How do I get rid of my extra fat?

What if you’ve been on a low-carb diet for years and you exercise regularly. Yet you still do not quite get rid of your belly fat? What should you do then?

Well, you could ask me. One reader did, and here’s the answer.

The question

Hi Dr. Andreas,

I have been on an LCHF diet since 2014. Sometimes very strict, sometimes more liberal. I exercise three to four times a week for about 45 minutes and do a combination of high-intensity interval training and strength training (resting heart rate below 60, many times at 52). I am 33 years old. I do not take alcohol regularly (about once every second month a glass of wine). I don’t smoke. I don’t eat sugar, of course, but I use artifical sweetners (sucralose (only for my tea and coffee) and xylitol otherwise. Dairy is limited, mostly 100 g with breakfast (if I don’t have an egg). And then the cheese in your recipies.

Yet, I struggle with visceral fat. I have this belly fat and cannot get rid of it. Last week Tuesday I did a Dexa scan [shown at the top of the post], and you can see that I actually have quite a high percentage of body fat. I know it is still in the normal range, but I have been working for 4 years (prior to LCHF I actually trained for a marathon in Stockholm) to get to a place where I can actually see a “six-pack”, yet no luck.

I thought that I had perhaps very bad insulin resistance, but a blood test revealed I am not (we tested the amount of insulin in my blood). I also had a test for cortisol levels, and those were also in order. Similarly, my testosterone levels are in check. I checked my thyroid, and my metabolism in general seems healthy (I had my resting metabolic rate tested). I discovered a Vitamin D deficiency, and that I treat at the moment (through supplements, sun, and food).

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with who I am. I am, however, also a scientist (working in the field of machine learning), and I cannot rest until I understand what is going on. Why is it not possible to get rid of the visceral fat? Why do I build muscles slowly (even though I take the recommended 1.5 g/kg protein a day)? Or am I just not eating strict enough? I read about normal weight metabolically obese syndrome, and some of the information seem relevant.

Can you help perhaps?

Many thanks.

The answer


Everyone is different genetically etc. and perhaps you tend to reside on the upper side of normal, when it comes to visceral fat. So this could be normal for you. And clearly a lot of people would love to be in your situation.

That said, maybe it’s something in the environment, that can be influenced to lose more visceral fat.

With all you’re already doing I’d recommend cutting out artificial sweeteners completely. It’s really something of a habit and if you avoid it for a few weeks or months you’re probably not going to miss it any more. It is possible that it messes with your system, resulting in increased food cravings, possibly via an effect on insulin. Controversial but possible.

Possibly lifting HEAVIER things when strength training could help – not that I know anything about your current routine.

Also doing a stricter LCHF diet and/or adding intermittent fasting can be very helpful to lose more fat.


Follow up

The reader of course allowed for his email to be published, and is planning to reply with the results in 3-6 months.

More Questions and Answers

Many more questions and answers:

Low-Carb Q&A

More About LCHF, insulin resistance and weight loss

How to eat LCHF
The 5 common mistakes on LCHF
The Key to Obesity – Dr. Jason Fung
The Top 5 Tips For Weight Loss


  1. Alan
    I am almost the same height and age and also plateaued for quite a while which was quite dis-heartening. I'm still not quite at what I would consider my optimal shape and body fat, but I'm nearly there and on the right track! The main trick for me was the fasting. I find I naturally eat roughly every 24 hours now. Sometimes every 2 days, but mostly a decent meal once a day.

    Just in case there is anything here that may help, here's what I changed:

    -Eating a decent meal once a day / when I'm hungry. I'm not starving myself at all and feel pleasantly full all day. Have a glass of water if you feel peckish, you might just be thirsty.
    -Eating more vegetables and mushrooms (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms etc) as I have always been a bit slack with this in the past.
    -Making sure I eat until full and not over-eating.
    -I have quite a lot of spices in my food (chili powder, turmeric, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper) along with fresh chili and garlic.
    -I try to get good quality fish / meats. I find I need less and this essentially negates the extra price per kg.

