21 January 2020

Nutrition: Visceral Fat, the Hidden Dangers

April 7, 2014

You’re slim, you hit the gym three times a week, play sport twice a week and do your best to get your five-a-day – would you be surprised to learn that you have too much fat surrounding your internal organs? I certainly was.


I attended a LifeScore session at Thirty Seven Degrees Gym, and it was an eye-opening experience. The one-to-one session takes about 45-minutes and is a fantastic way to figure out exactly what’s going on in your body. Then you can tailor your training plan to fit this and improve on the areas where you need help.

You really do learn everything, from gait analysis, balance, hydration, BMI and upper-body strength – you get a fantastically rounded overview of your body and where you need to improve. It’s a brilliant tool if you feel like you’re in a bit of fitness rut and need some new direction to really get the most out of your workout.

I was pretty impressed with my strength scores, balance and gait were great, posture and BMI – all perfect. Even my hydration levels were good (which I was surprised at given that I was slightly hung-over). But just before I could start feeling too smug, it was revealed that my visceral fat levels were slightly too high. Fat levels? I stared in the mirror in disbelief… but this isn’t the kind of fat that you can see, and unfortunately it’s even more dangerous.

What is visceral fat?
Visceral fat is the fat that is stored within the abdomen and surrounds important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. This internal fatty tissue has the potential to cause dangerous side effects as it can effectively strangle your internal organs. It can also be a contributing factor to certain cancers, diabetes and heart disease. The worrying thing is that you might not even know it’s there.

As a keen netballer, veg lover and junk-food avoider, I was slightly baffled as to how my visceral fat levels could be too high – even if they were only slightly high. “How much alcohol do you drink on a regular basis?” My LifeScore assessor asked me. Ahhh… there we have it then. Even a few glasses of wine per week can cause an increase in visceral fat. And it has an accumulative effect so you don’t need to be binge drinking to cause damage.

But there is good news! Visceral fat is dangerous – but very easy to shift. If you do discover that your internal fat levels are too high there’s plenty you can do to combat it.

How to combat visceral fat
Exercise, diet and a healthy lifestyle. We know all this. If you’re reading this then it’s likely you’re pretty keen on exercise. Short, sharp bursts of intensive training is said to be one of the most effective ways of burning fat – so give HIIT a try.

Other than exercise we need to limit the booze. If you’re having a couple of glasses of wine per week then you’re probably within the recommended limits – but just make sure you watch your serving size. One glass isn’t necessarily one unit.

If, like me, you can’t face ditching the wine, there are plenty of great foods out there that can help you to lower your visceral fat levels as well. The key advice is to avoid saturated fats, found in processed meats and dairy products, up your antioxidant levels with dark green vegetables and get plenty of fibre and whole grains.

My favourite visceral fat-fighting food is Chia. Bursting with Omega 3, fibre and antioxidants – these tiny little seeds could hold the key to reducing your visceral fat levels and giving you a new lease on life.

Choose Chia
The Australian-grown seed offers an enormous range of nutritional benefits that can help you to lose weight and improve your general health. The key benefits include:

–       Energy: Chia seeds provide a sustained release of energy, which can improve your endurance for sport.

–       Weight loss: The high-fibre content of Chia keeps you feeling fuller for longer – less likely to snack on the bad stuff.

–       Heart health: High levels of Omega 3 can help to lower cholesterol and maintain proper artery function.

–       Food intolerance: Chia is gluten-free, raw, natural and 100 per cent chemical-free.

Chia is also incredibly versatile – chuck it in smoothies, stir it into your porridge, sprinkle it on yoghurt – the possibilities are endless. I’m on a mission to blast this visceral fat and get an A* on my next LifeScore! Look out for my favourite recipe coming up later in the week.

To book yourself in for a LifeScore assessment visit http://tower.thirtysevendegrees.co.uk/lifescore/what-lifescore

Natalie Morris, Sportsister
The Women’s Sport Magazine

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