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The Bodybuilding Professor

Bryan Haycock MSc

Bryan haycock is an exercise physiologist, university instructor, writer, and consultant for the bodybuilding industry.

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Losing Leg Fat

Q. I’m following a carb-cycling diet and sprinting three times a week with 15 minutes of cardio on treadmill after my workouts. My upper body is shredded, but I’m having problems cutting fat on my legs. What can I do?

A. The problem of lower body fat has given rise to more voodoo than Marie Laveau. You must remember a few things when trying to reduce lower body fat: First, subcutaneous (i.e., under the skin) fat is more sensitive to insulin than visceral (i.e., potbelly) fat. Second, the more you cut your calories, the more muscle you’ll lose. And third, you may not achieve the degree of leanness in your lower body that you want during one dieting period. Of course, there are many more things to remember, but my editor didn’t give me much room, so we’ll focus on just a few. (Editor’s Note: It’s true, I didn’t.) Dropping waist size is easier than getting “lean,” and one reason is that fat under the skin is more sensitive to the anti-lipolytic effects of insulin. So every time you eat, the rise in insulin shuts off fat mobilization from subcutaneous stores. The solution? You’re going to have to reduce insulin levels by either cutting carbs or performing hours of cardio. I’d suggest cutting carbs before increasing cardio if muscle mass is important to you. That fact that you’re doing sprints is good in that subcutaneous fat is also more sensitive to the lipolytic effects of adrenalin. High-intensity cardio is the right call here. You’ll need to exercise caution when cutting carbs back further in that the greater the caloric deficit, the greater the loss of muscle mass. At best, you’ll be able to mobilize about 31 calories per pound of body fat per day. If you know your body composition, you can figure out how far you can cut calories before significant muscle loss occurs. This brings us to the final point, that you may not be able to reach your goal during one dieting period. If the discrepancy between your upper body and lower body fat is large, you’ll reach the limits of upper body leanness before your lower body comes in. As your diet continues, fat loss will slow until equilibrium is reached, and further progress becomes extremely slow. At this point, you need to re-feed carefully, allowing your metabolic rate to return to normal and your brain to adapt to a “fed” environment. This will improve your hormonal environment and allow the next dieting period to begin as successfully as the last one. However, this time, you should be starting in a leaner condition, allowing further reductions in lower body fat.

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