Soft Vs Firm Fat (Everything You Need To Know)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 20, 2023
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Many people don't fully understand and appreciate the impact different types of body fat have on overall health and fitness. Often, people simply think of the flabby stuff around their belly, but there's also a hard type of fat.

And that fat can often be more dangerous and more difficult to get rid of.

One interesting question I got from one of my clients is whether this hard fat has to first become soft before the body can metabolize it.

So, I decided to dive into research and discuss the relevant literature with a physician to get to the bottom of it.

Quick Summary

  • The human body stores fat in different ways, and depending on where it's located, it'll have a different color and firmness.
  • Soft and hard fat also come with their own risks to your overall health, and many people don't fully understand the danger of hard visceral fat.
  • Knowing what kind of body fat you're storing and how to best tackle them is the best way to stay on top of your BMI.

Does Your Body Burn Soft or Hard Fat for Energy?

A woman exercising outdoors

Your body burns both soft and hard fat, but it often metabolizes the easily accessed soft fat first.

For most people, this soft fat will be around the belly, but in obese people, it can also extend to the chest, shoulders, and thighs.

Once your body starts targeting fat, your metabolism will break it down into energy, water, and CO2 [1].

But there is no evidence to suggest that hard fat has to be transformed into soft fat before it can be fully metabolized.

Interestingly, it doesn't matter which body part you exercise more; your body will mostly burn fat in the upper body and belly area, and that includes both soft and firm fat [2].

What's important for both types of fat is that you need to combine the right diet and exercise routine to consistently burn fat.

Difference Between Soft And Hard Body Fat

The main difference between soft and hard fat is where in the body it's located.

Soft fat is generally referred to as subcutaneous fat, and this is the type that you can find just under the skin.

It's the soft flabby stuff that impacts your physique and is generally the main reason people try to get slim.

But it's the hard visceral fat that is a lot more problematic, according to Harvard Health [3].

This firm fat accumulates around the organs giving them less space to move around. One of the problems is that people who are slim could still be accumulating a lot of this dangerous hard fat.

This fat has a direct impact on cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and inflammation.

The only reliable way to determine if you have too much visceral fat is through a DEXA scan, which is something that should be part of your regular health checks [4].

"Visceral fat, or "deep" fat, is also referred to as intra-abdominal fat because it is located beneath the abdominal wall. It can also be found in the spaces surrounding the vital organs, such as the liver and intestines."

- Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, CDE,

Which Type of Fat Is Easier to Lose?

A woman pinching her side fats

Soft fat is easier to lose than hard fat. Our research showed that it seems like the body will target flabby belly fat first, which is good news if you want to improve your appearance [5].

Dr. Enrizza Factor, dermatologist at My Eczema Team, says that compared to men, women are more likely to store soft fat in their bellies.

Luckily, soft fat is considerably easy to lose. With regular exercise and a healthy diet, soft belly fat may melt on its own.

By switching to a calorie deficit diet with a drastic reduction in sugar and simple carbs, you can stop fueling the fat accumulation.

And by adding regular daily exercises, you can trigger more fat metabolism.

And when you push your body far enough, then your metabolism should end up targeting both soft and hard fat resources.


How Long Does It Take For Hard Fat To Burn?

You can start burning hard within a couple of days of trying to lose weight.

By getting to a significant calorie deficit of 20% or more, you'll force your metabolism to source more energy from stored fat, including the hard visceral fat.

Is Belly Fat Soft Or Hard?

Most of the belly fat is soft. It's the fat that is stored just below the skin and accounts for up to 90% of your total fat reserves.


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