It is common to hear phrases like “feel the burn!”, “tone up your abs!” or “melt that fat!” in fitness settings. Are these phrases meaningful or are they just a distraction? We hit the gym to get into shape and to possibly achieve our goal of having our dream body. But, exercising with illusory expectations in mind, gives us false hope, and weighs us down.
We need to have a clear vision and know what to expect from our workout sessions. Unrealistic expectations will not only demotivate us, but they can put our health in jeopardy as well.
What is spot reduction?
If you are the type of person that yearns to lose fat from a specific body part, then you have probably heard of ‘spot reduction’. Spot reduction, sometimes called ‘spot training’, is the notion that you can reduce fat or grow muscles in a specific area without affecting other body parts. An example would be only doing crunches so that you can get a flatter tummy and maybe some abs.
In reality, spot reduction doesn’t work. It’s something people believe in because logically it makes sense, right? If your arms and legs look fine and you only want to lose a few pounds from your belly, then why should you waste your time lifting weights, working your arms and thighs, and doing whole-body cardio? You should totally be able to target your stomach by doing workouts that involve your abs, right?
But it doesn’t work like that and here’s why
The excess calories from the food we consume are stored as subcutaneous fat. The only way to prevent fat from being stored is by exercising. Each fat cell contains triglycerides within them, which muscles cannot directly use for energy. When you work out, the triglycerides breakdown into glycerol and free fatty acids, which then travel throughout our bloodstream to the muscles.
The muscles use these as fuel for energy
When we exercise, the fat from all over our body is breaking down simultaneously and traveling through the bloodstream to reach our muscles. Because of this, you can’t just work out a specific area to lose weight from there. Instead, it will burn fat from your whole body, randomly. The result is that we lose weight throughout our bodies. No matter how hard you exercise the muscles of a particular region, there is no way of ensuring that your body will burn fat from that area.
Which body part will we lose weight from first?
Although we can’t target specific areas, you can still figure out which body parts you will lose weight from first. This depends on several factors. Most importantly, your gender.
Males usually gain weight around their belly first. They store both subcutaneous and visceral fat in that area. Women store more fat around their thighs and hips. Losing weight from areas where you are more biologically inclined to store weight, is the hardest. This means that women will find it harder to tone their thighs than their stomachs.
Genes also play a huge role in where a person will lose their weight from first. This is why we are shaped similarly to our parents. And what also matters is where you gained weight first. So, if you are a woman and you tend to gain weight on your breasts first, then it’s very likely that when you start working out, that’s the place where you will initially see the most effect.
Now that you know how fat loss works, make it your goal to lose weight overall and not just from one area. Aim to reduce your overall body fat to 25 to 31% if you are a woman, or 18 to 24% if you are a man.
Do a mix of HIIT and weight training 4-5 times a week and you will slowly start seeing your body get sculpted like a work of art! Also, remember to adopt a healthy diet. Because no workout alone can give you the body you want without a diet supplementing your efforts.
In an attempt to sell programs and products that target a specific body part, like your “abs” for instance, advertisers may try to make you believe that you can pick and choose where to lose and gain fat. Sadly, we can’t. Do exercises that engage your large muscle groups instead of smaller ones. This will help you lose weight faster.