Have you ever noticed that different people store fat in different places?
It’s completely true.
That’s because the distribution of fat from one person to the next isn’t identical – with gender being the biggest factor in where your body decides to store fat.
In this article I take a look at the different fat patterns, looking at how the body shapes affect where you store fat.
A good starting point here is to look at exactly why you store excess fat. And the answer lies in the physics of energy balance.
When you take in more calories than your body needs to functional optimally, it stores the excess. And the only places it can do this is in your fat cells.
The way your body sees it is that you are still a hunter-gatherer and unsure of when and where your next meal is coming from. By storing a few extra calories in your fat cells you’ll be able to ‘run on empty’ that little bit longer, if you can’t find your next meal.
Taking in more energy than you need is called a calorie surplus or positive energy balance.
Although a calorie surplus will leave you with extra energy to store in your fat cells, not everyone stores it in the same places.
And while it can be frustrating, it is important to realize exactly why this happens.
A gynoid fat pattern is characterized by the accumulation of excess fat around the hip, bum and thigh regions.
Due to this type of distribution, excess gynoid fat patterns will have a ‘pear’ shaped appearance where the bum and hips are much larger than the waist.
This type of distribution is typical in females (the term gynoid relates to the female form). Gynoid fat is generally stored ‘subcutaneously’ which means that fat stores on the surface of the body, just under the skin and above the muscle.
It tends to be wobbly because of where it is situated.
Evidence suggests that gynoid fat distribution is controlled by female reproductive hormones such as estrogen, as they are stored in fat and provide nourishment for foetal development.
A natural ‘hour glass’ figure is also good for attracting a potential mate, as males may well be hard-wired to find a female who exhibits the potential to effectively reproduce.
Interestingly, as the female reaches post-menopause, their potential to store fat around the hips and bum decreases and they become much more ‘android’ (see below) in their storage capacity (by as much as 42%). This of course makes sense if female reproductive hormones act as a guide for gynoid storage.
Although excess fat levels may lead to the client wishing to reduce them for aesthetic reasons, there is no real immediate health risk of obesity related diseases.
Android fat storage describes the distribution of fat mostly around the trunk/abdomen area (referred to as ‘central’ fat storage) or the upper body. Due to this type of distribution, those exhibiting excess android fat patterns will portray an ‘apple’ shaped appearance where the waist is much larger than the hips.
This type of fat storage pattern is typical in males (and as already mentioned, post-menopausal females). The Greek prefix ‘andr’ of course refers to man.
Android fat is not stored subcutaneously to the levels that gynoid fat is, rather more ‘viscerally’- in and around the organs located in the peritoneal cavity (abdominal cavity). The consequence of this is that it can compress and restrict blood flow to the vital organs and can lead to issues such as insulin resistance due to the changes that occur in hormone profile.
There is also a significant increase in risk of heart disease with excess android fat as well, as fat cells can ‘leak’ into the portal circulation via the peritoneal cavity.
Similar to gynoid fat distribution which is controlled by female reproductive hormones, android fat storage is controlled by the male reproductive hormone testosterone. Whilst higher levels of testosterone have been found to correlate well with lower central fat storage, low levels of testosterone have been found to correlate with higher levels of central fatty deposits.
The simplest way to check this is to take a measurement of your waist circumference.
To do this, take a horizontal measurement where the tape passes around the waist at the height of the umbilicus/belly button, and one at the hips (classified as the widest point of the hips, usually through the mid-line of the bum) and complete a waist-hip ratio test.
Once you have your two measurements you just need to divide your waist measurement by your hip one. That’s it.
If you are female and your score is higher than o.85 or 0.9 for males, you are at risk of central obesity-related illness.
Additionally, any waist circumference > 102 cm (40 in.) in males and > 88 cm (35 in.) in females would be a risk factor for coronary-related illnesses.
Unfortunately you can’t choose where you lose fat. But following these short tips will allow you to make positive changes to your physie, which will eventually result in a lean and athletic figure.
The number one rule for fat loss is to create a conservative energy deficit by reducing calorie intake and/or increasing physical activity. There are various formulas and theories about exactly how much you should reduce calories by (10-30% is the accepted norm), but begin by reducing portion size and take it from there.
According to position statements by the International Society of Sports Nutrition, aiming to take in around 0.7-1 gram of protein for every kilogram of your body weight each day helps with fat loss. This is because it helps to keep you feeling fuller for extended periods of time (which in turn reduces overall calorie intake), and also preserves your lean mass which helps you maintain your metabolism.
I’ve previously written about the value of NEAT exercise for fat loss. Taking every opportunity you can to be on your feet and keep moving burns a considerable amount of calories – it can account for as much as 30% of the total energy you burn each day.
Lifting weights does burn calories, but realistically not a fantastic amount. Where it’s useful though is that it helps you preserve your muscle levels so that you can keep your metabolic rate elevated, and your functional capacity strong.
“every diet without strength training results in muscle loss”
You can learn more about the basics of strength training, as well as some advanced training systems to boost muscle conditioning in my Guide to Building Muscle.
It’s free and contains information on how to plan frequency, load and volume for strength training, as well as my 5 favourite systems for muscle building and fat loss.