To understand subcutaneous fat, we need to understand fat in general.  There are two types of fat, white fat and brown fat.  Brown fat is common in infants and helps them to stay warm by generating heat.  By the time we are adults, most brown fat is gone and we are left with white fat.  White fat is stored two different ways, as subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.  Of these two types, subcutaneous fat is the most easily identifiable because it is stored directly under the skin.  Visceral fat, on the other hand, is stored inside the body around the organs.

What is Subcutaneous Fat?

Of the two storage areas for white fat, subcutaneous fat is the more desirable physiologically, however it is unsightly and is of concern to people who are worried about their appearance. Visceral fat is the more dangerous fat, slowly secreting inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines into the blood that will lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and many other health problems.

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Subcutaneous fat also releases these hormones into the blood, but at a much slower rate and at a much lower concentration.  When subcutaneous fat cells, or adipose cells, are small, due to a small amount of fat storage, they release a chemical into the body called adiponectin.

Adiponectin is a protein hormone that has been found to regulate blood sugar levels and fatty acid oxidation, more simply known as the process of burning fat.  The higher the adiponectin concentration, the more fat that is burned, leading to the production and release of more adiponectin, so the smaller the fat cells, the smaller they will tend to stay.

Adiponectin is a good hormone that causes the body’s metabolism to remain increased and burn more fat for energy and warmth throughout the day.

Everyone has subcutaneous fat, but some people have more than others.  The number of fat cells in the body is determined by genetics, and so some people are genetically predestined to have fewer fat cells, whereas other people have more fat cells.  However, the number of fat cells does not necessarily correspond to being overweight, that is determined by the amount of fat stored in each cell, which is regulated by caloric intake, activity levels, and genetics.

subcutaneous fat2

So That’s What Subcutaneous Fat Is, But How Do I Get Rid of It?

In order to receive the benefits of adiponectin, and to have a healthier weight, and even to look better by not having so much fat stored directly under the skin, there are ways to burn subcutaneous fat.  Diet and exercise are the two easiest and safest ways to decrease overall fat mass while possibly increasing fat free mass, or muscle mass, in the long-term.

When choosing meals, look to smaller meals more often throughout the day.  This will help the body to more easily regulate insulin.  Insulin is arguably the most anabolic hormone in the body.  When exercising properly and eating certain foods at certain times determined by the exercise, insulin can be used advantageously to cause adaptations in the muscles to grow, become stronger, faster, and even more powerful.

However, for most people this is not the case, and so increases in insulin levels cause the body to store energy as fat.  By eating smaller meals more often throughout the day, the insulin spike is not as great after each meal, fewer calories are consumed at each meal, and fewer calories are consumed over the course of the day because the appetite will be suppressed by less food more often.

The caloric breakdown of the foods is also important.  When trying to lose weight, the amount of fat in food has been found not to be as important as previously thought, but it is the carbohydrate content that makes the difference.  Carbohydrates are more readily available to the body’s cells to be converted to energy.

Carbohydrates are also directly linked to blood sugar levels, which exert the largest influence on insulin levels.  By limiting carbs, the body is forced to look to other sources for energy, protein and fats.  If not consuming enough protein, the body will start breaking down its own proteins for energy, so it is also important to increase the amount of protein when trying to decrease fat mass.

Lastly, dietary fat is important because it is not just used for energy, but dietary fat is used in the production of hormones and other substances that the body needs, including energy.  Saturated fat is also not as dangerous as previously thought, but choosing medium chain saturated fats, such as those found in coconut oil are healthier than saturated fats from animal products.  Unsaturated fats, such as what are found in olive oil and nuts are also very healthy.

Although exercise is not as important as dietary choices in losing weight, it still has a great effect.  Exercise will push the body to burn more calories by increasing the metabolic demand.  However, protein becomes important to exercise because the body will first look to break down protein for energy rather than fat.

Exercise though, will strengthen and tone muscles, leading to a sharper, more sleek look that has become so important to society; notwithstanding all the other health benefits one can receive from regular exercise.  In a previous article, I mentioned how different types of exercises will require different energy sources and how they can be used to achieve the desired weight loss effect.

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