How to lose upper body fat
Fat is stored around various parts of your upper body, including your face, neck, shoulders, arms, back, chest and belly. In order for you to start losing fat from these areas, you have to remain in a calorie deficit. This means that your calorie intake needs to be lower then your calorie expenditure. Doing so forces your body to use its fat stores as a source of energy.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to tell your body to only burn fat from one particular area (also known as spot reduction). This means that you will have to approach fat loss as a full-body endeavor. Luckily, your body will utilize fat stores from all over for energy and you will start to lose fat in the upper region over time.
The number of calories that a person needs to consume in order to start losing fat will depend on their age, gender, weight, height and how active they are. You can use the calculator below to get a rough estimate of how many calories you should be consuming, depending on your goals.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 35 year old lady who weighs 70 kgs (154 lbs), is 180 cm tall (6 feet) and exercises 4 times a week will need to consume approximately 2300 calories to maintain her weight, 1850 calories to lose weight and 1400 calories to lose weight fast.
A safe weight loss rate is 1 to 2 pounds per week, which can be achieved by remaining in a calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit in turn can be achieved by keeping an eye on what you eat and exercising more often. If you want to get rid of upper body fat as fast and as efficiently as possible, a combination of the two is highly recommended.
Below are some recommendations you should aim to follow.
Monitor your calorie intake and minimize junk food
If you asked the average person to tell you how many calories they consume per day, they probably wouldn’t know. This is because most people don’t usually monitor their calorie intake. If you want to lose fat, it is advisable to have a general idea of how many calories you consume, because this will let you know whether you are overeating.
Every time you eat something, write down the name and quantity of the food that you ate, or enter it into the app. If you write it down, you will need to use a food calorie information website such as nutritiondata.self.com to get the number of calories in a given food. If you use the app, myfitnesspal will refer to its own food database and do this for you automatically.
At the end of the day, you can sum up the calories in all the foods and get your daily calories intake. Here’s an example.
Total intake – 2748 calories
You can then use the calculator above to determine whether you are consuming too many calories. If you are, you need to reduce your intake. You can do this by making smart food substitutions.
In the example above, the breakfast consisted of 2 medium butter croissants and a glass of orange juice. Whilst there is no denying that this breakfast would taste great, it wouldn’t be the best option when trying to lose upper body fat.
This is because it is high in calories, but not very filling. Croissants are made up of refined carbohydrates, which are digested very quickly and cause dramatic spikes and dips in blood sugar over a short period of time. This in turn leaves you feeling hungry, and you need food again very soon.
A better option would be to swap refined carbs with those that are digested more slowly. A great example in this case is home cooked oatmeal. It releases energy gradually and because it adds bulk to your stomach, it keeps you feeling satisfied for longer.
It is also a good idea to increase your protein intake. Protein has a high satiety, boosts metabolism and reduces overall calorie intake. Studies have shown that increasing protein consumption is beneficial for weight loss. For example, this study found that increasing protein intake to 30% of total calories resulted in 441 fewer calories being consumed per day. There are lots of great protein rich foods available including eggs, beans and fish.
Another quick way to reduce your overall calorie intake is by monitoring liquid calories that you drink. Many people don’t realize that fruit juices, sodas and store bought coffees are usually high in calories.
Fruit juices may be OK once in a while because fresh fruit juice is a source of vitamins and minerals, but eating the solid fruit instead would be a better option. However sodas should be completely avoided if possible because they are a source of ’empty calories’ i.e. calories that provide no nutritional benefits. Swapping soda and sugar sweetened beverages for water can save you a lot of calories and is an effective fat loss strategy.
In the example above, if the orange juice & cola were replaced with water, and the cappuccino replaced with ordinary home brewed coffee, 300 fewer calories would be consumed.
Over a period of one month, that is 9000 fewer calories, which equates to a large amount of fat. Water helps with weight loss because it has 0 calories (yes you read that right!), boosts metabolism and fills you up, so you eat less.
Here is a revised version of the above meal plan, with certain foods and beverages replaced for more nutritious options.
Total intake – 1863 calories
The two meals plans have a difference of more than 1000 calories, which is a very significant amount! Notice that we didn’t reduce the overall quantity of food in any way. We just replaced high calorie and less filling foods with lower calorie and more filling ones.
Replacing certain foods and monitoring your calorie intake will allow you to achieve a calorie deficit, which means you will automatically start to burn fat around your body.
Become more active
Together with modifying your diet, you should aim to increase the amount of exercise that you do. If you are not already active then start off slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of exercise.
You should aim to do 30 minutes of exercise that gets your heart pumping and makes you sweat, at least 3 – 4 times a week. This should be a combination of both cardiovascular exercise and weight training.
Cardiovascular exercise burns fat stores around the body. A particularly effective type of cardio is high intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves doing short intense bursts of a certain activity followed by longer periods of the same activity at a comfortable pace. For example you could sprint as fast as possible for 20 seconds and then jog for a minute; repeat this cycle for 15 – 20 minutes.
This study involved 45 overweight women who were split into two groups. One group did regular cardio and the other did HIIT. The regular cardio group cycled for 40 minutes at a steady pace whereas the HIIT group cycled for 20 minutes, switching between twelve seconds of light cycling and then eight seconds of cycling “all out”.
The study found that the HIIT group ended up losing 3 times more body fat! Results may not always be this impressive, however HIIT is definitely a recommended fat burning technique.
Together with cardiovascular exercise, you should also do some weight training. Your overall goal should not be to just lose upper body fat but to also build muscle mass; weight training can help you achieve this. Muscle is much more compact than fat, so ‘turning fat into muscle‘ will leave you looking lean & toned. Additionally, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day.
Pushups, bench presses, bent-over rows, pull-ups, dead-lifts and EZ bar curls are great upper body weight based exercises. It is important to work out all parts of your body however, including your arms, chest, shoulders, back, core and legs rather than focusing on only one region. Personal advice from a fitness instructor or following an online fitness plan can be beneficial. It is also important to speak to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Upper body fat loss can be achieved by monitoring your calorie intake and increasing your activity levels. It is not possible to target fat loss from a particular region in the body, but provided that a calorie deficit is maintained, fat will be lost from the upper body over time.