If you’ve gained a few extra pounds around your middle after splurging on your favorite desserts this holiday season, you may decide to start doing crunches and sit-ups to tighten your midsection. If your goal is to eliminate excess fat from your upper arms, you may think that push-ups, pull-ups, and other upper-body movements can give you the sculpted arms you desire. While these may seem like no-brainer solutions that can help you meet your weight-loss goals, science shows that targeting any area on your body for fat loss is a strategy that doesn’t work, no matter how often you visit the gym.
Targeted fat loss, also known as spot reduction, may seem like the most logical way to lose weight in certain problem areas. But the human body functions differently than how many of us would like to think, and meeting our weight-loss goals requires us to do much more than just targeting certain areas.
Here’s a closer look at why targeted fat loss doesn’t work, and at what you can do to successfully lose weight and really address those problem areas.
It all comes down to triglycerides
Every fat cell in your body contains a form of fat called triglycerides. But muscles cannot use triglycerides for energy — instead, this type of fat must be broken down into glycerol and free fatty acids before entering the bloodstream to supply energy to muscles. Your muscles then use these broken-down triglycerides as fuel, which can come from anywhere in the body — not just the problem area you’re trying to reduce.
Many times, the spot-reduction exercises you’re performing won’t burn the calories you need to experience weight loss — especially in the targeted area. To lose any excess fat from anywhere on your body, you must burn a higher number of calories as a whole so fat cells in your body can be broken down and used for energy. This can be achieved with regular, consistent exercise consisting of both cardio and strength training.
Genetics play a role, too
Genetic factors such as gender can play a major role in determining where you’re going to lose weight first after you start exercising. Men tend to gain more fat in their abdominal regions, while women tend to gain more fat in their hips and thighs. Evolution and genetics can often make it difficult for women to lose fat in these areas, since this is the body’s way of preparing for pregnancy and childbirth. Ethnicity and family history are other genetic factors that can determine where you might lose weight first.
If you think genetics is partly to blame for your inability to lose weight, consider working with a doctor who can analyze your DNA and help you develop an effective nutrition plan and exercise regimen that works best for you based on your genetic profile. Vivaliti DNA tests more than 80 different genetic markers to determine exactly how your body works so you can make changes to your lifestyle as needed to become healthier and reach a healthy body weight.
How you can really lose excess fat
A combination of good nutrition, high-intensity interval training, and plenty of quality sleep are three key factors that can help you slim down and lose excess fat. Consume a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and other fat-burning foods that can give your body plenty of energy and fuel, and avoid eating processed foods high in calories and refined carbs that can negate your weight-loss efforts.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, forces your body to work harder within a short period of time so you can continue burning calories for 24 hours following your workout. If HIIT workouts aren’t your thing, develop a solid workout routine that includes strength training and cardio exercises like walking, running, and swimming.
Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers are now offering Vivaliti DNA — a personalized genetic test that provides you with a detailed 49-page genetic report, including actionable steps you can take to lose weight, increase energy, prevent disease, and protect your health as you age. Ask about Vivaliti DNA at your next appointment, or schedule a no-cost consultation to learn more!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on January 5, 2018