The ‘Biz’ on Visceral Fat

Much has been discussed in the media about the health consequences of visceral fat. In this sense, the media seems to actually be educating the public on the issues that come attached with excess visceral fat. This article will go over what visceral fat is, why it’s bad, the gender differences in visceral fat storage, and methods to remove it.

The differences between visceral and subcutaneous fat
Visceral fat is, as the name implies, fat around your viscera. Which according to dictionary.com: is an area around the organs of your body, especially those in the abdominal cavity. So its fat that’s contained around the organs of your body in the abdominal area. There are numerous health issues associated with visceral adiposity. It’s been associated with insulin resistance, Montague C.T. et al concluded that obese individuals with visceral fat experienced more greater adverse metabolic consequences than obese individuals with less visceral fat.

These are all associations however. I was unable to find any research which showed that visceral fat had a causative effect on insulin resistance. As a matter of fact an entire study by Frayn KN looked at if the effects of visceral fat and insulin resistance are causative or correlative. The conclusion pretty much says it all: “there is at present no proof of a causal link between visceral fat accumulation and insulin resistance, or the associated metabolic syndrome.”

I’m not here to say that visceral fat is good! There is definitely something going on with visceral fat and insulin resistance. Further research seems to be needed in order to find out what in particular is causing the association between visceral fat and insulin resistance. One study, which I already mentioned noted that obese individuals’ fat tissues contained the adipokines interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor. These two adipokines have may cause obesity-related insulin resistance. This study was done on adipose tissue in general however, and not visceral fat exclusively.

Another hypothesis of the association is related to the the orientation of visceral fat. It’s approximation to the liver may play in a role in the development of metabolic syndromes. Since an increased plasma FFA concentration also plays a role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, it can be postulated that increased visceral fat > increased plasma FFA > increased chances of developing insulin resistance.

Another very interesting point about visceral fat is it’s highly metabolically active. More so than subcutaneous fat as a matter of fact. According to Monzon J.R. et al visceral fat is 20% more “metabolically” active then subcutaneous active. By metabolically active, I mean that the visceral fat has higher lipolytic effects than subcutaneous fat. This is yet another reason that visceral fat may increase your chances of developing insulin resistance.

Now let’s take a look at the gender differences in visceral fat. According to Vortruba and Jensen et al men carry more visceral fat than women. Power et al concluded the same thing and tried to tie these reasons into evolutionary processes. The higher distribution of lower-body fat in women may be linked to the process of reproduction. Perhaps more fat was stored there so females had a highly metabolically active site to draw energy from.

The reason men store it more as visceral fat is murky. The study cited above concluded “that the pattern of central obesity, more commonly seen in men, is not adaptive, but rather reflects the genetic drift hypothesis of human susceptibility to obesity.” This is just my opinion, but since males were usually the hunters, they would need a quick energy source as well to hunt. They would also need a source for this energy and perhaps sub visceral fat and it’s highly metabolic characteristic was where that energy was stored. During famine, this fat could easily be released into the blood stream to help find food. Now a days, finding food is as easy as picking up a phone and having a credit card.

You may be asking why men couldn’t store a higher distribution of fat in the lower-body like females and vice versa. Horton et al as well as Romanski have separate studies with data showing that plasma free fatty acids (FFA) are lower in females after a given time compared to males. This means that ladies are storing more of these FFA somewhere. Romanski’s data supports the fact that women store more FFA in subcutaneous fat than do men. Sorry ladies!

So it appears that females store more FFA in subcutaneous fat. Where does this fat tend to store? Why is stored there? Data from Horton et al indicate that women have less TG in the lower limb after feeding. This fact alone supports that females have a higher propensity to store FFA in their lower bodies compared to men. In order for FFA to be stored as body fat, there must be an increase in blood flow to a given area. Well, women also have greater blood flow to their lower body compared to men.

