There’s a guy in the fitness center I manage that is struggling with losing belly fat. To battle that issue, he chooses to wear a ‘fat-losing belt’ and rubs his belly with a special ‘fat-burning ointment’. He has tried to lose his belly fat for over a year now, with little to no success.
Most people think that they can target specific areas of their body to lose fat; for instance: they want to lose weight on their belly or on their thighs only. This is called spot-reducing fat, but this is mostly a stubborn myth. Although there could still be some truth behind it. In this article, I will explain the reason why this is, and how you can actually lose your belly fat.
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How fat reduction works
In biochemistry class, you are taught that fat is stored as triglycerides in fat cells. You also learn that fat is energy dense and a pain in the rear for your body to metabolize.
Fat is so hard to break down because it’s stored as triglycerides. To use the fatty acids, your body first has to cut the glycerol molecule from the fatty acids. From there, the fatty acids travel within the blood stream to the muscle cell, where it gets turned into energy inside the mitochondria.
You don’t have to understand every single step of this process. The key takeaway here is that using your fat as energy is what your body doesn’t necessarily want to do.
The truth behind the myth
Scientists established long ago that targeting specific areas of fat was impossible. The myth has persisted largely because of dubious infomercials that play non-stop at 3am in the morning.
But this myth actually has some truth behind it. If you touch your body part with the most fat stored, you will notice that this part is cooler than the other parts of your body. That’s because in this area there’s minimized blood flow.
Most spot-reducing gimmicks try to increase the blood flow to a certain area of your body, such as your belly or your thighs. In theory, this works; but practically, the effect is so minuscule that you won’t see any real difference.
Don’t believe the hype. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
How to lose body fat instead
All living organisms must obey the first law of thermodynamics. The balance between energy intake and energy expenditure determines energy storage. Your body stores energy in the form of fat cells.
To lose body fat, you have to burn more energy than that you consume. It’s simple actually. Here are three ways how you can do this:
1. Pump up your muscles
While you may not be able to decrease the fat size on a certain body part by training in the gym, you will better your proportions. If you struggle with belly fat, training your back muscles will get you a better look in the long-term, as your body will look more proportional.
A great exercise if you want to spot reduce belly fat on your thighs is to do the squats or the leg press. These exercises train your whole body and help strengthen the muscles underneath. This creates a toned look in the long-term. Ask a competent friend, or hire a professional coach for workout advice.
2. Hit that treadmill
Due to your genetics, you can’t decide where you will lose fat in the first place, but your actions will decide if you lose fat in the first place.
A great way to lose fat is cardiovascular training. While most people hate doing cardio (I’ve been there too), it nonetheless is important for your heart health. If you simply can’t manage to step on a treadmill, you can sign up for martial arts classes or do a team sport where you exert yourself on a regular basis. A friend of mine has lost over 20 lbs by doing martial arts 2 times a week.
3. Eat like an adult
We all know which foods are good for us. Yet our actions don’t match our understanding most of the time. Sometimes we eat like we are 5 years old.
The best advice I can give you in the case of nutrition is to eat like a freaking adult. Eating cereal for dinner or Twinkies as a snack? To be blunt here: take a look in the mirror. This is not how you are supposed to eat.
Start with simply eating more of the good stuff on a daily basis. Eat a little bit more vegetables than you are usually eating and you’re already making a great decision.
For more weight loss guidance regarding nutrition, you can watch this video:
Don’t believe the hype
Spot reducing doesn’t work. Don’t believe the media hype and scrupulous advertisers.
Ointments and specific belts may help you but it’s in a very minuscule way. Stick to the basics: train your muscles, do cardio regularly and eat like an adult. The results will come; be patient and enjoy the process.