You may have seen the infomercials for exercise equipment commercials that are supposedly designed to selectively target weight loss in certain areas of the body. Now, targeting body exercises for muscle gaining will definitely prove effective, however, localized or targeted weight loss is nothing more than a myth to get you to spend more money.
Targeted weight loss, also known as, spot reduction, is an extremely popular idea because it’s appealing to our intuition. It does seem to be pretty reasonable to assume that the fat we’re burning during specific workouts would come from the targeted area. However, that’s not how our body works and science shows us different. Now, as we said, targeting muscle groups to improve or increase muscle mass DOES work, but the fat doesn’t melt away around the abs merely because we’re doing crunches.
104 participants completed a 12-week resistance training program in a 2007 study led by the University of Connecticut. Under close supervision, the targeted exercises were performed and the subcutaneous fat was monitored for differences. The MRI assessments of their fat before and after showed us that the fat loss tended to be generalized rather than localized. Myth busted!
Physiological Reasons Why Targeted Weight Loss Doesn’t Work
There are a few basic reasons why targeted weight loss cannot be obtained.
- The fat found in fat cells exists in a form called triglycerides. Our muscle cells can’t directly use triglycerides as a form of fuel or energy. It’s similar to trying to fill your car’s tank up with crude oil rather than refined oil. Our fat needs to be broken down into something called glycerol and free fatty acids. They can then enter the bloodstream. The result is, the broken down fat is used as fuel during prolonged exercises, and they can come from anywhere in our body, not the targeted region.
- Many of the exercises typically associated with targeted weight loss or spot reduction don’t actually burn very many calories. If we don’t burn enough calories, we’re not going to lose much fat from any area of our body. One pound of fat is equal to about 3500 calories. We’re more likely to shed excess love handle fat by running than by doing crunches every day. This is because running is a cardiovascular exercise and those types of exercises are more efficient at burning calories.
Fat loss or targeted weight loss comes down to the basic principle of how many calories you use versus how many you absorb. Sure, doing daily crunches will effectively strengthen your abdominal muscles, but it’s not likely going to burn fat localized in that region. The best way to think and act on weight loss is to reduce our overall body fat by combining cardiovascular exercises with weight training, and nutrition. Only then, will those pesky fat cells be defeated.
Choose healthier foods, exercise regularly, and keep your mind on the prize.