Being able to lose fat from specific body parts sounds intuitive, right? Doing a curl should cause me to lose fat on my arm, while exercising my stomach should torch stomach fat, right?
In a perfect world, losing fat in all the right places (also known as targeted fat loss or spot reduction) would be the norm. 50 crunches a day for a month would reveal our abs, while 50 sets with that one pound dumbbell would tone our arms right up. Unfortunately for all of us, losing fat in the place of your choosing is a myth. This myth needs to die and It’s death needs to be swift.
To find the solution the quick way, skip right down to the section labeled “The Solution.”
Sadly, losing fat doesn’t work the same way as gaining muscle. Here are the distinct differences between gaining muscle and losing fat:
- When it comes to gaining muscle, you gain muscle when you use it. Working out the lower body doesn’t increase muscle in the upper body, and visa versa. You can’t do bicep curls with the hope that your calves will get stronger.
- Fat loss, on the other hand, gets decided by uncontrollable factors such as genetics, hormones, and age. When you use more calories then you eat in a day, your body uses stored fat to cover that imbalance. The difference here is that the body chooses. We don’t get to decide where it pulls that fat from by working out specific areas.
Summary of those two bullets: You get to choose which muscles to work out, You don’t get to choose where you lose fat from.
For some people, fat gets stored easier in the stomach, while others store fat easier in the hips and thighs. The result of this is that those areas are the last to get lean.
The irony in believing in this myth, is that if you’re not focused on the right thing, you may end up achieving the opposite of what you’re aiming to accomplish. Building up muscle underneath the fat without getting rid of the fat, only makes your stomach bigger.
[note: Getting rid of stomach fat seems to be widely sought after, so that’s why I’m focusing on it. This same principle can be applied to any other part of the body though.]
The subject of targeted fat loss has been tested through scientific studies many times since it was first unveiled. Both of these were found at Yalescientific.org:
- Back in 1971, UC Irvine did a study on tennis players that have been playing for a while. Those that play tennis hold the racquet with one arm, and therefore use that arm much more often. In a nutshell, they found there was no difference at all between the left and right arms of these tennis players. This was regardless of whether they were right or left handed. You would think if targeted fat loss was real, there would be at least some difference in amounts of fat between the arms.
- In 2007, the University of Connecticut conducted a little more involved study. They put over 100 people through a 12 week-long weight lifting program. In the program, the participant’s non-dominant arm was focused on. After the program was over, the people were put through the MRI machine. The scientists in charge of the study found that fat loss was generalized and not focused on the arm worked out.
Targeted fat loss simply doesn’t work.
Getting rid of fat has much more to do with calories in versus calories out. It’s a numbers game, and when it comes to numbers, these exercises that promise to “melt love handles” or “torch stomach fat” just don’t add up. 50 crunches don’t burn that many calories compared to running.
To illustrate the fact that certain exercises are better for losing fat, take a look at some interesting comparisons I found using a table at nutristrategy.com:
- A light weight lifting session burns exactly the same amount of calories as….drum roll please….walking the dog. Please, if you’re looking to lose fat, just go walk the dog and enjoy yourself more.
- Conversely, doing a vigorous, body building workout (how many of us can actually describe our workouts like that?) burns less calories than….walking at a 4.5 mph pace. Yeah, that’s over a 13 minute mile. If you’re looking to lose fat, just go for a walk at a decent pace.
This solution is pretty easy and key to getting into shape. I kept it nice and short so it’s easy to digest.
There’s really only one efficient solution to getting rid of fat: diet. Eat a clean and healthy diet and you will start to see results. Period.
This will be talked about and explained further pretty often as diet is one of the things I’m most passionate about. Till next time!
Feel free to comment with your thoughts about targeted fat loss!