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November 30, 2016

Get it Through Your Head: Spot Fat Reduction is a Myth

fat man angry

But you can target specific muscles to build up

BoomerMuscle recently received a comment asking about the best exercises to spot reduce fat, in this case around the belly. We replied that spot fat reduction is a myth — it just isn’t possible. But it is a powerful myth that keeps going strong. So, we decided to share the answer with everyone.

hunger-413685_960_720Fat is stored systemically by the body. No exercise or diet can target a specific area. Your genes may apply fat more generously to specific areas, but there’s nothing you can do about that.

The answer, short of liposuction: Eat to lose fat and regularly use resistance training to build muscle. When you build muscle, you are powering up your body’s engine. Muscle requires fuel and will get it from calories you ingest and from the fat stored in your body. It requires fuel 24/7 and will burn fat even as you sleep.

None of the pills, stimulator devices, special diet plans or even specific types of exercise will spot reduce fat.

From Wikipedia:

“Spot reduction refers to the fallacy that fat can be targeted for reduction from a specific area of the body and that it can be achieved through exercise of specific muscles in the desired area, such as exercising the abdominal muscles in an effort to lose weight in or around one’s midsection. Advertisers exploit this concept when advertising exercise-related products.

The scientific consensus among fitness experts and researchers is that spot reduction is a myth. Studies largely show that it is not possible to reduce fat in one area by exercising that body part alone. Instead, fat is lost from the entire body as a result of diet and regular exercise. Muscle growth in the abdominal region does not reduce fat in that region. Instead, being on a caloric deficit is recommended for reducing abdominal fat.”

The myth continues to live for a couple of reasons.

  1. There are a ton of products out there hyping the myth and trying to take your money. Don’t give it to them.
  2. There may be some lingering confusion because it is entirely possible to build up specific muscles where you want on the body. So why not fat, too?

The muscle process is called hypertrophy. It happens as a result of putting the muscles under tension so that microscopic damage is done to the muscle fibers. Blood rushes to those fibers (that pumped feeling) even as you sleep to bring them nutrients so they can repair. As they do, they become just a bit stronger and bigger. It is a very gradual process, which is why you have to be committed to a workout schedule to see results over time.

So you can firm and tone those triceps muscles. What about the flabby fat on top? Fat will come off, too. But it will come off your entire body, not just those triceps. Exercise — resistance training — will raise your body’s metabolism and burn calories to accelerate fat loss. Sound nutrition will do the rest.

diet-398611__340Fat and muscle are completely different types of cells. You can spot increase the size of a specific muscle, but you can’t spot reduce fat.

Here’s another not-so-fun fact: If you attempt to spot reduce an area like your belly, you can actually make yourself look worse. I can testify to this. For many years, I did tons of weighted crunches and other abdominal exercises believing they would melt away the fat. They don’t.

Instead, you bulge the belly out farther with the fat layered on top of it. Looks worse.

gym-1621265_1920The good news: Resistance Training is the very best workout strategy to lose fat. It beats cardio hands down. Cardio, which is great to do for heart health, only burns calories while you are actually doing it. Resistance training, as stated before, burns it for up to 38 hours because the growing muscle demands fuel.

While you can’t spot reduce fat, you can raise your body’s metabolism significantly and burn fat on an ongoing basis by building muscle. And you can pick and choose areas of the body to sculpt with that new muscle.

Have some experience with spot fat reduction? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share a comment below or drop me a line: brian@boomermuscle.com

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Brian Patterson

I'm a 40 veteran of the corporate world settling into a new role with this website. I want to help other Baby Boomers and people over 40 learn how they can build muscle and reverse the negative effects of aging on their bodies. We're entering the second half of life and if we do something now we can walk tall into our golden years, rather than hunched over and in pain.

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