A lot of people ask, “Which part of body loses fat first when I diet and exercise?”
Or, they say, “I’m working hard to lose weight, but I’m not seeing the results where I want—my belly, hips, thighs, arms, etc. Why is that?”
There is sort of a general misunderstanding that fat loss can be targeted, or that focusing on a specific part of the body can encourage better fat loss in that specific area.
Today, we’re going to bust that myth and give you the REAL answer to the question “Which part of body loses fat first?”
The answer might surprise you…
Which Part of Body Loses Fat First? Answer: All of Them!
Let’s start this off by sharing a truth you may not want to hear, but one you NEED to hear anyways.
Here goes: fat loss—and gain—isn’t something you can target.
Most of us would LOVE to focus our fat loss efforts on a specific part of our bodies. Maybe we want to get rid of unsightly belly fat, or the extra flab hanging around the backs of our thighs and butt. We think, “If I could just get rid of that fat, I’d be happy and look a lot better.”
Sadly, it doesn’t really work like that. You can’t lose fat from just one location for the same reason that you don’t just store fat in one location—it’s not how your body works.
To understand how fat loss happens, you need to understand how fat storage happens first.
We’re going to keep it simple with this explanation:
When you eat, your body absorbs energy in the form of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbohydrates are the easiest to absorb and use. Protein takes more time and requires more energy, and fat is the slowest nutrient to break down, but has the highest amount of energy available.
Let’s say you eat a cheeseburger and fries for lunch. The carbs from the bread and ketchup and fries gets broken down quickly, providing your body with a few hundred calories’ worth of energy. That energy floats around in your bloodstream to be available for your muscles and cells.
But what happens when your muscles and cells don’t need energy? Maybe you’ve been sitting at your desk all day, so there’s no burned energy to replace. Well, the energy floating around in your bloodstream is going to be joined by more energy from the burger patty, then the oil in the greasy fries. Eventually, there’s going to be so much energy—in the form of glucose—that your body triggers an increase in insulin to make sure that energy gets stored rather than raising your blood glucose levels too high.
With all the muscles and cells filled with energy, your body only has one other place to store energy: in your adipose, or fat, cells.
All that energy is stored in the fat cells, but it’s still available for your body to use should you need it. If you did a high intensity workout within an hour or two of eating your lunch, you’d burn through that energy and achieve a calorie balance.
But if you don’t work out but instead eat another meal, more energy is added to the storage, which means the fat cells get bigger because of the additional energy. Over time, that leads to increased body fat, which builds up typically around your thighs, arms, butt, and belly.
Now that you understand fat storage, all you have to do understand fat loss is to switch things to the reverse. When you burn more via your exercise and activities of daily life than are available in your bloodstream, your body has to tap into the energy it has stored in your fat cells. The fat cells begin to shrink because of the energy deficit, and you slowly lose fat over time.
This is a good thing, but it’s not targeted—at least, not in the way you think.
You see, the location of your stored fat is largely determined by your genetics. Men tend to accumulate around their bellies, while women tend to accumulate around their thighs, glutes, and the backs of their arms. However, the way our bodies store fat may not be the same way it activates stored fat. It might take from other places first before tapping into the fat it has accumulated over years of excessive eating and insufficient exercise. Again, this is largely controlled by your genetics.
Typically, you will lose fat from one of two places:
The last place your body stored it. The most recently stored fat is typically the easiest to activate, which makes it convenient to burn.
The place where you typically gain it the fastest. Faster fat gain in a specific location typically means your body can easily store and activate it.
Now, you may lose fat from both those places at the same time, or alternate between the two. Remember, it’s all controlled by genetics, as well as your current stress levels, the type of exercise you do, and the food you eat.
The point you need to understand is that you have full control of HOW MUCH fat you lose (via your exercise and diet), but not WHERE YOU LOSE IT FROM.
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