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How Do I Lose Body Fat?

A person with a small amount of belly fat.
Abdominal exercises can build muscle, but do not have much affect on fat content.
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  • Written By: Henry Gaudet
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
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If you want to lose body fat, the calories you burn must exceed the calories you take in. Your body stores fat as an energy reserve, and this energy must be spent to reduce body fat. The process might not be easy, but it is simple: eat less, move more.

As you go through your day, your body requires energy. You draw this energy, measured in calories, from the carbohydrates you eat and from fat, whether found in your diet or in your fat cells. The body constantly draws energy from both of these sources but in different ratios, depending on the intensity and duration of your activity.

Your body stores fat as a survival mechanism, to help you survive harsh conditions when food is scarce. In the modern industrialized world, though, food is plentiful, cheap and rich in calories. Additionally, sedentary lifestyles and labor-saving devices reduce the body’s energy requirements, resulting in a calorie surplus, creating a fat reserve that is never depleted and making it that much more difficult to lose body fat.

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A combination of a healthy diet and exercise is the best way for you to lose body fat. It is important to increase your level of daily activity and reduce your calorie intake while still giving your body all of the nutrients that it needs. Fasting — though effective in dramatically reducing calorie intake — starves your body of critical minerals, vitamins, proteins and other nutrients, puts your health at risk and is not recommended as a way to lose body fat over the long term.

Some exercise plans suggest that low-intensity workouts burn more fat, but this is somewhat misleading. The body constantly burns both carbohydrates and fat for fuel, and during low-intensity exercise, the body uses more fat than carbohydrates. High-intensity exercise, however, uses more total calories, and even though a lower ratio of fat to carbohydrates is burned, you will still burn more fat with more effort, and 20 minutes of running will burn more fat than 20 minutes of walking.

You might expect to lose body fat in a particular problem area by exercising that portion of the body, such as targeting a pot belly with sit-ups or crunches. This strategy might improve muscle tone in the area, but fat cannot be targeted this way. Your body draws energy from all available fat cells and cannot draw from one local source. Exercise will certainly help you to lose body fat, but no exercise, diet or supplement is able to draw fat away from one particular part of the body and not other areas.

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