The Sad Reality Of The Spot Reduction Myth

belly fat  - spot reduction mythEver went to the gym, and while you were doing your workout, the guy next to you is doing every kind of abdominal exercise you can think of?

It happened to me so many times. 

In past, I always asked people I saw doing countless abs, why they were doing so many. 

The most common answer I would get was not out of ordinary. Everybody wanted to “get six pack abs”.

They really thought that by doing abdominal exercises, their abs will show sooner or later. Little do they knew at that time that they did all that work in vain. Why?

Examining Spot Reduction

Spot reduction refers to the general idea that an exercise or a combination of several exercises done to a specific area (think of abs) will reduce the bodyfat from that area and make it leaner.

There are so many people involved in this spot reduction dogma. I think you will still see this myth thriving even 5-10 years from now with people doing countless abs and/or hip/thigh exercises. Still hoping that by doing these long ab routines, all the fat in their mid-section area will melt off.

First, we will do some logic thinking before we dive into research:

If all this spot reduction thing worked in the first place, you should see fat people having six pack abs, isn’t it?

Sadly, I didn’t saw any fat person having a six pack. None. In fact, this is impossible because your fat gets distributed through all your body, not in a single area.

Spot reduction huh?

Diving Into Research

Too many people that are advocating spot reduction is possible, are citing studies that examined exercise induced lipolysis.

The above study concluded: “Specific exercises can induce spot lipolysis”

So why is this conclusion wrong and why the right answer is that the spot reduction myth is just absurd and is fundamentally a physiological impossibility?

This study looked at two possible ways in which you can lose fat: lipolysis (fat breakdown) and blood flow (transporting the broken fat to tissues for burning it).

Are specific local muscle contractions impacting lipolysis or local blood flow in fat cells?

In this study, blood flow and lipolysis were increased in the group that exercised their legs at lower intensities. No difference was found in the group that didn’t exercised. Higher exercise intensities showed no change.

So far so good…

The thing is that the fat being mobilized from an area (lets assume abdominal area), can’t be used for fuel by the muscles under the fat. This is true because the blood flow to fat cells and skeletal muscle is separated.

Fat mobilization from an area will typically go to local circulation so it can’t be specifically used by that local muscle.

If the local muscle that’s being worked can’t use the local mobilized fat, then we just got our myth busted. But as all myths need a closer look, we shall continue…

What researchers didn’t specified is that there is an interesting process going on with the unburned fat that was mobilized.

In case the mobilized fat isn’t burnt off, your body stores it back into fat cells.

This study got something right. Local exercise increased fat cell lipolysis and blood flow. Let’s see what’s the full impact of this.

How much fat was mobilized into circulation?

The results from the study are ridiculous. I say that because the researchers estimated that 30 minutes of local exercise mobilized 0.6–2.1 mg (milligrams) of adipose tissue.

Milligrams you say?

That is right. I’ll repeat: 0.6-2.1 milligrams of fat per 100 grams of adipose tissue.

To put it into perspective, let’s make some simple calculations:

Let’s say you have 10 kg of abdominal fat (22 lbs) you want to lose. Local exercise mobilizes 0.6-2.1 mg of fat/100 g of fat mass. Making some small calculations, this would mean: 0.6-2.1 mg/100 g X 10000 grams = 60–210 milligrams of fat.

For 30 minutes of activity, a person carrying 10 kg of abdominal fat, mobilized 0.2 grams of fat. The thing is that 1lb of fat contains approximately 400 grams of fat.

The 10 kg of fat we have in this exercise, contains 8.880 grams of fat.

Imagine how much it would take you to burn all those 10 kg of fat. How many billions of abs you should do in the gym.

It’s impossible. It’s not reachable. You are better off dieting the right way. My first suggestion is to start right now.

That being said, share the exposing of this myth with everyone you know, and help them get rid of countless abdominal exercises.

How many abdominal exercises you did weekly/daily before finding out they can’t really give you six pack abs without a proper diet in place?

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  1. Damn… I’ve been doing like 10 sets of 20 abs every time I went to the gym.. good to know that I can’t make my abdominals appear like that. Thanks Florin, you are most helpful!

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