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The lower body -- particularly the legs and calves - are often troublesome when it comes to shedding body fat. Despite good weight loss progress elsewhere, these areas can seem particularly slow to shape up. While cardio and cutting back on calories can definitely help you shed the excess weight, you don't necessarily have to hammer away on the treadmill for hours and eat nothing but lettuce leaves to get results.
While you may be tempted to dedicate your whole gym session to your legs and calves, this won't melt away the inches. According to the American Council on Exercise, spot reducing fat from specific areas is impossible, as muscle and fat are two separate entities. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't work these areas, just that you need to focus on the bigger picture.
While spot reducing fat may not be possible, you should still train both areas to increase muscle tone and size, as this can give the appearance of leaner legs and calves once you start losing the fat. Train your lower body twice per week. Perform dumbbell lunges, leg presses, lying leg curls, glute bridge raises and standing calf raises. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions each, using a weight that is challenging, but allows you to complete all the reps with perfect form. If you're unsure of technique, ask an instructor for advice. Also, always consult your doctor before starting a training program.
Diet is the most important factor when it comes to losing weight, but is often overlooked. To lose weight from your legs and calves, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. The USDA recommends that women consume 1800 to 2400 calories per day, and men consume 2000 to 3000 calories. Start in the middle of these figures, and adjust your intake in accordance with progress. If you cut just 500 calories from your regular diet each day, it can result in 1 pound of fat loss per week because 1 pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Base your diet around nutrient-dense foods such as lean meat and fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses and whole grains. Be sure to read food labels to determine the serving size and the amount of calories in a serving. Completely avoid trans fats, which are found in commercial baked goods. Limit saturated fat, found in fatty meats and whole-fat dairy products, to no to no more than 10 percent of your total calories.
Don't get sucked into the notion that you have to do hours of cardio. The American College of Sports Medicine notes that to lose weight, you may need to perform 60 minutes of moderately intense cardio, five days a week. However, to accelerate weight loss from stubborn areas, intensity is key. According to Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico, interval training results in a higher calorie burn, and greater fat loss than steady state cardio does. For an interval session, pick a cardio machine at the gym, and warm up for five minutes. Go as fast as you can for 15 seconds before going at a steady pace for 45 seconds. Repeat this 15-to-45-second protocol 10 times, and then cool down. Do this three times per week to speed up your weight loss.