- Targeting weight loss, or spot reduction, is the idea that one can work out to lose weight or fat in a specific area of the body.
- Targeting weight loss is a myth.
- Your body burns fat based on overall fitness, not small muscle fatigue.
As a personal trainer, targeting weight loss or spot reduction is arguably one of the most common goals and questions posed by clients, though it’s not always asked in the same way. “What can I do to just lose weight around my midsection?” “Is it possible to just lose weight in my legs?” “Can you help me lose this flab in my arms?”
In short, the answer is no; you cannot target weight loss or spot reduce.
Although you might have heard that doing certain exercises will ensure fat loss in the targeted areas, the science does not support this
Alex Koch, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, told INSIDER: “The consensus opinion about spot reduction, which is the commonly used term for regional fat loss, is that it is impossible. This has been a consensus opinion for 50-plus years in the exercise-science community, but manufacturers of exercise equipment still promote this belief (i.e. buy our ab-blaster to sculpt a six-pack).”
Though you can build muscle in certain areas, targeting fat loss isn’t realistic
According to the Yale Scientific Magazine, some of the physiological reasons as to why spot reduction doesn’t work are as follows: “The fat contained in fat cells exists in a form known as triglycerides. Muscle cells, however, cannot directly use triglycerides as fuel; it would be analogous to trying to run a car on crude oil. Instead, the fat must be broken down into glycerol and free fatty acids, which then enter the bloodstream.”
The fat broken down in the body to be used as fuel can come and will come from anywhere in the body, not just from the body part at work.
Chris McGrath, the founder of Movement First, said: “Spot reduction doesn’t work because it usually targets muscles that are relatively small through exercises that are relatively insignificant in terms of enhancing overall fitness, strength and energy expenditure – regardless of how much you ‘feel the burn’ when training them. Overall fitness, not small muscle fatigue, is a stronger determining factor of your body’s fat-burning effectiveness.”
In other words, spot reduction is a myth.
But eating healthy and exercising will aid in general fat loss
A 2013 study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that while targeting fat loss doesn’t work, exercising does aid in fat loss. After 12 weeks of training their nondominant leg on a leg press, participants in the study didn’t see a significant dip in body-fat percentage in the legs or body as a whole. However, there was a decrease in fat in the upper body.
Read more: How to lose fat without losing muscle
So rather than doing 100 crunches a day in hopes of gaining six-pack abs and losing weight around your midsection, complete at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week and perform resistance training for each major muscle group at least twice a week.
And when it comes to your diet, stick to high-protein and nutritious foods. Greg Pignataro, a personal trainer with Grindset Fitness, previously told INSIDER that he suggests eating roughly 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day. “While that may seem like a ton, an intake at this level has an added benefit,” he said. “Protein digests more slowly than any other macronutrient, which helps keep you feeling full and satisfied longer. This leads to eating less overall, which again, makes it easier to lose fat.”
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