Lose Fat From Specific Areas?
We’ve all heard that you can’t spot-train to lose fat. That is to say that doing those 40 crunches won’t just take fat away from the abs or that Jane Fonda moves you are doing won’t just remove fat from the thighs or hips.
Instead you lose it throughout the entire body simultaneously.
That being said, is that necessarily true? What you probably know or have seen in the general public is that men as they age tend to accumulate fat around the waistline while women tend to accumulate fat around the hips and thighs, but why? Let’s get the expert’s opinion on whether you can spot reduce (or lose proportionally more) from certain “problem areas”.
How to really lose fat
Spot Reducing the Problem Areas
I got a hold of Drew MacKay Timmermans, B.S. in Kinesiology, certified CanFit personal trainer (he had the honor of being nominated for Personal Trainer of the Year, with only 10 trainers out of ~1,600 Canada wide receiving this nomination), and the owner and founder of Regenerative Performance to answer a few of my questions!
So you really can’t spot reduce fat, sort of like what I described above?
“Yes, it is true that you cannot spot reduce with certain exercises. While exercising, the body releases hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, glucagon, and growth hormone.
These hormones have the specific task of signaling your fat cells that energy is needed in the muscles. Hormone-sensitive lipase (an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides in your fat cells) then acts to release fatty acids into your bloodstream that then travel to the muscle cells to be used.”
Wait, so what exactly does that mean?
That being said, the release of the signaling hormones occurs systemically and not locally, meaning that the body doesn’t distinguish whether it was an abdominal muscle or a thigh muscles exercising.
“Additionally, these hormones act on all fat cells in the body (but as I will mention later, there is a ‘pecking order’).”
There are different problem areas between the sexes; men usually gain the poundage around the waistline while it occurs in the hips and thighs for women. Why? All related to hormones?
“Recent research is showing that fat storage may be correlated with a person’s hormonal profile. Specifically, the thigh and hip areas correlate with estrogens, and the waistline correlates with cortisol.
This explains the gender difference, as women naturally have higher levels of estrogen than men, and typically men have higher cortisol levels. Interestingly, some research also indicates that storage and utilization of fat in relation to hormonal profiles have correlated with hormone imbalances.”
“That being said, men who have higher levels of cortisol will have a more difficult time losing the fat off of their waistline, as this is where the body wants to preferentially store the fat.
Similarly, estrogen imbalances in women result in a more difficult time losing fat off of the hips and thighs.”
That is a super interesting concept that while we are trying to lose fat from these problem areas (especially as we age) our physiology is fighting to store fat there.
This of course is the reason why these dang pesky problem areas are these dang pesky problem areas!
Because we accumulate fat disproportionally, do you also reduce fat in that order? For instance, if you accumulate more fat around the thighs will you start to lose fat there first, or lose more proportionally there than the rest of the body, or does it still occur throughout the body?
…these places are the last [typically] to lose weight! So, while fat loss DOES occur in a global fashion, a greater percentage of fat loss will occur in areas other than the ‘problem’ areas indicated by a person’s gender (and therefore hormones).
“This is what I was referring to as a ‘pecking order’. Other areas of the body that have been correlated with hormones are the triceps and chest in men (low androgen levels associated with increased fat storage), and upper back fat (correlated with high insulin levels/insulin resistance).”
I get asked all the time by my clients why they can’t seem to lose the fat around certain areas and this is exactly why!
They wouldn’t be called “problem areas” if they weren’t a problem (duh, Josh), but all problems can be solved. The point though is that you CAN still lose the fat from these areas!
Is there a way to speed up the fat reduction in these problem areas? Or basically, is there a way to correct these hormone imbalances?
“While you cannot spot reduce with exercise, there are certain foods/supplements that can balance hormonal profiles and allow ‘spot reduction’.
For example, men can take steps to reduce their overall stress (and therefore cortisol levels), which will allow for a greater percentage of fat to be burned off during a workout. The same idea applies to women and their estrogen levels.
Supplements containing high levels of broccoli extract have been shown in research to help clear harmful estrogens from the body, which may help women lose more weight from their hips and thighs.”
Big thanks to Drew for taking the time to give me such thorough, enlightening answers.
It seems as we age we really do accumulate fat differently but there is hope that we can still get the results we want.
By still having a daily caloric deficit through a sustainable diet, being active, and getting your hormones under control you can still achieve the results you want!
- Afterburn It: Train to Achieve the EPOC Effect - January 2, 2022
- From the Founder: Setting Goals - December 28, 2021
- How to Sell a Fitness Website: 6 Steps to Sell Your Fitness Blog - September 6, 2021