Exercise Myth: “Spot Reduction” Training

“What can I do to lose fat in “X” areas?” A question, or a variation of, that I receive fairly often. This question is alluding to a training method referred to as “spot reduction” or “the localized reduction of subcutaneous fat as a result of exercising that particular part of the body.” 1 This type of exercise has been popularly practiced, even though research has shown it to be invalid for quite some time.1,2,3

It is easy to see why spot reduction became a mainstream “solution” for fat loss; putting extra effort into a “problem” area should solve the “problem”, right? However, this method is proven to not result in the desired outcome. While isolating specific muscle groups has benefits, spot reduction training does not equal spot results. Spot reduction training can help to improve the growth and endurance of muscles targeted; but, does not truly ensure subcutaneous fat-loss in those areas.2,3

Okay, so now that I’ve potentially ruined your day by telling you that all of those planks and flutter kicks aren’t necessarily burning fat the way you thought, you’re probably wondering what you can do to burn body fat. While I’m sure you’re expecting me to tell you that I am the fat burning guru and that I’ve created the ultimate fat loss solution. I am not and I haven’t; but, the answer is quite simple. The best way to shed body fat in a healthy manor is through consistent, healthful eating habits and an individualized workout plan.

The body is an interconnected system; therefore, spot reduction does not illustrate the full picture of health.  A majority plant-based diet and the implementation of a structured metabolic and resistance training program are excellent steps towards burning excess fat and achieving peak health.


  1. Kostek, Matthew A., Linda S. Pescatello, Richard L. Seip, Theodore J. Angelopoulos, Priscilla M. Clarkson, Paul M. Gordon, Niall M. Moyna, Paul S. Visich, Robert F. Zoeller, Paul D. Thompson, Eric P. Hoffman, and Thomas B. Price. “Subcutaneous Fat Alterations Resulting from an Upper-Body Resistance Training Program.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise7 (2007): 1177-185. Web.
  1. Vispute, Sachin S., John D. Smith, James D. Lecheminant, and Kimberly S. Hurley. “The Effect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25.9 (2011): 2559-564. Web.
  1. Gwinup, Grant. “Thickness of Subcutaneous Fat and Activity of Underlying Muscles.” Annals of Internal Medicine 74.3 (1971): 408. Web.

Amino Acid Supplementation

As many of you may know, exercise and physical activity can cause your body to be sore for many days following. This soreness is often referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.

Amongst athletes and fitness enthusiasts, a frequent remedy for improved muscle recovery is the supplementation of amino acids. Amino Acids are the building blocks for protein. There are 20 known amino acids required for the body that are separated into essential and nonessential. The body cannot produce essential amino acids; therefore, they must be acquired through diet. The body can produce nonessential amino acids on it’s own.

A related practice amongst athletes and fitness enthusiasts is the supplementation of BCAAs or branched chain amino acids. There are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine. All three BCAAs are essential amino acids; but, not all essential amino acids are BCAAs. BCAAs are believed to facilitate protein synthesis in skeletal muscle and decrease body fat. This belief comes from the clinical use of amino acids to regulate anabolic hormones in deficient patients even though there is no convincing evidence of these claims on healthy patients.1

While the benefits of BCAA supplementation may seem enticing, there is also research showing that increased intake of the BCAA, leucine, may be linked to expediting the effects of the enzyme TOR. TOR is known as an enzyme that promotes aging.2 A common misconception about amino acids is that having higher proportions of them, like in animal products, is beneficial to us. This is inaccurate and is more damaging than it is beneficial.3

With the potential effects of supplementation and animal products, you might be wondering if there is a better way to get your daily intake of amino acids. Good news! A plant based diet can provide you with all the essential and nonessential amino acids your body is looking for.4

Here are 10 plant-based, readily available, highly affordable, protein dense foods: quinoa, lentils, chia seeds, broccoli, hemp seeds, spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, brown rice, and black beans.

Eating plant based foods will help to repair tissue and build muscle. This tissue repair will aid in recovery, and limit the effects of DOMS.



  1. McArdle, William D., Frank I. Katch, and Victor L. Katch. “Amino Acid Supplementation.” Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010. 551-52. Print.
  1. Written by: Michael Greger M.D. FACLM. “Living Longer by Reducing Leucine Intake.” NutritionFacts.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2017. 
  1. Ochoa, MD, Sofia P. “7 Serious Problems With Animal Protein.” Forks Over Knives. N.p., 31 Dec. 2016. Web. 08 Feb. 2017.
  1. Greger, M.D. Michael. “The Protein-Combining Myth.” NutritionFactsorg. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2017.