We all have that one area that just drives us crazy. Whether it’s your butt, arms, hips, legs or midsection, there’s usually one place on our body where we most want to see change. Can we target a specific area for fat loss?
The simple answer is no, but kind of yes, slightly. Our bodies lose fat, for the most part, in the reverse order in which we gain it. Let’s say you were thin and began gaining weight. If the first place that weight gain shows up is around your midsection, then that fat will likely be the last to go when you start leaning out. These means that doing crunches isn’t necessarily going to result in leaner stomach, or doing curls alone isn’t going to give you defined upper arms.
The wild card, and possible exception in the equation may very well be hormones. Bodybuilding.com recently published the list below of symptoms outlined by the Mayo Clinic. These could indicate you have a hormone imbalance. This could definitely impact the way your body stores and loses fat. Cortisol, for example, can be generated by stress. Recent research is associating high cortisol levels with increases in abdominal fat, especially in men. Keep in mind that, even though we have areas that we want to focus on trimming up, abdominal fat, which results in a high waist to hips ratio, is a leading indicator of risk for type II diabetes, so your health maybe best served by making abdominal fat a priority.
So, given all of that, how do we lose that stubborn fat?
-First, have a professional do an accurate body fat assessment. Most fitness professionals have testers that can let you know where you are today. It is impossible to track progress without accurate data
-Body fat is lost when we have a caloric deficit, or we burn more calories that we take in. There is a caveat, however. If we intake too little fuel to power our body, our metabolisms can go into storage mode. That can actually add fat storage versus burning fat. You can find a BMR (basal metabolic rate, or the amount of energy your body requires at rest for its systems to operate) calculator online that can give you a general idea of what your daily caloric needs and minimums may be. Remember, those are only general numbers. You can actually have your BMR more accurately tested by a professional, usually at a DEXA analysis facility or by some medical facilities and universities.
-Research does show a small but measurable impact on specific areas when those muscle groups are targeted with high rep exercises. The theory is that by increasing blood flow to the area, we may cause a higher level of fat reducing hormones to travel there. However, the return on investment of that “spot targeting” is low compared to the benefits of more compound programs that involve multiple muscle groups and burn more calories.
-Make sure you are eating a balanced diet with proper calorie intake. Try and focus on nutrient dense food, like leafy green vegetables, clean protein sources and natural foods.
-Exercise. For most of us that are not professional athletes, our bodies began to burn fat from exercise after we have used up the readily available fuel from recent meals. For most, that is around 21-24 minutes after you begin elevating your heart rate. This means that a :30 minute exercise program, which may be convenient for your schedule, isn’t going to have you in a best fat burning zone long enough to help your body burn fat stores. Shoot for 45 minute workouts or longer.
-Do HIIT (high intensity interval training) if possible. Intervals will help your body burn fat but last longer in the exercises. Make sure you choose a program that also includes resistance training. Adding some muscle will make your body a better fat burner all day, every day, even while sleeping!
-Make sure you are getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Our bodies make a lot of the progress for exercise during our recovery and rest periods, so a good night’s sleep is a major plus.
-Manage your stress levels. Many choose meditation, others find relaxation in reading, long walks, massages or any number of activities. Regardless of what you choose, find a way to release your stress daily. Exercise is of course a stress outlet but works best when accompanied by relaxation session too.
At the end of the day, exercise, eat right, get a good night’s sleep and you’ll see the results you seek.
Jim Harris is a Certified Master Personal Trainer, Certified Nutritionist, founder of Max Results Personal Training, pulse45 Fitness and owner of BodyPlex Oakwood. He also writes for numerous publications, and has been featured in multiple media outlets.