Can You Really Lose Belly Fat?

You’ve almost certainly seen advertisements encouraging you to try out their secret formula to lose belly fat. Most of us have areas where we are particularly concerned about losing fat and for most of us that area is either the belly or the thighs. So the question we all want to know is: Can you really target belly fat?

Unfortunately the answer is complicated, but is basically “no.” Targeting a particular area for fat loss is known as spot reducing. Many ill-informed enthusiasts spend tons of time doing crunches trying to get rid of belly fat. Unfortunately there is essentially no connection between building muscle in a given area and losing fat there.

When you work a muscle, you make that muscle larger. This applies even to your abdominals. This means that most people who are working their abs ceaselessly are probably increasing the size of their belly instead of reducing it. All the effort they spend will help burn calories and when they finally do get rid of that belly fat they’ll have a great six-pack to show for all their effort, but in the meantime they’re not doing what they think they’re doing.

In general if you want to lose your belly fat, focus on overall fat loss. Your body will generally lose fat from where it feels like and there’s not much you can do about it. There is one study that suggests that you can do a small amount of spot reducing at a great cost if you’re really desperate. The Danish study showed that doing 30 minutes or more of very light weight resistance training on a given muscle had a mild effect on losing fat preferentially from this area. This means that if you sit down and do very light weight crunches you might be able to get a minor benefit towards losing fat on your stomach.

The key question is whether this time could be better spent on something else. Would you rather lose a little fat from your belly, or a little fat from your belly and a little fat from everywhere else at the same time? If you do heavy lifts with limited rest you will likely see a fat-loss result that will lead to faster overall gains rather than worrying about spot reducing. 

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