A muscular, lean back looks good in a tank top and helps you maintain healthy posture. Many people have excess fat covering these muscles and end up with a bulge around the bra and rolls that spill over the top of the waistband. While spot-reducing your back fat isn't possible, healthy eating and exercise can lead to fat loss all over -- including your back. A little extra effort and dedication helps you reduce fat quickly, so your back looks slimmer sooner.
Don't Fall for Spot Reduction Promises
Fitness magazines and gadgets want you to believe that, with the right foods or workouts, you can lose fat from a specific area. Unfortunately, the way you gain and lose fat is genetically determined; targeted moves aren't going to make your back slim down.
Your body stores fat in fat cells throughout your body. When you create a calorie deficit, meaning you eat fewer calories than you burn, your body turns to these stores to make up the difference, and uses the stored fat for energy. You can't purposefully mobilize back fat; instead, you must create the environment for weight loss and wait for your body to slim down all over to lose a muffin-top or bra bulge.
Researchers confirmed this fact in a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2013. Participants trained their non-dominant leg three times per week with 960 to 1,200 repetitions of the leg press. After 12 weeks, the participants had lost no significant fat in their legs, despite all the spot training, but did lose some fat from their upper bodies.
Embark on a Total-Body Fat-Loss Program
Reducing your calorie intake is one of the first steps to take when your goal is fat loss. Use an online calculator or consult with a dietitian to determine how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. Then, reduce your calorie intake and exercise more to create a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. In the first couple of weeks, you may lose at a slightly faster rate as the dietary changes cause you to lose excess water. Eventually, though, you should settle into a more gradual rate of loss.
As you lose pounds on the scale, you'll notice your body -- including your back -- slimming down. Be patient, however; know that the last areas to lose fat are usually the places where you noticed fat gain first. If your back has always been a "problem" area, it will take time to achieve the results you're after.
You may be tempted to take extreme measures to lose back fat faster. But eating fewer than 1,200 calories for a woman or 1,800 for a man may actually cause weight loss to stall. Your metabolism slows down to conserve energy when faced with what it perceives as a famine and as you lose muscle, which requires more calories to maintain than fat. Losing at a rate of more than 3 pounds per week consistently can also cause health complications, such as gallstones. You may also miss out on nutrients your body needs for optimal function.
Make Calories Count
To get the most bang for your caloric buck, focus on consuming mostly whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and unsaturated fats. Fiber in the grains and produce helps you feel full, and these foods provide lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Proteins, dairy and fats also promote meal satisfaction. Protein, found in white-meat chicken, tofu, lean steak and fish, also helps you maintain lean muscle as you lose weight. Aim for about 0.6 gram per pound of body weight per day to help preserve lean mass. For a 150-pound person, that comes out to 90 grams of protein per day, or about 20 to 25 grams at each meal and another 10 to 15 grams at each of two snacks.
Plan your meals by filling half of your plate with fresh vegetables and fruits, and reserving a quarter plate each for whole grains and protein. Snack choices that help you stick to a low calorie intake and lose fat include fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese. Limit or eliminate high-calorie, low-nutrition items like sugary treats, processed snacks and soda.
Exercise to Address Back Fat
Cardiovascular exercise can help you lose the back bulge. Work up to the minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To lose fat quickly, build your stamina to sustain more than 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. High-intensity interval training may also help speed your results. At a few of your cardio workouts per week, alternate short bouts of all-out effort with bouts of easier effort.
Targeted back exercises are an important part of a total body strength-training program that helps you build muscle all over. Muscle requires more energy for your body to sustain, so added muscle keeps your metabolism burning at a quick rate and makes fat loss easier. You may not see well-defined muscles until you lose excess fat, though.
Strength training as you reduce calories also helps you preserve the muscle you already have. Aim for a minimum of two workouts per week that target every major muscle group -- your back, as well as your thighs, hips, chest, arms, shoulders and abs. Go for a minimum of one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each strength exercise, using a weight that feels heavy by the last one or two repetitions. Over time, build up to more sets, heavier weights and another one or two strength workouts per week. At each of these workouts, include more than one exercise to target the muscles of the back, so that when you lose fat all over, you reveal a sculpted, defined rear view.
- Yale Scientific: Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Regional Fat Changes Induced By Localized Muscle Endurance Resistance Training
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight Loss and Nutrition Myths
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes
- American Council on Exercise: Why is the Concept of Spot Reduction Considered a Myth?
- Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics: 6 Tips on Losing Weight for Your Next Big Event
- British Journal of Nutrition: Dietary Protein - Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?