Worried that you're harbouring dangerous belly fat? Your waist circumference tends to be related to the amount of visceral fat you have, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found.
Government health guidelines recommend keeping your waist below 94 centimetres (about 37 inches). To check, wrap a tailor’s measuring tape snugly around your bare abdomen, just above your hip bones. Relax, exhale and measure. If your number comes up a little elevated, here's what you need to do to target visceral fat.
SWEAT THE CARDIO
Resistance training is great for adding lean body mass, but cardio is better for burning visceral fat. In a Duke University study, people who trained on treadmills, cross-trainers and exercise bikes for eight months (at the cardio equivalent of jogging 19 kilometres a week) lost about eight per cent of their visceral fat. Those who performed equally intense resistance workouts saw no change in visceral fat.
QUIT THE FRUCTOSE
A diet packed with fructose can make your belly bulge. In fact, adolescents in a Georgia Health Sciences University study who consumed the most fructose had about 20 per cent more visceral fat than those who ate the least.
Your move: avoid fruit juice or foods that have added sugar. Don't worry about whole fruit though. Its fibre and nutrient content are beneficial to a healthy diet.
Related: The Biggest Enemy In Weight Gain
EAT WHOLE GRAINS
Foods like barley and quinoa do more than just help fill you up. In a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate three or more daily servings of whole grains had 10 per cent less visceral fat than those who ate hardly any or no whole grains, even when the researchers adjusted for other lifestyle and diet factors. One benefit, they speculate, might come from prebiotic compounds that feed beneficial bacteria in your gut.
The right amount of shut-eye is key. A study in the journal Sleep showed that people who logged 6-7 hours a night had the lowest levels of visceral fat. Above or below that range was associated with more visceral fat, with the worst numbers going to those who slept fewer than five hours. Over a five-year span, these sleepers put on visceral fat about five times faster than the healthy sleepers.