The human body is capable of losing fat in a number of ways. Some people will lose fat in their arms first, while others will lose fat in their legs or stomach. There is no one definitive answer to the question of what parts of the body lose fat first. However, there are a number of factors that can influence this process. Diet, exercise, and genetics all play a role in how much body fat is lost and where it is lost.
Body Fat Basics
The subject of body fat is a common one, but how much do you really know about it? In the body, fat is excess carbohydrate or protein from food that is converted into triglycerides and stored in the lipid droplets of adipocytes, according to a paper published in the British Medical Journal on December, 2014.
As a general and bariatric surgeon at the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center in Fountain Valley, California, Mir Ali tells LIVESTRONG.com, there are two kinds of fat.
A type of white fat known as visceral (or “hard”) fat, this type of white fat is found in and around the internal organs. When hard fat enters the body, it triggers an inflammatory response, increasing the risk of disease, according to Dr. Ali. There is an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other metabolic disorders if you have white fat, according to a JCI Insight study in 2017.
Dr. Ali explains that subcutaneous fat, also known as “soft fat,” is found just beneath the surface of the skin and is not as harmful as visceral fat. Through your skin you can feel or pinch this type of fat.
Brown fat is another type of fat in the body that our bodies use to regulate our temperature. Some researchers, including those at the Mayo Clinic, believe that exercise stimulates brown fat, which could help with weight loss. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in this area fat.
It’s good to know that, according to Dr. Ali, any method of reducing overall body fat will also reduce hard or “bad” fat.
Where Do You Lose Fat First?
Fat loss occurs in a specific order that is largely determined by genetics. In the words of Dr. Ali, our genes determine where and how much fat we store, which means that they also determine how we lose weight.
However, as Dr. Ali explains, women’s lower body fat (hips, buttocks, and thighs) is typically the first to be shed (see ya, saddlebags). On the other hand, men tend to store more fat in the abdomen, so when they begin to lose weight, they are more likely to notice a noticeable difference in this area. The order in which fat is eliminated from the body varies greatly from person to person, so there is no one-size-fits-all rule.
As an added bonus, in case you’ve ever been curious about what happens to your fat when you lose it, a recent study published in the British Medical Journal shows the majority of it is exhaled out through your lungs.
Why You Can’t Spot Reduce
Because of the way the body uses fat cells for energy, targeted fat loss (e.g., losing weight from the face or arms) does not work.
The triglycerides stored in fat cells, according to the Mayo Clinic, are used to power muscles. Your body uses triglycerides as fuel when you create a calorie deficit, either by cutting back on food intake or increasing your activity. However, as Dr. Ali confirms, your body’s fat stores are depleted equally throughout, so you can’t “pick and choose” which ones to use first.
Even though it’s more noticeable in the areas of your body where you store more fat, losing weight will have a greater impact on those areas of your body.
How to Burn Fat More Effectively
Cutting calories and increasing exercise aren’t the only ways to lose weight.
Deficiency in calories
Increasing your resting metabolic rate by gaining muscle mass (aka how many calories you burn at rest)
Dr. Ali claims that the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn on a regular basis. As a result, adding strength training to your weekly routine is something you should seriously consider.
According to the International Sports Science Association, what you eat and when you eat it can have a huge impact on how your body burns fat (ISSA). The type of exercise you’re doing and the type of food you eat affect how your body gets the fuel it needs for a workout. To put it simply, the body will always seek out the most convenient source of energy.
ISSA-certified personal trainer Blake Artis recommends storing glycogen (a carbohydrate energy source) in your body as a first line of defence in the event of stress. After consuming all of its glycogen, your body will turn to its secondary source of energy: fat.
In order to keep a reserve of fat in case you go an extended period without eating, our bodies are always in a protective mode, according to Artis.
So, how do you get your hands on that fat? Alternate high-intensity and low-intensity days in your workouts, says Artis, so that you’re burning more calories than you’re ingesting.
How to Burn Fat Through Exercise
Your body’s glycogen stores are depleted during high-intensity days, which is how you “prime” your body for fat loss.
Consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrates and protein during high-intensity workouts such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), weightlifting, sprinting or CrossFit is essential. Your body will be able to efficiently burn off the carbohydrates while preserving muscle mass as a result of this.
Artis recommends doing cardio after a high-intensity workout because your body will have depleted its glycogen supply and switched to fat-burning mode, making it more efficient. The best time to exercise is following a workout, according to him.
Artis recommends lifting weights or doing other high-intensity workouts instead of long cardio sessions because your body will continue to burn fat even after you’re done exercising, which is ideal for burning fat. On the other hand, cardio only works while you’re doing it. Artis recommends limiting your HIIT workout to no more than 30 minutes in order to get the most out of your workout and burn the most fat.
You can also incorporate low-intensity workouts into your exercise routine to help you lose weight. For low-intensity workouts (like running, jogging, or cycling), you can help your body burn fat and not muscle by avoiding carbohydrates and high amounts of fat on these days. In the absence of carbohydrate sugar fuel, the body must rely on lipolysis (fat breakdown) for energy during a low-intensity workout.
The ISSA recommends that on days of low intensity, you consume less than 20% of your daily calories from fat. Keep your heart rate between 105 and 125 to avoid switching your body into a “high-intensity” state.
Additional Fat-Burning Strategies
If you want to lose weight, you need to eat healthily and exercise regularly, but it’s also critical that you get enough sleep and work to reduce your stress levels.
A lack of sleep and high levels of stress can cause your body to hold onto excess fat and store it in your body, making it more difficult to lose weight. Doctor Ali says that stress causes the release of cortisol, one of the hormones that promotes fat storage in the abdominal area. Your body is more likely to store fat when you’re under stress.
So, if you’re short on time, you may want to focus on ways to reduce your overall level of stress as well. Why? Because your body is constantly under stress, it releases cortisol, which tells your body to hold on to fat, so if you only focus on intense exercise, you may actually be doing more harm than good.
There are a variety of methods you can use to lessen your stress levels, including:
Don’t do any exercise on at least one day a week.
Counseling can help.
Try writing in a journal.
Make more time for self-care.
Experiencing nature by way of a walk is one way to do this.
Make plans to spend time with a loved one or friend.
Make it a priority to get enough sleep each night (7 to 9 hours, per the Mayo Clinic)
As a result, Artis recommends the following methods for shedding pounds:
Fad diets aren’t the way to go.
Avoid overdoing your cardio workouts.
Go for high-metabolism foods and drinks, such as green tea, coffee, spicy foods, and fermented foods.
To aid digestion, take a probiotic supplement.
The body parts that lose fat first are the arms, legs, and chest. However, everyone’s body is different, so it’s important to consult with a doctor to figure out which areas of the body need to be targeted for weight loss. To maximize your results, be sure to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Thanks for reading!