While it may be very common to see articles on “spot reduction” in specific areas as it relates to fat loss, the science doesn’t support the idea. Keep in mind as you read that I still think there is value to be found in the exercises associated with such articles, but keep your expectations in check. I’ve fallen victim to this line of thinking early in my transition from chubby to where I am today. It’s perfectly reasonable to think that doing 1000 crunches a week will target belly fat specifically. Most people assume this to be true, and many fitness blogs will propagate the myth but lets get into the facts of the matter shall we.
It’s simple really but there are a few physiological explanations as to why targeted fat loss doesn’t add up. For simplicity I will list the process in order:
- Fat within fat cells is in a form know as Triglycerides
- Muscles can’t directly use Triglycerides as “fuel”
- Triglycerides must be broken down into Free Fatty Acids and Glycerol
- Free Fatty Acids and Glycerol then enter the blood stream
- These fats can then be used as “fuel” during heavy workouts
- Given this process the “fuel” can and does come from anywhere in the body
To compound the issue further, typical targeted fat loss techniques are low intensity workouts like crunches, planks, leg lifts, etc. Given the facts it’s easy to conclude that in order to burn fat the HIIT, Sprints, Tabata, Spinning, types of classes are quite effective.
As I mentioned before I still support doing crunches and other low impact workouts to strengthen the intended muscles, but it’s always best to know the truth. One pound of fat equals around 3500 calories, you will always burn a maximum amount of fat (usually pretty evenly distributed around the body) when you can do high calorie burning exercises.
Some of my favorite workouts for fat loss listed in order of intensity:
- HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
- Burpees (learn to love them)
- Kettle Bell Swings
- Boot Camps
- Hill Climbers
- Spinning (for lower impact)
- Long walks
So next time you find a “problem area” as it relates to fat remember that the answer is always the same in terms of what is effective