“Spot Fat Reduction” is one of the most requested goals I work with daily.
I hear many people talk about one or two specific places on their body that they would like to lose fat from. I understand the motivation for six-pack abs or toned arms, and there are plenty of ways to achieve those goals in a reasonable amount of time. However, doing crunches to lose belly fat is not going to cut it! Here is everything you need to know about Spot Fat Reduction and why it is a complete myth.
When we talk about fat, what we are really talking about is Adipose Tissue.
Adipose tissue is the connective tissue that stores energy in the form of fat and cushions and insulates our body. The areas of the body that hold the most adipose tissue are generally the areas that require lots of protection and aren’t protected sufficiently with bone. For example, the brain is an important muscle I’m sure we would all agree. There isn’t much adipose tissue surrounding the skull, because the skull is like plated armour for the brain. On the other hand, your internal organs around your belly are not protected by bones because the ribs don’t cover your whole torso. The ribs do a good job of protecting the lungs and heart, but don’t really protect the stomach and the intestines. Therefore, adipose tissue fills in the gaps and we tend to hold fat around our stomachs, around the hips, and on the inside of the legs.
So, how do we attack these problem areas?
Think about a big swimming pool. If you were to drain water from one end of the pool, you would see that the water level of the pool lowers. You wouldn’t see a decrease of water level in the one corner of the pool that is being drained. Our bodies are very similar when it comes to toning and fat loss. As your body deals with a daily calorie deficit, your energy stores are released to fill the imbalance. If you have a daily deficit of 500 calories (you burn 500 more than you consume), you can expect to burn 1 pound of fat per week. Therefore, the overall level of fat in your body decreases by 1 pound rather than 1 pound being lost in a specific area, just like the pool.
No matter how many leg raises or crunches or tricep extensions you do, the only goal you are achieving is muscle exhaustion that will develop endurance, muscular capacity, or power.
It’s still important to develop those three attributes, however, when we consider the goal of local fat reduction, as we saw earlier with the pool, this doesn’t do the job.
The best way to reduce fat locally has been to reduce fat globally!
Win-win, right? Even better, in the pursuit of this fat loss, we will be developing useful muscle mass that will help us keep the fat off.
First, ensure that your nutrition program is top notch. What do I mean by that? I mean a program that is sustainable, enjoyable, and gives you the right amount of energy. Another key factor with your nutrition program, is protein. How much do you need? The general recommendation to either maintain or build muscle mass is between 0.6 – 1.1 grams of protein per pound of lean muscle mass.
Second, work on full-body exercises that get the whole body burning. Instead of blasting three sets of 10 for isolation exercises like bicep curls or chest flies, hit compound moves, like lunges or pushups, that make you move in multiple directions and use your whole body at the same time. If these types of exercises are done in a circuit, you can work on cardio and resistance training at the same time.
Thirdly, make sure that you are recovering properly. Use foam rolling, yoga, and other flexibility routines to flush all the toxins and inflammation out of your body post-workout so that your body can get straight to work on your recovery process. Sleep lots and sleep well, reduce your caffeine intake, and try your best to reduce your stress.
Finally, be disciplined. The most important elements to any fitness routine are intensity and consistency. Workout in a way where you become stronger in at least one way, every day! That may be in the form of more weight, more duration during exercises, and can even be feeling more energetic, or more positive throughout other day-to-day events. Strength can be measured in many ways, and because it can be presented in different ways, you will have countless wins to celebrate and keep you motivated on your path to success!
Whether we check in a week from now, a month from now, or a year from now, you can guarantee that if you follow the tips listed above, you will either have already achieved your “Spot Fat Reduction” goal, or certainly be on your way.
There’s a bonus as well. Not only did you smash your spot reduction goal, but the rest of your body will be leaner, more balanced and better fuelled because of this change in your routine.
Now that you understand the myth of Spot Fat Reduction, you can tackle your goals in the fastest and most effective way. Simply over-exercising the muscles underneath the pesky adipose tissue can develop muscle imbalances, and later generate injuries.