Many people focus on one – or more – part(s) of their body : they want to lose fat in the belly, love handles, hips, thighs, or calves, or even the face. They then begin all kinds of more or less restrictive diets and start exercising. Unfortunately, Targeted fat loss is more myth than fact. Insights from Pauline Bruel, liberal dietician in Paris and practitioner at the Antony hospital and Dr Denys Barrault, sports doctor and former president of the French Society of Exercise and Sports Medicine (SFMES).
Weight loss is a complex process which is based on the concept of energy balance : the ratio between the calories we consume through our diet and the calories we expend through our physical activities and the functioning of our body.
“Concretely, when we consume more calories than we expend, our body stores excess as fat, which leads to weight gain, explains Pauline Bruel. Conversely, when we expend more calories than we consume, our body begins to draw on its fat stores to make up for the calorie deficit, thus leading to weight loss.
And Dr. Barrault to specify: “when our body is in caloric deficit and that it needs energy, it first draws on carbohydrates stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Once glycogen stores are depleted, it begins to break down fat to convert it into usable energy, resulting in loss of body fat.”
Contrary to what one might think, body fat does not “melt” by magic. When you lose weight due to a calorie deficit, the fat inside the fat cells is released as triglycerides. These undergo a series of chemical reactions before being converted into energy.
And, as we explain in this dedicated article, this process of depleting fat stores also creates by-products: some water (which is eliminated through perspiration, tears and urine) and carbon dioxide (which leaves the body via the respiratory system).
Our experts are unfortunately categorical: specifically targeting fat loss in a specific area such as the belly, love handles, hips, or thighs is a concept often put forward, but unrealistic from a physiological point of view. This is because when we lose weight, our bodies tend to reduce the amount of body fat overall rather than targeting it to specific areas, says Dr. Barrault.
In other words, even with the best will in the world, by watching your diet and increasing your physical activity, it is impossible to lose fat in a targeted way, insists Pauline Bruel.
On the other hand, it is possible to tone and strengthen certain muscles to redefine your silhouettesays the sports doctor.
It is important to remember that the ease of losing body fat varies from person to person depending on many criteria, such as genetics, metabolism, medical history, stress level, gender, etc.
“Indeed, biological and hormonal differences between men and women can influence weight gain,” says Dr. Barrault. Men tend to have a faster basal metabolic rate than women. In other words: they naturally burn more calories at rest, which is why they generally have an easier time losing weight.
“Men also tend to store fat in the belly, while women store it more in the hips, thighs and buttocks,” adds the dietician. And to add: IHormones also play an important role in the regulation of body weight. In fact, women are more sensitive to weight loss and weight gain, because their lives are punctuated by numerous hormonal fluctuations (menstrual cycle, menopause, etc.) which can influence their appetite, accentuate water retention and impact their body fat distribution.
It is therefore necessary to keep in mind that each situation is unique, she insists. Generalities about weight gain or weight loss cannot be relied upon.
As you will have understood, it is not possible to lose weight specifically in the thighs, hips or arms. But he is possible to act on the whole body and refine the parts of the body that bother us. To maximize results, follow these tips:
When it comes to weight, it is important to make the difference between fat mass and lean mass, consisting of bones, muscles, skin, body fluids and organs. The risk, when you lose weight quickly, is to lose lean mass without realizing it. To avoid this, it is better monitor your body composition regularly using an impedance meter or by measuring skin folds (the body mass index does not make it possible to assess lean mass and fat mass).
Also pay attention to your feelings : if you do lose muscle, you will notice a drop in energy, a decrease in your strength and a reduction in your overall physical performance. Furthermore, fat loss is generally associated with decrease in size and “puffy” appearance certain areas of the upper body or lower body (such as the stomach, hips, etc.). If you notice that your clothes are getting looser and you feel more toned, that could be a good sign! Likewise, if your muscles begin to grow and bulge.
In any case, be patient, focus on establishing long-term healthy habits and don’t let yourself be discouraged by possible stagnation or temporary weight fluctuations!, concludes Pauline Bruel.
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