This is a common question I often get asked by my clients. It’s a valid question as fitness magazines, infomercials and other media sources promote the promise of spot reducing a particular trouble area. Want flat abs? Try this ab machine. Want toned legs? Buy this ThighMaster. And when we do work a particular body part, we feel a burn, therefore, our body should be burning fat in that area, right?
The straightforward answer is: No, you cannot target fat loss to a particular region of your body (either through site-specific exercises or eating “fat-burning” foods).
Think about it: Do you have a friend who doesn’t do any core work but has a flat stomach? Or do you know someone who has the longest, toned legs but never runs or never performs squats? Personally when I lean out, my upper body leans out first before my lower body; if I want my legs to look toned, I will lose my chest first (boo(bs)!), show more defined arms and have a flatter stomach (oh heyyyy!) enroute to thinner thighs.
That’s because genetics, your particular body type and hormones decide where your body stores fat. and where it prefers to lose fat from first. On the bright side, it also means we all have favourite body parts – own it and rock it.
If you want to lose fat in a particular area, you need to lower body fat percentage overall and let your body burn fat evenly throughout your body. Your best bet:
- Strength train your entire body (particularly, the larger muscles)
Increasing your muscle mass will make your body a fat-burning machine. Perform the heavy lifts that cause the most muscle damage – squats, deadlifts, bench presses, etc. – which will increase your metabolism in the short-term and long-term.
- Maintain a calorie deficit
This equals to burning more calories than you are consuming – eat a healthy, clean diet (re: lots of vegetables, high quality protein, adequate amount of fat).
- Recover properly
Get your 8-hours of sleep a night, take rest days and lower your stress levels. When the body is stressed, your stress hormone, cortisol, likes to come out to play – which can cause your body to hold onto fat (particularly in the stomach region).
- Be consistent and patient
It will happen. The time will pass anyway; you might as well be an improved version of yourself.