"Hey Carter, it's Cindy
I was wondering how I could lose fat from my thighs? I've been doing leg extensions and leg curls, and nothing seems to help?
Also, are there any special foods that can target my leg fat?
(Note: this is a made up conversation, but I get emails like this all of the time)
The email above is just one example of a common question I get asked on a pretty consistent basis.
"How can I lose arm fat?"
"How many sit-ups should I do a day for a six-pack?"
"Are there any exercises to target my neck fat?"
Every time I get one of these messages, I have to be the bearer of bad news and explain how targeting fat loss is impossible.
There are no amount of sit-ups, bicep curls, leg extensions, or neck rotations that will result in fat loss from a specific area.
How Fat Loss Actually Works
When most people start losing weight, they typically have a general area that they are trying to fix.
For women, it's typically the thighs, stomach, glutes, or arms. For guys, it's typically the chest or stomach.
It'd be nice if we could get rid of the fat in these areas directly, but unfortunately, it's not possible to target the fat in these areas no matter how hard you try.
You see, When we work out, the different hormones and enzymes responsible for fat loss are released into our bloodstream.
Within seconds (as it takes just a few heart pumps), these hormones are dispersed throughout the entire body.
For example, say you start incorporating leg extensions into your routine with the plan of targeting the unwanted layer of fat in your legs.
It would be awesome if losing fat from a specific area was this simple, but here is what ACTUALLY happens:
In response to a muscle being contracted, the body recognizes a demand for more energy and, in response, starts to release fat-mobilizing hormones for this needed energy.
These hormones pull fat from all areas of the body for energy.
Where on your body you lose and store fat the most is all predetermined by your genetics.
No specific workout, special "fat-burning" ab circuits, or amount of bicep curls we do is going to change our fat storing genetics.
We often see people with six packs or lean legs doing muscle-specific exercises like crunches and squats and assume it's how they got their results.
The truth is that for every one person with a six pack doing crunches, there are 99 others who have been slaving away doing 100+ crunches a day with nothing to show for it.
The same can be said for the women with the "perfectly lean" legs doing hundreds of reps on whatever this thing is...
The hundreds of reps on this weird thigh machine isn't what's leaning down her legs; it's the muscle she's gained through heavier resistance training and simultaneously having a lower body fat percentage.
Okay, But Where is Your Proof?
There are plenty of studies showing that targeted fat loss is a myth.
Two studies, in particular, looked at the effect that ab exercises had on stomach fat. Both studies found no difference in belly fat between participants doing ab exercises and those serving as the control. (study 1 and study 2)
Another study looked at tennis players to determine if the idea of "spot reduction" was possible.
Tennis players spend the majority of their time using only one of their arms to hold and swing a tennis racket while the other arm does basically nothing.
If spot reduction was a real thing, then you'd think the swinging arm of the tennis player would have less fat, right?
Here is a quote straight from the researcher:
"There was, however, no significant difference in the thickness of subcutaneous fat over the muscles of the arm receiving more exercise as compared to the arm receiving less exercise. These studies provide direct evidence against the validity of the concept of “spot reduction.”"
So, What's the Solution?
The solution for losing fat from a specific area is actually quite simple.
You'll Lose fat from a "problem area" by losing overall body fat.
The answer isn't sexy or fun, but it's the fact of the matter.
So how can you start losing fat?
Luckily we've talked about strategies for losing weight and exercising for fat loss multiple times on the blog.
Here are some of the best ones:
Also, be sure and check out my free beginner's fitness plan which covers nutrition and exercise protocols guaranteed to help you lose weight (if you follow it of course!)
The More You Know...
Hopefully, you now know and understand that targeted fat loss and spot reduction is a myth.
Instead of designing your workouts with exercises with the hopes of reducing fat is a specific area, focus on what REALLY matters...
What matters is being consistent, eating in a calorie deficit, strength training, and enjoying the process of getting lean, healthy and sexy ;).
Have more questions about this article or the myth of targeted fat loss? Comment down below or email me at [email protected]!