So there you have it folks. Visceral fat isn’t good, but there really are only associations (so far) linking them to diabetes. Still, there really is no reason to have visceral fat. It doesn’t have any special abilities that subcutaneous fat doesn’t already have. For those of you who are interested in aesthetics, obviously you’d want to get rid of this as well. I said at the beginning that I’d tell you how to get rid of it. The answer is simple, but not easy: Lose weight! Since visceral fat is incredibly metabolically active, it will be shed easier than subcutaneous fat. So if you lose fat, you can bet that a large amount of it will come from sub visceral fat!

Spot Reduction. Does It Exist?

If you anyone understand the basic physiology of fat loss, you will probably understand that it is not possible to lose adipose tissue from a desired area in your body. According to Lyle McDonald, there are 5 types of fat that are stored in the human body. Each type of fat has a different profile. Some fat needs to be present at all times in order for us to function properly. Some fat is super metabolically active and easy to burn. Some fat is underneath the skin and some between our organs.

As nice as it would be to “tell” our body where to oxidize fat from, it doesn’t work that way. The body will oxidize fat from where ever it can get it from. Fatty acids are usually broken down from triglycerides in sub visceral and subcutaneous fat (which is located all over the body). What this mean of course, is that fat cannot be burned from a desired area in order to be used towards creating energy.

Let’s take a look at a few studies that have looked into spot reduction. In order for spot reduction to exist, there would need to be an increase in blood flow to an area of the body. For instance, if you wanted to burn fat from your hamstrings, you would need an increase in the blood flow to your hamstrings. The reason for this is simple, blood carries (FFA’s) free fatty acids (broken down triglycerides) in order to be burned or stored. So technically speaking, if you wanted to lose fat from a specific area, you would need an increase in blood flow to that area to transport the FFA’s.

Another point to think about is that in order for spot reduction to occur, we would need the fat to be burned from subcutaneous fat. Not any of the other types. The reason for this is that subcutaneous fat is located underneath the skin. It is the loss of subcutaneous fat that would give the appearance of “muscle tone.”

Research done by Stallknecht et al studied how blood flow and lipolysis were effected in subcutaneous adipose tissue by contractions in local muscles. In this particular study, they looked the the muscles surrounding the femur (upper leg bone). They had their participants perform unilateral leg extensions. They measured blood flow and lipolysis in each leg. The studies data concluded that blood flow and lipolysis were higher in subcutaneous adipose tissue adjacent to contracting muscles. Ergo “spot lipolysis” is possible.

Now, you might think that this study shows that spot reduction is possible. You would be thinking incorrectly though. This study only studied acute blood flow and FFA content. What this study didn’t look at was how this increase in lipolysis or blood flow effected fat loss in the long-term.

Let’s take a look at a few studies on the long-term effects of resistance training on subcutaneous adipose tissue. Kostek et al studied 104 men and women. The study duration was 12 weeks. The participants performed arm work on their non-dominant arm. Skinfold measurements and MRI were used to assess changes in body composition. The skinfolds and MRI were taken at baseline, between and at the end of 12 weeks of resistance training.

Subcutaneous fat measurements decreased in men and women in the trained arm only. The untrained arm did not change in composition. However, in the MRI, a generalized subcutaneous fat loss was found independent of gender. It’s too bad they didn’t use a better method for measuring body composition. However MRI is a more accurate measurement of body composition.

Another study by Miura et al discovered similar results to the previous study. The researchers looked at only 8 young females. They used ultrasonography as their assessment method for changes in body composition. In this study they had participants performed a one-legged cycle ergometer training session for one hour, three days a week. The results were pretty much the exact same as the previous study: there were no body composition changes seen between the working and non-working limb.

Another excellent study was done recently on the effects of abdominal exercises on abdominal fat. I have a short and sweet article dedicated to that exact study, which can be read here. This isn’t any new news, but I feel it needs to be repeated every now and then. People still waste far too much time in the gym wasting their time on rubbish exercises that aren’t giving them any results. I want people to be efficient and perform exercises that work!

I will be covering the reasons why an increase in blood flow and lipolysis doesn’t actually result in fat loss in the near future! Take care.

