For a very long time everybody thought that if you want to loose belly fat you need to do a lot of ab exercises: crunches, leg raises, etc. Over time and after a lot of research it has become clear and the industry adopted the idea that not exercise, but just the diet is responsible for getting a flat stomach. In other words, eating in caloric deficit is going to help you burn fat from all around the body and there is no way to target a specific area.
In 2017 a new, Italian study called “Effect of combined resistance and endurance exercise training on regional fat loss” brings back the old paradigm that spot reducing fat is indeed possible. With this being said, let’s dive into what does it say.
So, this study took a look at 16 untrained females and split them in two groups. Every group trained either upper or lower body for 12 weeks, 3 times per week. Following each session they performed 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio.
For the 12 weeks, participants ware asked not to change anything about their eating habits.
The results ware very impressive, contradicting everything we previously knew about locally reducing fat. Here you have a graphic that shows the remarkably results :
Even though the total percent of fat lost by the two groups was the same (see the right column), the group that trained the upper body followed by cardio lost significantly more fat in the arms and trunk (red) and the group that trained the lower body followed by cardio lost significantly more fat in the legs (green).
It does make sense: Another 2007 study found that “exercising muscle increases blood flow to nearby adipose tissue”-> https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16985258 when the blood flow is improved near the adipose tissue, the body breaks this tissue more efficiently into fatty acids.
It does make sense 2: The key of the Italian study is that the low-intensity cardio is done immediately after the strength training. This way, the fatty acids that enter the blood stream (especially from the body part we trained) are oxidized by the body and used as fuel. This is because slow cardio activities use fat as primary energy source.
How can we implement this? Well, let’s say that you need to burn fat from a specific area of the body, for example from the belly. I would say that doing 30 minutes (or even more) of slow cardio after hitting the abs at the gym or at home would be a good approach. Just make sure you don’t exaggerate, it’s well known that too much cardio can interfere with recovery and muscle synthesis.
Keep in mind: this is not a fact, is just one study that show promising results on local fat reduction. The study must be replicated in various condition to accept it’s results as “the norm.”
This being said, I will start incorporating this approach into my training routine and maybe even do a followup on this article with the results. Until then, stay motivated in order to become the best version of yourself!