No Wonder You’re Confused!
Yes, what I admittedly thought was going to be a quick collect of research and proof that no, you can’t spot reduce opened up a can of worms that makes me want to apologize profusely to you for all of us in the fitness industry.
We contradict each other. We talk about research without actually quoting or citing the research (that in itself is sketchy!) and when I say “we” I mean all of us. My peers, certified athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, masters and doctoral degrees, right along with the weekend certified trainer are all doing it.
An Athletic Trainer wrote in his blog that fat burning was greatest at low intensities. That you would never lose fat if you exercised at higher levels because carbs were used for fuel. His blog cited research from 2006 and 2009 – not the dark ages. I had to wonder if he didn’t read every other line?[For your clarity, fat burning happens at every level of exercise. Exercise done slowly burns a higher percent of fat but burns it so slowly it just doesn’t help!!! Sitting still you’re burning 100% of fat for fuel. How’s that working for you? High intensity exercise does burn more carb for fuel but at such a higher rate of calorie burning even a low percent of fat burned is MORE fat. Then there’s the after burn from exercise. It’s greater with higher intensity exercise as well. End of rant.]
I started down the rabbit hole after a post from a colleague on Facebook shared an article. A respected colleague who questioned his belief that spot reducing doesn’t work after reading an article …. well that got me thinking I should listen. But while I was hopeful – I’m a Boomer too – and even tempted to try the protocol and test it myself, there was no real research study. I Googled the researcher and came up with no studies he’d done showing peer journals accepted research proving you can lose fat from a targeted location.
So by then I had hope that there might be something. After all bodybuilders of old days and now swear that they can work on their legs, or back or abs and reduce or perfect for stage. They swore by sit ups back in the day – hundreds of them. Now there seems to be a circulating theory that if you perform high levels of cardio interspersed with exercise targeting a specific area you will direct blood flow to that area. <That’s the problem with losing fat. There is a lack of blood flow making it hard to mobilize fat.> Doing high intensity alternating cardio and exercise for the core for instance is the suggested protocol.
For women, hips and thighs are a target for fat stores and squats and lunges might be the ticket according to the article (with no research to show for it).
I have more than a couple problems with this loose “study” of information I stumbled on.
1. If it works, where is there any accounting for hormones that deposited the fat in the first place? If high intensity and focused exercise take place the repetitious nature of it could easily ignore postural needs, or exacerbate already high cortisol levels that put the fat there in the first place. We aren’t solving a problem.
2. Bodybuilders who do something pre-competition can’t maintain that. They can’t. Health-wise, it’s impossible. If we talk about a restrictive diet and you wonder if you’ll be able to do that, imagine thinking you can’t have egg whites because there’s too much sodium. Not only do they have a strict diet and high intensity exercise to look the way they look for a brief moment many are exhausted not vibrant when they are preparing for a show.
3. I’m back to getting the loss without getting hurt, and then maintaining it. You haven’t changed the hormones. You haven’t changed habits. In order to focus on one area you neglect the rest.
You be the judge. You can tone muscle under your subcutaneous fat. That makes the appearance of fat lessen. Diet and a well-rounded routine of weight lifting and cardio will help you get the rest of the way. Belly fat is responsive to exercise – not sit ups to get rid of it, but appropriate cardio and strength training exercise. Bat wings is resistant to exercise and requires fewer carbs and careful nutrition.
Spot reducing is still unproven. You can spot tone however and change your appearance and posture.
Share your thoughts with me on the confusion in fitness.