Bulge Wars

In the article “Separating Exercise Fact from Fiction” I discussed two common myths that find their way into fitness centers everywhere; the fat burning zone and the misconception that muscle weighs more than fat. This time we’re going to discuss “bulge wars” and how to win them one battle at a time.

“It all started back when I was eighteen…”
I’m sure everyone remembers their first real weight loss experience. You probably decided to eat cabbage soup for an entire week, starved yourself or tried a 30-day diet and the only thing you ended up losing was a month of your life.

When I was 18 I decided it was time to shed a few pounds—50 pounds to be exact. While I wanted to lose weight all over my body, like most men I really wanted to deflate my spare tire. Abdominal exercises such as sit-ups and crunches became the staple of my exercise routine as I attempted to squash the fat around my abdomen with every repetition. In essence, the main objective of my exercise plan was to eliminate the fat around my waist. My abdominal muscles became stronger, but my pant size did not change. I was able to tone my mid-section, but could not reduce its size.

Within three months I learned a very valuable lesson; the best and most effective way of waging a war on the bulge is by attacking it from several strategic angles; exercise which combines strength and cardiovascular training and proper nutrition. Today, the scientific community also supports the use of vitamins and supplementation for both weight loss and optimal wellness.

How does your body burn fat?
There is no such thing as spot reduction but someone can spot tone. The idea that if you want to lose fat in a specific area all you have to do is exercise that area is a myth. When someone performs structured physical activity like an exercise routine or unstructured activity such as grocery shopping or mowing the lawn, the body mobilizes and burns fat from the entire body. Your body doesn’t discriminate when it comes to fat loss.

In general, men will lose weight in the lower body followed by arms and abdomen. Women, on the other hand will lose the weight in their abdomen first, then their arms and finally their lower body. The best way to burn body fat is by creating a caloric deficit. In other words, decrease the amount of calories you eat by adding both satiating and nutritiously dense foods and by moving your body at least 30 minutes per day. If you haven’t exercised before or for a very long time, try one of our 20-minute workout routines two to three times per week.

On your off days from performing your 20-minute strength training routine take a 30-minute brisk walk, ride your bike or climb stairs for 10 to 15 minutes. A combination of strength and cardio training will maximize total calories burned, increase metabolism by stimulating lean muscle growth and burn more body fat by creating a constant and consistent caloric deficit. Move your way to fat loss!

Can you spot reduce by simply spot toning?
In reality, spot reduction is only a myth when it is perceived as a means of reducing the amount of fat surrounding a particular region of the body. For instance, if someone performs endless numbers of crunches daily for the sole purpose of trimming their abdomen, they will see fewer results than the strategies discussed above.

Those who perform a structured abdominal training program and watch their total caloric intake will trim their abdomen and the total amount of body fat surrounding it. Does that mean that they have effectively spot reduced? The answer is no. They have in fact “spot toned” their abdomen muscles, which has benefited in the tightening and strengthening of their midsection. In order to be classified as spot reduction, the person performing endless numbers of crunches should only lose body fat in the mid-section and nowhere else. Regardless if someone uses nutrition alone or exercise and nutrition combined for weight loss, fat loss will always occur throughout the body and never in only one specific region.

On the other hand, in order to tone a muscle you must work a muscle. You cannot tighten your thighs by strength training your arms. Muscle toning is site specific and requires the use of resistance in order to stimulate lean muscle growth. Multi-joint exercises (exercises that involve the use of more than one joint; for example a bicep curl machine is a single joint exercise while a leg press machine is a multi-joint exercise) are great because they work more than one muscle group at a time.

Rule of thumb
Spot reduction is possible as long as the goal is to spot reduce throughout the entire body. Spot toning is site specific and can be achieved by strictly focusing on the muscle group you wish to tone. If you want to win the “Bulge Wars” plan to conquer one battle at a time; the exercise battle, the nutrition battle, the vitamin/supplement battle and finally the battle for consistency.