Staying In Shape For The Travelling Business Person

Is This You?
I have many clients who regularly travel for both business and vacation. Some of them use this as an excuse to eat like crap. Others try as hard as possible to stay on track, but still end up gaining a few pounds. With some of my clients, they aren’t able to easily lose that added weight. With others it’s incredibly easy for them to get back to their “baseline” weight, as they just begin to eat the way they usually do and their weight comes back down without really trying. I’m sure many of you have friends or family like this and probably repeat the words: “I hate you,” quietly to yourself when they shed that weight easily.

This article is written for those that regularly travel for business. It can still be applied to vacationing, but I would let yourself go a little more if you are on vacation. You’re trying to enjoy yourself, enjoy the exotic cuisines. Nonetheless this guide can still help you on vacation if you use some of the strategies. I hope this short guide will help you devise some strategies of your own to keep your weight at maintenance while enjoying yourself.

I’d like to first note that short business trips are a hard beast to deal with. You aren’t always by yourself, you’re usually meeting with people. Eating out, and drinking seems to be the norm on these kinds of trips. Shmoozing clients is the priority and maintaining your healthy lifestyle usually get’s put on the back burner. I still think it’s completely possible to stick to your goals while doing these trips. Let’s go over strategies to deal with drinking, eating out, and eating in while on vacation.

Drinking:
Alcohol doesn’t cause fat gain. I won’t go over this in any kind of detail. If you want to see the details read this. Alcohol DOES however lead to poor decision making. What you drink with your alcohol also will effect your caloric intake. A glass of wine is acceptable, 10 cocktails isn’t going to help you.

Suggestions to minimize calories while still drinking:
– More wine less hard-bar
– If you drink hard liquor, mix it with water and lime or lemon. Is that feminine? Yea, but if you want to look good, you need to make a few sacrifices. Just tell your friends it’s a gin and tonic, problem solved!
– Use artificial sweetened beverages to mix with your hard liquor.
– Keep drinking to a minimum (1-2 drinks).

I’d say at leastone of those will work with your lifestyle.

Eating Out:
Eating out is what I’d say is the biggest issue with trying to keep calories at a decent level. Restaurants rarely have their nutritional information readily available. So you are left making your best educated guess. The sauces that are used for various meals are nearly impossible to estime for I find. It’s usually a lot higher than you think. Sauces can add anywhere up to 500-1000 kcals for one meal(by my estimations). Crazy.

Eating out actually goes hand in hand with drinking. You usually have food accessible while drinking. Remember how I said earlier that your judgement sucks when you’re drinking? That’s where having food available while drinking becomes an issue. Some people might not be effected at all, others experience voracious hunger (myself included). If you’re lucky, you will find a small handful of items on a restaurants menu that would be deemed “healthy.” You can also get something “edited” for you. Whether or not you do this while drinking is up to you.

Let’s take a look at restaurant eating strategies:
– Order food high in protein.
– Order veggies.
– Order soups.
– Stay away from fried food.
– Don’t eat (I know, pretty tough).
– Fast for the day until you go out to eat (my favourite option)
– Eat less food during the day leading up to eating out (another one of my favourite options)
– Stay away from foods with creamy sauces.
– Ask for salad dressing on the side (it’s pretty gross how much they usually put on)

Eating On Your Own While Travelling:

There are quite a few options that can be used while travelling. Only some hotels will have a full kitchen, so that’s a limiting in terms of cooking food. That isn’t to say that everything is hopeless, it most definitely is not.

If you really want to reach your goals there are numerous ways to consume excellent food while away from home:
– Ship your food to your hotel. You can ship pretty much whatever you want. If it requires heating you may have some issues.
– Pack supplements/food with you. Protein powder, greens powder, fish oil, multi, vitamin D, home-made bars, nuts can be brought with you. This will make sure that you have something quick to consume when you are super busy. Having something easy to consume will lower your chances of hitting the nearest fast food joint when you’re in a rush.
– Find out which restaurants are in the area, try and have meetings at healthier spots.
– Go shop for some easy things to consume when you arrive at your destination. Get some easy quick fixes like fruits and vegetables to consume. Although I’m not a fan of protein bars, I’d rather you have one of those than a crap meal from a local fast food joint.

