3 months ago

Spot Reduction: The Science explaining why it does not work

All of us have at some point come across “Tips to reduce belly fat” and wondered if it will help us get rid of few extra inches of bulge. The marketing centered around spot reduction of fat from arms, belly, thighs has given birth to an industry by itself. Sauna belts, gels, machines you name it , all target belly fat reduction. The truth is there is very little scientific evidence to support spot reduction works.

People who do not fall for these marketing gimmicks often believe extra ab crunches would get rid of the belly fat. Or endless triceps exercises would reduce flabby arms. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Does exercising help? Sure ! It does make your core stronger and triceps more defined. However, it won’t reduce the fat from that area. There is no replacement for a good nutrition strategy which results in overall fat loss from the body. The requirements depends on the individual and the ability to adhere to a strategy.

Why the myth of spot reduction is so popular?

Despite an overwhelming evidence against spot reduction, the marketing industry centered around it seems to be thriving. The marketing industry isn’t alone in propagating this myth. However, the products with fictitious promises are not to blame alone. The fitness industry must also share the blame in propagating the myth. If you visit your average gym in the neighborhood, you will notice gym trainers asking their clients to do endless crunches and side bends. They say its an effort to “burn” fat or melt fat. The truth is fat does not melt. Most of the muscles targeted are small muscles such as the abdominal muscle while neglecting larger body muscles such as the legs.

Your energy expenditure through physical activity is the second most important energy expenditure after your metabolism (basal metabolic rate). Hence, how you approach your workouts matter. Endless ab crunches and side bends may give you the sense of “burning more calories” but in reality it is not going to melt your belly fat. You will be fatigued and will have less energy for other activities. The “burn” you feel in your stomach after ab crunches is nothing but localized fatigue. Exercises such as squats, lunges , burpees engage larger groups of muscles as well as small ones giving you a better whole body workout.

Hence , one should stop paying attention to spot reduction ads as they target our insecurities promising a magical solution which in reality does not happen. During workout target the overall body muscles so that fat deposited in adipocytes get released and utilized as energy. It is important to understand resistance exercises, high intensity interval training and cardio are more effective than ab crunches .

Understanding Fat Loss

Our body stores fat in fat cells known as adipocytes. These cells form the adipose tissue which play a vital role in our bodily functions . From the perspective of hunger and weight loss, adipose tissues secrete the hormone leptin. Leptin indicates when we are full and signals the brain not to eat anymore. In the adipocytes the fat is present in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides must be broken down to fatty acids and glycerol which enter our bloodstream. Fatty acids are used as fuel during exercise. These fatty acids can come from any part of the body. Hence by doing ab crunches or wearing a sauna belt, your body will not specifically draw the fatty acids from that area.

What does the research say?

A study conducted on 24 overweight and obese individuals on obese and overweight individuals found no difference in subcutaneous fat. Another study tested the effectiveness of a 27 day sit up program. At the end of the research it was found that fat cells and subcutaneous fat does not decrease.

This also applies to our whole body. A study carried out on the effect of resistance training on the upper body concluded that the arms lose fat at the same rate as rest of the body. This emphasizes on the fact that one cannot target fat loss. Whether exercise will play an important role in weight loss is often debated. However, what is not debatable is the myriad of health benefits that regular exercise offers. Regardless of weight loss goals exercise is a must for good health. There remains no substitute for a good nutritional strategy along with effective exercise goals for decreasing belly fat. You can decrease belly fat, just not the way marketing companies and fitness trainers would want you to believe.

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