You Can’t Spot Reduce Body Fat – Or Can You?

This fitness post is specifically written for females that hold too much fat on their arms and thighs.

Many times I’ve said that you can not spot reduce body fat. You lose fat in the kitchen, not the gym. Doing exercises that focus on flabby triceps or a heavy thighs will not assist with targeted fat loss. Your triceps aren’t thick because you have a tricep kickback deficiency, it is because you ate too much.

What if I’m wrong? What if there is an exception to the rule? What if there was a way for females to target the fat on their arms and thighs more effectively? The idea I’m about to share with you came to me earlier this week. I’ve tried to poke holes in it and can’t. But because I’m neither female or overweight, I have no way to test it.

Why am I singling out females? When men get fat arms or legs, it can sometimes pass as muscle. Also, men hold their fat mostly around the middle. Adjusting diet will easily take off abdominal fat, so a targeted strategy there is unnecessary.

My idea is for the ladies to work up to the point where they can lift weights in a fasted state. Why? In a fasted state, muscle glycogen stores get exhausted quickly. Insulin levels drop and growth hormone levels rise. What happens next is the body seeks out another fuel source. One of those fuel sources is intermuscular fat. Remember that high insulin levels tell the fat cells to hold onto their energy. Higher growth hormone levels make accessing body fat easier. So the answer is to drive your insulin levels low. Fasting accomplish this.

How did this idea pop into my head? For the past few months, I have been doing one fasted weight workout per week. Despite the fact my strength went up, I lost almost 1/2 inch off my arms. Because I’m an ectomorph male, I stopped doing fasted weight training. Lifting weights in a fasted state was too effective at targeting intermuscular fat. Although I don’t want smaller arms, this strategy could work great for females.

In addition to the fasting part, I have added a few other training concepts to my plan. Here is a step-by-step program.

  1. Collect Data – Measure your arms, thighs and widest point. Get in the habit of taking your measurements at the same time each day (3 times per week). Also get a scale weight. Throw away the highest and lowest number. Follow the trend.
  2. Pre Fasting Phase – I have listed 5 tips to prepare yourself for Intermittent Fasting in the post Intermittent Fasting – Overcoming Objections. Do no cardio. Cardio will only increase your carbohydrate cravings. Do these for 2-3 weeks.
  3. Fasting and Light Exercise – Get comfortable with walking and light workouts in a fasted state. This may take a few weeks as well. Again avoid cardio.
  4. Fasted Weight Training – You will only do low repetition compound exercises. 5-6 reps is it. When it gets too easy, increase the weight or add an additional set. You will not get bulky with higher weights and low-reps, as the dominant hypertrophy is myofibrillar not sarcoplasmic. Keep your rests under 1 minute. Compound movements are those that recruit multiple muscle groups that work together (incline bench, squat, dead lift). Minimize isolation moves. Stop treating your body like a butcher.

Keeping the reps low is not only safer, but it targets the larger fast twitch muscles. Fast twitch muscles have higher levels of UCP3 (Uncoupling Protein). Studies have shown that increasing expression of UCP3 results in lower levels of visceral, subcutaneous, and intermuscular fat. (see Differential fat distribution in UCP3 over-expressing transgenic mice – PDF). Once again, I strongly encourage you to avoid all cardio. Endurance training lowers the expression of UCP3. It also increases cortisol levels, which results in the body holding onto abdominal weight. Short burst interval training is much better than steady state aerobics.

Fat loss is still 80% diet. This plan is to supplement a healthy diet. Never try and overcome a poor diet with exercise. It only works in your youth. Note that my plan is probably the exact opposite of anything you will hear from a trainer or read from most media sources. Try it and tell me how well it works for you.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified trainer or nutritionist.

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  1. Nikki says

    Interesting theory. If you find someone who tries it, I’d be curious to know what the result was.


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