Hopefully this guide helps you stay true to your goals while you travel. I know how hard it can be to stay compliant with your healthy lifestyle while on trips, if you find yourself looking for the nearest McDonalds, perhaps you can refer to this article to make a better choice!

Experiments With Low Meal Frequency

For the past six weeks, I’ve been experimenting with using intermittent fasting with a low meal frequency. I’ve been consuming two meals per day. Many of my readers may have read my piece a while back on how a lower meal frequency can help reduce total daily blood glucose levels.

Today I’d like to touch on a few of pros and cons of eating food less frequently. Last time I did IF, I consumed three meals per day. It worked very well and I got pretty lean using this protocol.

I didn’t experience hunger and I leaned out very nicely. I also had a lot more time on my hands than I do currently. Now I work a lot and I find getting my three meals in the 8 hour feeding window to be pretty difficult. I may be completely swamped for five straight hours, with no real breaks. If that five hour time period lies within my feeding period, you can see how getting three meals in would be a bit of an annoyance.

My solution to this was to simply lower the meal frequency from three to two. So now I consume my first meal around 11-12 and my feeding period ends around 7-8. This allows me to get a ton of work done while not experiencing hunger AND I get to eat some pretty big meals while losing fat!

How big are we talking? Over 1000 kcals per meal! For my weight, they could probably be even higher, but this is the way I’m doing it and it’s worked incredibly well. I also do sometimes take a protein shake between meals, but it’s small (maybe 30-60g of protein with water).

Let me look at the pros of eating this way:
– I don’t experience hunger (ever). This isn’t some kind of crazy ability I have either. All individuals who go through IF experience this effect. Eating with the lower meal frequency allows to eat some huge meals and keeps me feeling good for a long ass time. The reason for this appears to be the alteration of Ghrelin secretions, check this out for more information on this topic.

– I get a ton of work done. Martin Berkhan has talked about this as well on leangains and I completely agree. When I eat only 2x per day I don’t have to worry at all about eating. It’s super simple, I can get so much work done without having to worry about eating every couple of hours. I also spend less time cooking meals, preparing meals, and eating meals (although eating is something I can’t really get enough of).

– It’s working incredibly well. I’m feeling good and I’m feeling like I’m actually retaining more lean mass using this method. I don’t have photos or data to back this up, so I’m not saying this method is better than eating 3x per day. However I still feel like I’m keeping a good amount of size and strength.

– You have more leeway if you screw up a meal. If you do screw up and can’t make a meal for yourself, it’s easy to get your calories in. Let’s say you eat 3x per day and each meal is 700 kcal. Let’s say you’re in a bind and can’t get one of your meals in. You go to get something kind of crappy and it’s 1200 calories (let’s be honest a sandwich or any of that crap has a ton of calories from numerous sources) you’re now going a lot over your daily limit. With a lower frequency, you’re going to be ok.

I know that last one might not apply to everyone, but sometimes I feel like getting Subway or something and it does have a decent amount of kcals. With eating 3x per day I simply could not plug that into my daily intake as it would exceed my daily intake and slow down my fat loss.

Now let’s see what the cons are of using this method:
– You don’t get to eat as often. This is pretty obvious. If you really like eating frequently, then the 2x/day might not work for you. If you have time to spare during your eight hour feeding window then getting three meals in might be easy for you.

– If you don’t have a large appetite, consuming large calorie meals might be an issue. If you find eating larger meals unpalatable this method won’t be for you. Some people just can’t eat a lot of food at once and that’s perfectly fine. Breaking up your meals so you eat more frequently might be the answer.

These are the only real cons I see. There are probably others, but none that I think would effect people that much. Overall I’ve felt really good using this method. I’m leaning out incredibly well and really like the ease and versatility that this method gives me. One note of interest if you do decide to use this method. You must keep protein super high in each meal. This can be hard, and this is the reason I sometimes consume the shake between feedings. The shake could also be consumed alongside meal one or two. It doesn’t make a difference!

If you have any experience with low meal frequency post comments below. I’d like to know how others have responded as well.