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Notes from April

April 7, 2009

Spot Reducing

Spot Reducing: can I lose weight just in one spot? (ie. butt, arms and face etc)

Spot reduction is simply the idea that if you work a specific muscle group you will decrease the amount of fat in that area. The most common example of this is people focus on abdominal exercises in an effort to lose weight in their stomach area.

In reality, there is no such thing as spot reduction. You will never attain a flat stomach just by performing abdominal exercises. The reason for this is simple: a muscle does not own the fat that surrounds it. Sit-ups, for example, will definitely strengthen your abdominal muscles, but sit-ups alone will not get rid of the layer of fat that is covering the muscles. To lose fat anywhere on your body you need to burn calories by following a program that involves both cardiovascular training and weight training. In doing so, you will decrease fat stores throughout your entire body, including the problem areas.

You may notice that you sometimes lose fat in some areas more quickly than in others; this is simply due to a genetic selective pattern rather than a particular type of exercise. It is a well known fact that men tend to gain weight in their abdominal region, whereas women tend to gain weight in their gluteal region.

If fat was mobilized, or used from the stores near the exercising muscle, then you would expect both men and women to lose weight in the same areas when following a similar program. However, losing weight in the gluteal region is much more difficult for women than it is for men.

Another common myth is that muscle gained during a strength training program will turn to fat once you stop strength training. Again, muscle and fat are two different tissues which are completely independent of each other. If you stop weight training, your muscles will shrink because the stimulus to increase or maintain their size is no longer there; but by no means can they, or will they, turn into fat.

If you feel your body is becoming less toned or, for lack of a better word, more “soft” it is simply because your proportion of fat to muscle has changed. Fat, although you may not have gained any more of it, is now dominant simply because you have lost muscle. Another possible reason for the change is a common problem that exists with many people, primarily athletes. The problem is that they stop exercising, but maintain their eating habits, and thus slowly begin to put on weight. If you had been exercising but stopped, be sure to make dietary changes to compensate for the decrease in daily energy expenditure.

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