Walk into any gym, and you will see people pounding out rep after rep of abdominal exercises like crunches or leg raises. They will invariably perform much higher reps on their abdominals than on their biceps or calves. This is often done because they think that doing a lot of exercises targeting the abs will help them lose weight in that area of the body. This is known as “spot fat reduction.” However, in reality, spot fat reduction is not possible. In this article, I’ll explain why and provide you with some better options.
- Why Spot Fat Reduction Doesn’t Work
- Nutritional Adjustment
- Best Cardio to Burn Fat
- Building Strength
Why Spot Fat Reduction Doesn’t Work
Most people do abdominal exercises in order to get rid of fat from the stomach area. Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. You cannot lose fat from any targeted area of your body, be it your abdominals, thighs, or upper arms. You can only lose fat as a whole-body process. You do not get to choose which part of the body it comes from. That means that, while repping out on crunches will strengthen your abs, it will not get rid of the layer of fat covering them.
So, how do you get rid of excess body fat? Let’s check out our top three fat loss tips to find out.
The most significant thing you can do to lose body fat is to adjust the way you’re eating. Fat accumulation is the result of consuming more calories than your body burns each day. The excess is stored as reserve energy for a time when your intake does not match your output. So, in order to get rid of your excess fat stores, you need to be consuming fewer calories than you are using up each day. This is known as maintaining a negative caloric balance.
In order to be able to consistently maintain a negative caloric balance, you need to know what your maintenance level is. There is no precise way to determine what your maintenance level is, but you can get pretty close. A well-established method is called the Harris-Benedict Equation. It accounts for your sex, age, height, and weight as well as other factors.
Here’s how it works:
For men, multiply your weight by 13.8. Then multiply your height (in inches) by 5. Next, multiply your age by 6.8, then subtract that figure from 67. Add these three totals together.
For women, multiply your weight by 9.6. Second, multiply your height (in inches) by 1.8. Next, multiply your age by 4.7, then subtract that figure from 65.5. Add these three totals.
Here’s an example using a 23-year-old man who is 5’9” and weighs 180 pounds.
180 pounds x 13.8 = 2,484.0
69 inches (5’9″) x 5 = 345.0
23 years old x 6.8 = 156.40
67 – 156.4 = -89.4
2,484.0 + 345.0 + -89.4 = 2,739.6
Total Calories Needed: 2,739.6
Use this equation to calculate your own caloric maintenance level. In order to lose weight, consume 500 calories fewer than your maintenance level every day.
To maximize your fat loss, you need to ensure that the foods you are eating are healthy. Check out our healthy hacks to find out how.
Best Cardio to Burn Fat
After establishing a daily negative calorie balance by lowering your caloric intake below your maintenance level, your next step is to increase your calorie burn through cardio exercise. Many people perform slow, steady cardio, such as walking on treadmill for 3–40 minutes. That, however, is not the most effective way to burn fat. Research confirms that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective form of cardiovascular exercise to get rid of stored body fat.
HIIT involves performing an exercise at full intensity for a short period of time, followed by an even shorter rest period. This pattern is repeated for a number of rounds. You can use a wide range of exercises as the basis of your HIIT workouts. Here is an exercise that you can do at home without any equipment:
- Burpees x 20 seconds
- Rest x 10 seconds
- Repeat for 8 rounds
How to Do a Burpee
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands at your sides. Now drop to the floor and kick your feet out behind you so that you are in the top push-up position. Perform a single push-up. Now jump your feet back in and spring up to an upright position.
In recent years, there have been a number of studies examining the benefits of weight training for fat loss. However, you don’t have to read a study to know that strength training burns calories—simply start pumping out a set of squats!
Weight training exercises that work more than one joint at a time are the best for burning calories. These include squats, deadlifts, lunges, and rowing exercises. Weight training also triggers the EPOC response. As a result of your body’s increased need for oxygen, you will have an increased metabolic rate for around 24 hours after each weight training session.
When you work out with weights to build strength, you will cause micro trauma to the muscle cells that may involve tiny tears in the muscle fiber. The process of repair takes place in the hours after your workout. That requires a lot of energy, which burns calories.
Weight training builds muscle tissue. Muscle is five times more dense than fat tissue. It is also a lot more energy dependent. That means that every ounce of muscle that you add to your frame is burning more calories.
Spot reducing body fat is a myth. You cannot, therefore, do exercises for any part of your body and expect to target fat loss in that area. In order to lose stored body fat, you need to create and maintain a negative caloric balance. The best three ways to do that are to:
- eat fewer calories than you consume each day,
- perform high-intensity interval training sessions 2–3 times per week, and
- undertake a regular strength training workout program 3–4 times per week.