    I don't actually do any exercise really except for some pull-ups and some weights, but I'm no hero in this area and I'm not sure it makes much difference considering the effort I put in.

    I had put on a bit of body fat from being quite slack with my diet earlier in the year and I found the above steps helped me lose a stone (14lbs) in just 2 weeks! It just melted off. I changed to LCHF about 3 years ago and I've never looked back, but losing that last bit of weight has made a huge difference to how I feel. I don't know quite know how to describe it, but it feels like my organs are no longer all squashed and have room "to breathe"!

    According to my scales (pinch of salt with regard to accuracy, but....):
    -I started off at around 28-30% body fat. They are now saying I am between 14-15% with 43.5% muscle mass (this has barely changed since I started in terms of actual lbs of muscle).
    -I started off at 13st 8lbs (190lbs). I'm now at 10st 9lbs (149lbs).

    I don't drink tea of coffee (never cared for either personally) so don't have any sweeteners but I do drink alcohol at times (my favourite is gin with soda water and a couple of crushed fresh lime wedges). I find this stalls me a bit though when it's a bit more regular.
    I'm 37 years old and am now trimmer and fitter than when I was 19 and my six-pack is starting to show.

    Keep going, you'll get there! :-)

  2. Pierre
    Andreas is right , you must cutting out artificial sweeteners junk.
    Secondly, you probably eat too much. Thermodynamic still apply to LCHF.
  3. Kåre
    What is his blodsugar ?
    1.5 g/kg protein a day ? That seems to much. What about 0,75 g.-1g / LEAN bodymass ?
  4. BobM
    Personally, I think building muscle is genetic (assuming you're not going to take a steroid). You either have the genetics or you don't. When I was younger, I was an avid bodybuilder, and even working out as hard as I could (on a low fat diet back then -- who knew?), it took me a long time to build muscle and strength. And after all that time, there were still people who could walk into a gym and be stronger and bigger than I was.

    I agree with Kare (sorry -- don't know how to add that a with the dot above it): I have been reducing my protein intake and increasing my fat intake. Even with that and with intermittent fasting and only lifting weights once per week, I kept gaining so much strength that I had to stop using the leg press machine (could lift entire stack many times) and ended up re-injuring an old, bodybuilding shoulder injury. So, I had to quit lifting for a while. And that's with limited protein.

    Belly fat is also difficult. When I was a bodybuilder, I could see all the veins/arteries in my arms and each one of the muscles in my quadriceps, triceps, etc., and still could not see my abs. I think it's also genetics.

  5. Pierre
  6. S
    On the BBC programme How to Stay Young with Angela Rippon, Inulin is suggested to reduce visceral fat. Found in lentils, but for the dose needed can be purchased as a powder.
  7. Etai
    Chris Kresser has a whole thing on artificial sweeteners. It's pretty good. Also, have you looked at your sleep patterns? Are you sleeping well for enough hours every night? In connection with this as well, are you eating close to when you go to sleep? All these can upset you natural hormonal rhythms and prevent growth hormone from doing its thing, so if you're not losing fat despite all your efforts then perhaps it is hormonal but unmeasurable by Western medical standards.
  8. Ian
    I decided to give up sugar (sucrose) in coffee and tea a few years ago, and started using artificial sweeteners. After about 3 to 4 weeks they became less satisfying. I tried a few different kinds, including stevia, but each of them has a slightly unsettling aftertaste. Eventually it was easy to give them up. I think artificial sweeteners can be a way to ease off sugar, but for some people they might be harder to drop in the end.
  9. Kåre
    What I meant was 0,75 g-1g/kg lean bodymass . That means what your weight should be when you are thin. (Fill up with calories from fat instead). And I, agree avoid artificial sweeteners as well. And think about all the advises above regarding sleep eg. If you do that, and don't have special hormone difficulties, you will have more success. If not, tell us about it.
  10. Daryl
    Regarding belly fat; I lost 5 inches around my waist by cutting out caffeine, alcohol and ibuprofen and Tylenol. Also artificial sweeteners I think contribute to that as well.

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