Types of belly fat
First things first, before getting started, it’s a good idea to understand your anatomy a little better. The abdomen is the area between the chest and pelvis. Abdominal muscles assist in the breathing process, provide movement and flexibility and provide protection to the body’s organs. These muscles also support the spine, providing postural support along with the back muscles.
Beneath the skin and any underlying subcutaneous fat, you’ll find the rectus abdominis (the muscle closest to the skin’s surface). These are what’s commonly referred to as ‘abs’ (lower abdominals). It is the paired muscle which runs vertically on each side of the abdomen wall. The internal and external obliques run up the sides of the upper body, holding in your waist and assist in turning the body from side to side. These are the muscles that are often affectionately called ‘the love handles’. The transversus abdmominis is the deeper muscle which cinches in your centre. All these muscles are held together by connective tissue (fascia).
According to research, there are three types of abdominal / tummy fat:
- Visceral fat: This accumulates around your organs (the omentum, which is a large membrane that protects and supports the body’s organs), which can cause a variety of metabolic problems, and increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Abdominal muscles are pushed outward, giving you the more rounded look. Visceral fat makes up the majority of fat build-up in this area of the body. Other names by which this type of fat is known is android fat, pot belly and central obesity. This is the fat layer that is modifiable through a cleaner diet and appropriate exercise.
- Intramuscular fat: This is fat within the abdominal muscle. Excess of this type of fat is linked with a higher risk of diabetes.
- Subcutaneous fat: This type of fat is usually located around the hips, thighs and buttocks. Higher proportions can make this type of fat the second most dangerous.
Fat storage and your hormones
Your hormones have a starring role in where your fat build-up is stored. The amount of fat you have is dependent on your diet and how often you exercise. How do hormones affect men and women?
- Men: Normal levels of testosterone mean that men store more fat around the abdominal area.
- Women: Normal pre-menopausal levels of oestrogen mean that women may store less fat around the abdomen, but more about the thighs and buttocks.
Hormone imbalances caused by thyroid disorders and other conditions, can make both men and women more prone to storing fat than others.