Unless you’re Terry Crews, there’s probably a few places that store more fat than you’d prefer. In fact, many people naturally have more fat in certain areas, like their bellies, butts, or thighs. Some will drive themselves crazy by giving up carbs or spending hours planking in order to tone up.
Although it’s important to prioritize healthy foods and exercise, there’s no way to spot reduce fat loss–even if you do 100 sit ups a day and live on grilled chicken breast.
Here’s everything you need to know about fat loss, including why it’s impossible to target “problem areas.”
You can’t lose fat cells
People always talk about burning or blasting away fat, but the truth is you never actually get rid of fat cells. Fat cells are accumulated throughout adolescence, but they remain stable once you’re an adult. Instead, fat cells shrink and expand as you lose and gain weight.
You shrink or “burn fat,” by breaking it down into smaller pieces called free fatty acids, explains Melanie Boehmer, R.D. at Lenox Hill Hospital. This happens when your body uses stored fat due to exercise or because you’re in a calorie deficit.
Ok, but which exercise burns the most belly fat?
Everyone wants to know the best moves for a sculpted stomach, but exercise won’t necessarily burn fat in the region you’re targeting.
“All the crunches in the world won’t spot-reduce your waistline,” says Men’s HealthFitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Movements that target specific muscles, like crunches for abs and tricep kickbacks the backs of your arms, can change your physique, but that’s not the same as spot reduction.
“Instead, those exercises are helping you gain more muscle, creating a more toned appearance overall,” says Samuel.
Boehmer says a variety of factors like gender, age, genetics, and lifestyle impact where your body stores and loses fat first.
“There really is no kind of specific tangible reason as to why it’s pulled from one area or not,” she says. “It really is luck of the cards.”
So, what is the best way to shrink fat?
Here’s the good news: the best diet is whichever plan you like best.
“This will allow you to train so you can build muscle mass and be consistent with some form of a calorie deficit that will allow to lose weight,” says Boehmer.
Of course, she recommends eating a well-balanced diet that limits snack foods like chips, and incorporates plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Undoubtedly, exercise will ramp up your weight loss efforts. Samuel recommends compound movements like burpees, deadlifts, squats and rowing, because they ramp up your heart rate, force your entire body to work and burn more calories.
“Burn more calories, and you burn more fat,” says Samuel.
By Melissa Matthews