?"
- Obesity: "Change in sleep duration and visceral fat accumulation over 6 years in adults"
- Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: "Sleep and obesity"
- Sleep: "Short Sleep Duration Combined with Obstructive Sleep Apnea is Associated with Visceral Obesity in Korean Adults"
- Current Obesity Reports: "Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fat: Know which to choose"
- UC Berkeley University Health Services: "How Much is Too Much Sugar?"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "The Skinny on Visceral Fat"
- Journal of Nutrition: "A lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet reduces abdominal and intermuscular fat and increases insulin sensitivity in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes"
- Metabolism: "Association of decrease in carbohydrate intake with reduction in abdominal fat during 3-month moderate low-carbohydrate diet among non-obese Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes"