Overweight Americans are bait for the hundreds of sneaky, “half-hearted” fitness predators that saturate today’s industry with misinformation. Spot reduction, a fat loss myth, is the holy grail of mal-practiced fitness strategies. Spot reduction is the idea that certain exercises and weight loss products target fat loss in specific and localized body parts. (Ex: crunches to burn belly fat). Through research, we know that spot reduction is a fallacy, and does not exist. The following paragraphs dispel spot reduction’s relevance and overview practical, long term fat loss tactics.
To ill-informed and uneducated exercisers, spot reduction makes sense. Take, for example, a tricep extension. While performing the exercise, you may experience a burning sensation in the back of your arms. Logically, it is easy for you to assume that you are burning stubborn arm fat because the sensation is isolated within your tricep. Unfortunately, however, fat loss occurs systemically, and is not confined to working body parts. That is, arm extensions burn fat everywhere, including your cheeks, chest, arms, and glutes. Yeah I said it, arm extensions burn glute fat. This concept applies to all exercises in all settings, including abs.
Perform exercises to target muscle, not fat. The burning sensation that you experience while exercising is the result of you using your muscles to complete a movement. But remember, muscle is different than fat. An arm extension will isolate the tricep muscle, and make it bigger and stronger depending on how you do the movement, but it will not affect arm fat to any significant degree. You must approach fat loss with a different mindset, slow and steady wins the race.
Long term fat loss is a calories in versus calories out phenomenon. Food contains calories, and calories are broken down to provide energy for daily functioning. On a similar note, fat is stored energy. If you consume less calories in a day through food than your body needs to function, then it must look internally for energy. That is where fat steps in. Because fat is stored energy, your body will “burn” it to account for the difference between what you give it through food and what it needs to function. By continuing this process over the course of several weeks/months, you will lose fat and keep it off. Flexible dieting, an advanced calorie- counting system, is the most effective nutrition practice for body composition-related goals. Read my blogs, “Understand Your Metabolism” and “IIFYM vs Clean Eating” for more details regarding flexible dieting and fat loss.
The human body burns fat all day long, both at rest and while exercising. From a metabolic standpoint, your body does not care about what you do (weight training, conditioning, etc.) to burn fat- calories are calories and fat loss is fat loss. When the primary goal is fat loss, then secondary muscular-based adaptations lose precedence to calories expended and exercise enjoyment. Sure, different training styles result in varied stimuli and different adaptations, and lifting weights may better preserve muscle mass than conditioning, but science is science- calories (and macro nutrients) dictate fat loss. Consistently consume less calories than you burn day in and day out, and enjoy long term fat loss results.
There is no such thing as spot reduction. Thus, fat loss requires a different, less specific mindset. In other words, do not worry about your nightly abdominal routine, and devote more time either eating less or exercising more. Your body will thank you.