Are you exhausting yourself trying to pull off those ab workouts all week long to get a flat stomach? If yes, you are not alone. Unfortunately, where we accumulate fat the most is different for everybody. While some of us accumulate it in the stomach, others accumulate fat in the thighs, arms or chest. 

Most of us wish to reduce fat from a particular section of the body. That’s why, we try to follow workout routines that target specific parts of our bodies (spot reduction exercises), hoping we’d lose inches from there. But here’s a startling truth. 

Spot reduction doesn’t work. 

Yes, you read it right. You might have come across various workout routines on the internet promising to reduce belly fat, arm fat and thigh fat. But just so you know they are probably misleading you. You cannot reduce fat from a particular section of your body. We will be telling you why in this blog post.

But to clearly understand why spot reduction doesn’t work, it is important to understand how the body stores and consumes fat. 

The storage and consumption of energy

The primary purpose of fat cells is to store energy. When you consume high amounts of calories, the body will increase the number of fat cells and their size to accommodate excess energy received from high-calorie foods. It also will begin depositing fat cells on our muscles, and various organs to create additional space to store this extra energy from food high in calories. 

When you begin exercising, and limit calories while increasing your protein intake, the body performs two processes to burn fat. First, it uses the energy that is stored in the fat cells to fuel new activity. Second, it stops storing an excessive amount of fat. 

What happens in the body when it burns fat? 

Even though ‘burning fat’ is the most proximate description of the process, it is still not accurate. Fat neither burns nor melts.  In reality, fat gets released from fat cells for energy, and fat cells reduce in size. 

What matters for fat burning, is what goes in and what goes out. 

If you are losing more fat than you are accumulating, the result is fat loss.  When fat loss happens, the brain instructs the fat cells to release the energy packages or fatty acids stored as fat into the bloodstream. The lungs, muscles, and heart pick them up and break them apart, and utilize the energy. The leftovers are discarded during respiration or urination, leaving the fat cells empty and useless. 

If this continues to happen, the body stops storing energy and extracts it from food. Following this, the body reabsorbs the empty fat cells and discards them as waste, giving us a leaner shape. 

Why spot reduction doesn’t work? 

Spot reduction is not possible for two reasons. 

First, you cannot decide where you burn fat from, but your body does. The energy used during the day can stem from anywhere in the body, not from a particular muscle group that is being targeted and exercised. 

Second, spot reduction includes exercises that generally focus on relatively small muscles. These specific workouts are relatively inadequate when it comes to improving overall fitness, energy expenditure and strength, it doesn’t matter how much you ‘feel the burn’.  An ab-specific, or arm-specific workout may be demanding and challenging enough for you to assume that you are burning a significant amount of fat. Overall calorie expenditure is a stronger factor that determines the body’s fat-burning capabilities.  

Then, is it possible to burn fat from specific areas? 

Unfortunately, no.  You have to lose overall fat, to lose fat in a particular section.  The body first, usually loses hard fat (visceral fat) surrounding organs. Following this, you lose soft fat, such as that around your thighs, arms or waistline.

Where you lose soft fat from, depends on a lot of factors, including your genetics, gender and body composition. In most cases, the first place you store fat in is usually the last place you lose fat from. But it can be different for everybody. 

How do you lose overall body fat then? 

The key is to be in a calorie deficit. This means burning more fat than you consume. A blend of a healthy, low-calorie diet and exercise is required to lose overall body fat. For exercise, you do not have to depend on cardio, it is essential to incorporate strength training. While your body can burn a significant amount of fat from cardio during your workout, strength training can help you burn fat even at rest, hours after your workout. 

The bottom line 

Spot reduction exercises might have been hailed as a means to achieve targeted fat loss in specific areas of the body. However, the scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests that these exercises do not work. While it is true that exercising specific muscle groups can increase their strength and tone, it does not lead to localized fat loss in those areas. To achieve meaningful and lasting fat loss, it is crucial to adopt a comprehensive approach that includes a balanced diet, regular cardiovascular exercise, and a full-body strength training program. Embracing these holistic practices will yield far better results than relying on the illusion of spot-reduction exercises.

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