5 Different Types of Fat and How to Burn Them

Discover five different types of fat you carry on your body, and how to effectively target and burn each.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #291

Look at your belly. Is there any fat there? Now your collar bones. Any fat there? How about your legs? Your arms? Believe it or not, each of the types of fat in each of those areas is different and is going to respond to a different type of exercise and diet strategy. In this episode, you’re going to discover five different types of fat you carry on your body, and how to effectively target and burn each.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

1.  Subcutaneous fat is the fat that lies just below your skin, and what we typically associate with love handles, muffin tops, big bellies, saggy arms, and flabby necks. Now, fat is technically an “endocrine organ” and this means that, just like any other organ, fat can release hormones and other chemicals that affect your physiology, longevity, and health.

In the case of subcutaneous fat, these hormones and chemicals are actually less harmful than those released by many other types of fat. For example, subcutaneous fat is your body’s main secretor of the hormone leptin, which is a powerful appetite regulator. Subcutaneous fat also releases large amounts of adiponectin, which possesses anti-atherosclerotic effects. Underneath your subcutaneous fat in your belly is visceral fat, which lies inside the abdominal cavity. Visceral fat surrounds and envelops the organs, but unlike subcutaneous fat, it releases far less leptin and adiponectin and instead releases large amounts of something called “interleukin-6”, which is an inflammatory cytokine. Anyways, let’s get back to the subcutaneous fat, since that’s the stuff you may want to burn off for aesthetic reasons. To target subcutaneous fat, intense interval training is ideal. The spike in something called “catecholamines” from intense exercise will also target visceral fat.

In How to Train Your Body to Burn More Fat, you learn that this concept of intense training burning belly fat is actually relatively recent news. Increased fat utilization during exercise is well-known as one adaptation to exercise training, particularly endurance training such as running. But prior to this point, it was thought that you couldn’t burn large amounts of fat while exercising at high intensities. It turns out this simply isn’t the case, and in this study, runners exercising at over 85% of their maximum intensity still experienced fat oxidation contribution as nearly a third of their total energy expenditure!

In other words:

A) You don’t have to exercise in your “fat burning zone” to burn large amounts of subcutaneous fat.

B) The more seasoned and consistent you are at exercise, the higher amounts of both overall calories and also fat you can burn, even at higher intensities.

2.  Next is intrahepatic fat, which is the fat inside your liver. This is somewhat nasty stuff. More than any other type of fat, intrahepatic fat is associated most strongly with obesity.  For this tpe of fat, you’ll need to focus not just on high intensity interval training, but also on dietary strategies, specifically:

-Limited sugar and fructose

-Limited alcohol

-Plenty of choline from sources such as egg yolks and liver

-Healthy saturated fats such as organic, grass-fed beef, cocoa from chocolate and coconut


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.