Abdominal Fat Versus Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat responds to exercise, but abdominal fat requires improvements in diet quality.

Subcutaneous fat responds to exercise, but abdominal fat requires improvements in diet quality.

To most, body fat is body fat. Ugly, unsightly and something we want to get rid of. However, not many know that the body was two main forms of fat storage. These two forms of fat storage  have quite different functions in the body. Differences between the types fat stores explains why some find it hard to improve body composition. Understanding the two forms of body fat can therefore allows weight loss solutions to be implemented more effectively.

Subcutaneous Fat

The fat you can see under your skin is subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that the body uses for energy when performing exercise or during the course of the day. Subcutaneous fat is unsightly yes, but there is no risk to health from having subcutaneous fat. Even large stores of subcutaneous fat do not increase the risk of disease. Central subcutaneous fat is stored around the trunk and peripheral subcutaneous fat is stored in the arms and legs.

Abdominal Fat

Abdominal fat is sometimes called deep, central, visceral or belly fat. It is different to subcutaneous fat because it isn’t stored under the skin. Instead it is stored around the vital organs of the body, especially the liver, as well as around the intestinal tissue. Abdominal fat is deep in the body and so cannot be seen. Abdominal fat increases the risk of diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease because it is a symptom of metabolic dysfunction.

How To Burn Fat

Subcutaneous fat responds to physical activity. The harder you train the more subcutaneous fat you can burn. It’s a stored form of energy and the body will readily oxidise the fat reserves when you need the energy. However, abdominal fat is not a store of energy. It’s the results of a metabolic dysfunction and so exercise will not cause abdominal fat to be burnt. In order to remove belly fat, other strategies must therefore be employed.

High Quality Diets

The only way to get rid of abdominal fat is to improve the quality of the diet. Abdominal fat is caused by fatty liver, which results from sugar consumption. Removing sugar from the diet and eating a high quality diet will slowly reverse the metabolic dysfunction that is the cause of belly fat and allow it to be burnt as energy. Cutting calories and performing exercise will not reduce the extent of belly fat and this is the mistake many make when trying to lose weight.

Abdominal Fat First, Then Subcutaneous Fat

A reasonably lean athlete with no metabolic dysfunction can burn subcutaneous fat readily through training. If an overweight person will belly fat tries the same, little progress will be made. This is because the metabolic dysfunction underlying abdominal fat must be overcome before subcutaneous fat will respond to exercise. Therefore diet quality should be first improved to reduce belly fat, and then exercise (resistance training) can be implemented to burn subcutaneous fat.


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