Spot Reduction: Fact Or Myth?
Tangling yourself from the spot reduction myth can be tricky because it is perpetuated in a number of ways. Just look at any fitness or health magazine and you’ll see it right on the cover: “Get Thin” Thighs With Just 5 Exercises!’ or ‘Get Flat Abs Now! Adverts sell spot reduction in the form of weight loss supplements. You have probably seen people attempt spot reducing at the gym. The term spot reducing refers to burning fat stores from a specific area of the body (for example abs, hips or arms). The body stores fat in response to a combination of too many calories and not enough physical activity.
What is spot reduction?
Spot reduction is the tempting belief that doing specific exercises will reduce the fat over certain areas of the body. For example, doing leg lifts to reduce fat around the hips and thighs, or doing abs exercises in the hopes of flat abs or getting rid of the fat under your breasts.
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t work that way. To lose fat, you have to burn more calories than you eat. What then happens is, you create a calorie deficit that causes your body to steal more energy from your cells – the ones with all the fat in them. When that energy is taken, those cells get smaller and smaller, leading to what is, hopefully, a smaller body with more muscle and less fat.
It can really get frustrating because the body doesn’t only draw energy from the cells in the area we’re working. It has to draw energy from the body as a whole, which means that leg lifts won’t do much for removing fat from the thighs, but they can increase strength and endurance in your lower body, which in itself is not a bad thing.
Is spot reduction possible at all?
Think about this, if spot reduction were really possible, wouldn’t your fingers be really skinny from all that texting and typing you do all day?
So my guess is, you’re wondering what the solution is, right?
Burning body fat is simple. All you have to do is eat less and move more. The first thing to do is to figure out how many calories your body needs each day. This is important because the only way your body will get rid of fat is if you burn more calories than you eat each day.
For example, if your body burns 3,000 calories per day and you eat 2,500 calories per day, you have created a 500 calorie deficit per day. Since your body needs 3,000 calories to survive but is only getting 2,500 through food, it is forced to look for that extra 500 calories from non-food sources, typically body fat. This calorie deficit (over an extended period of time) is what causes weight loss and fat burning.
What do we want to do if we want to lose fat from a certain area of the body?
The short answer is to create a calorie deficit but understand that it’s really entirely up to your body – your genes, hormones, gender, body type, body composition, diet and approximately a zillion other factors – to determine where and when the fat comes off.