Can you actually spot reduce fat?
100 sit ups a day! That’s the cure for belly fat, right? You have to do as many crunches as you can in order to drop those love-handles. That’s why there’s so many programs and videos on how to tighten and tone your core with various ab circuits.
Though, do they actually work? Is it really possible to target fat in specific areas? Let’s take a look.
The process of losing fat in a specific area, also referred to as ‘targeted fat loss’ and ‘spot reduction’ in the health and fitness community, is a hotly debated topic right now as to whether it’s another myth or a fantastic fact.
The Short Answer On Targeted Fat Loss
The truth is that everyone loses fat from different places. This is down to the how cells act within the body with some prone to store fat more than others. A noticeable example of this is with men and women. Women tend to hold a more ‘pear’ shaped figure due to increased fat storage in their thighs and buttocks whilst men have a more ‘apple’ shape due to increased fat storage in their abdomen.
There is emerging evidence to suggest that spot-reduction may exist, though not in the capacity that it’s advertised. Doing sit-ups will make your abdomen appear better, but that’s simply due to the increased activity causing slight fat loss whilst you’re improving the quality of your ab muscles.
The best way to lose fat in the specific areas you’re looking for is to put your body into a caloric deficit by using an effective training routine that improves your strength and increases your heart rate whilst eating a healthy, varied diet.
The Long Answer On Targeted Fat Loss
First of all, you’re going to want to ignore the extensive amount of information you’ve probably already read about targeted fat loss. This is simply because many articles are going to be under-researched or pushing a certain agenda.
Unfortunately, spot reduction isn’t as simple as it seems. Research has shown that training a muscle increases levels of blood flow in the area, but that doesn’t quite correlate to reduced fat storage in that area.
The reality is that training your muscles burns calories which can help contribute to fat loss. As well as this, having an increased level of muscle mass on your body means that you’re burning more calories at rest. Muscle is metabolically active (it requires calories in order to stay functioning) whereas fat isn’t. Fat doesn’t directly increase your metabolic rate. Therefore, by training your muscles to get them bigger and stronger, you’ll burn more calories even when you’re not exercising. The combination of increased muscle mass and frequent training will contribute to losing fat, but not to burning fat in specific areas.
However, there is some good news.
Though there are similarities between people, where and when fat is lost from your body depends on you as an individual. Though, when you burn fat, your body is reducing the fat stores across your entire body, it’s just that certain areas reduce their stores faster than others. This can easily be done through an effective training regime and healthy diet.
The reason for this is simple. Our bodies are covered in fat cells which have two types of receptors: alpha-2 and beta-2. Simply put, beta-2 receptors speed up fat mobilization whereas alpha-2 receptors stop it. The amount of fat that you store in a particular area with depend on the receptor ratio that lives there. Clearly, areas with a high level of beta-2 receptors will become lean far quicker.
So, the best approach to losing fat in that area you’re looking for is to just starting losing fat in general. Increasing the amount of muscle and decreasing the level of fat on your body will improve your appearance more so than just losing fat in that one specific area. You’ll also feel fitter and stronger all over which will improve your mentality and confidence.
The Final Word on Fat Loss
The way our body burns fat starts through not getting enough energy (calories) from your diet. As fat is just stored energy, our body then resorts to these fat cells which causes them to shrink. However, the biggest reason people develop ‘stubborn fat’ is because their metabolism slows down due to poor lifestyle choices.
The best way to prevent this from occurring is to exercise frequently, eat healthily, and keep active even on the day’s we can’t hit the gym. This means getting up and walking every once and a while or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Fat loss is simple, the hardest part is just starting!
This article was written by Alex Reader MSc.
Alex is an online personal trainer, fitness expert and founder of alexreaderfitness.com