The fastest way to shed subcutaneous fat...

Many people feel frustrated because the scales show they’re losing weight, but the way they look

in the mirror isn’t changing. Despite hours of aerobic exercise and a bland diet of tasteless low-

fat foods, they don’t appear to be making any visible progress.

What they don’t realize is that fat comes off different parts of your body depending on whether

you lose weight with diet or exercise. Of course, it’s no secret that cutting back on your daily

calorie intake will help you lose weight. However, it’s vital to remember that there’s a big

difference between losing weight and losing fat.

  • The quantity of food in your diet dictates how much weight you lose.

  • The quality of food in your diet dictates where that weight comes from.

For example, if your diet is high in processed or refined carbohydrates and low in protein and

essential fatty acids, the chances are that much of the weight you lose will be in the form of

muscle as well as fat.

Subcutaneous fat

In much the same way, whether you lose weight using diet or exercise affects whether the lost

fat comes from visceral or subcutaneous fat. Visceral (pronounced viss-er-al) fat surrounds and

protects your internal organs. Subcutaneous (pronounced sub-cue-tain-ee-us) fat is stored just

under your skin.

Publishing their findings in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Japanese researchers

have shown that dieting leads to a greater reduction in visceral fat — the fat that protects your

internal organs. Exercise, on the other hand, has a greater impact on subcutaneous fat.

The women in the study took part in a 13-week program that combined exercise with a

restricted-calorie diet. One group followed the diet, combined with 1-2 days per week of

exercise. Group two made no change to their diet, but exercised 3-4 days each week.

Although both groups lost roughly the same amount of fat, the women who exercised for 3-4

days each week lost more subcutaneous fat than those who exercised only 1-2 days weekly.

  • In the group who exercised more frequently, 6 of every 10 pounds of fat lost came from

subcutaneous fat.

  • In the group who exercised less frequently, less than 3 of every 10 pounds of fat lost

came from subcutaneous fat.

When the results of both groups were analyzed, the researchers found a link between exercise

frequency and the loss of subcutaneous fat. In other words, the more often you exercise, the

more subcutaneous fat you’ll lose. The minor effect of dieting on subcutaneous fat could explain

why dieters can lose a lot of weight, but remain unhappy with their appearance.


The rate of fat loss also varies between men and women, regardless of the type of exercise you

do. Based on the findings of several trials, Dr. Bradley C. Nindl, a research physiologist with the

U.S. Army, proposes a "hierarchy" of fat loss that differs according to your gender.

  • Men lose fat first from their trunk, then their arms, followed by their legs. The term

“trunk” simply refers to the parts of your body that aren’t your head, arms, or legs.

  • Weight loss in women appears to be greater in the arms, followed by the trunk, then by

the legs.

The distribution of subcutaneous fat is also strongly affected by your genetics. In other words,

two people could follow exactly the same exercise program, but the loss of subcutaneous fat

would not be the same.

For instance, scientists from Laval University in Quebec tracked a group of almost 500 subjects

from 99 families. All subjects followed the same aerobic exercise program for 20 weeks.

When subcutaneous fat was measured before and after training, the results showed that genetic

factors were more important than exercise in determining how much fat was lost. Research

using identical twins also shows the rate at which stored fat is broken down during a low-calorie

diet varies widely.

What’s more, your genetics also determine where subcutaneous fat is stored. Japanese scientists

have identified three different “patterns” of fat accumulation in young women in their early


  • The trunk and upper arm accumulation pattern. Fat tends to gather on the whole trunk —

chest, waist and back — and the upper arm.

  • The waist accumulation pattern. In this pattern, fat gathers around the waist.

  • The abdominals and hip accumulation pattern. Fat gathers evenly at the abdomen, side

abdomen, hip and lower hip.

What this all means is that the speed and location of subcutaneous fat loss will differ from

person to person. So, although you can exercise in a way that targets subcutaneous fat, there’s

no guarantee that it will come off the places you want as fast as you want. More interesting still,

the distribution and amount of subcutaneous fat is also affected by your hormones. And these

hormones are under the direct influence of the food you eat and the type of exercise you do.