What's the Best Way to Lose Fat Off the Thighs?

"What's the best way to lose fat in the thighs without gaining muscle ... toning is fine, I just don't want big muscular thighs ..."

This question comes from Martha. I actually get this question often. And the concern about muscle growth, especially from females, is very common.

One word of advice though ... don't FEAR muscle.

We WANT muscle. Muscle is what makes us look lean and toned. Muscle helps keep us mobile. It is also our body's best fat-burning machine. So to achieve your goal properly, we want 'some' muscle growth and, at the least, muscle maintenance.

The BIG muscle growth you are referring to is a much different thing and a much different goal that we won't have to worry about because the general plan we are building here does not support that goal.

Now, the bad news. There isn't one exercise I can give you that will spot reduce fat in the thighs (or any other body part for that matter).

But that doesn't mean we can't achieve what you're after.

It simply means that to lose fat in the thighs, we will have to focus on losing body fat overall - and that really comes down to a multi-pronged approach.

Below I'll outline what I feel would be the main components of our game plan. But remember that it's a general plan only. Every individual is unique. And to pinpoint a specific plan for YOU, YOUR body and YOUR goals would require a comprehensive assessment to provide me with the unique data I need.

With that in mind, let's look at a basic game plan, starting with:

1) Caloric Deficit

Any fitness goal should start with a nutritional foundation. This one is no different. To lose weight/fat, we want to be in a caloric deficit. That means overall daily caloric intake is less than daily caloric expenditure.

It DOES NOT mean starving yourself. It means understanding what your basal metabolic rate is, adding in calories for your daily activity level, and then subtracting a strategic amount to get into a caloric deficit ... and then using that number to guide your daily intake.

Sounds complicated, right? How the heck to you determine what your caloric deficit number is?

Well, I've made it pretty simple. I've laid out the guidelines, and the simple math, for you, here. Check it out, take a few minutes to do the math, and put the data to work for you!

2) Hypertrophy Training

OK, let's get down to training. For this goal, we're looking at hypertrophy training. Why? Because it helps grow (or at minimum maintain) the muscle we want. And having this muscle can help you use the unwanted fat.

For this type of training we are looking at focusing on basic movements that will get multiple muscles activated. For the legs, I'm talking about squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc.

Once again, don't hate these movements because of past perceptions. I view strength-building movements like these as essential for just about anyone, not just "muscle heads."

Growing BIG muscles from these movements will require consistent, HEAVY lifting, supported by BIG diets (caloric surplus) and BIG amounts of protein to support such growth. That's not what we are doing here.

3) PROTEIN INTAKE

Remember that caloric deficit video I mentioned earlier and gave you a link to? In that video there is also a section on determining the amount of daily protein you need to maintain/grow muscle. Your caloric deficit nutrition program must have enough protein to support your goal. If you haven't already done so, check out my video and the guidelines for determining just how much protein you need each day. Along with the hypertrophy training, this is a key to building that lean muscle that's going to help those thighs look "toned".

Martha, I hope the above makes sense. Although other factors may be involves, this should give you some general background and guidelines.

Your homework?

1) Watch my video to learn about caloric deficit, daily protein intake, and using the data to support your goal.

2) Consider working with a qualified fitness professional to make sure your training program is on point and synched with your goal.

And remember ... 

Eat with a purpose and give your body what it needs, when it needs it!

Jaime Rothermich
RD, CSSD, LD, PPSC, CSCS