How to Reduce Thigh Fat

About the Author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)

As a professional fitness and sports nutritionist and personal trainer, I receive a lot of questions from women on body transformation. Some of the most popular questions revolve around thigh fat. While holding a chunk of their leg in hand, they will ask:

"How do I get rid of this thigh fat?"

"Will the cottage cheese ever go away?"

"What exercises can I do to get rid of these thunder thighs?"

"What am I doing wrong? I have been exercising for years but the fat on my thighs won't go away!"

If you've asked these questions, then you've come to the right place for answers. You will learn why you accumulate thigh fat and why it's so difficult to remove. Moreover, you will learn how to reduce thigh fat with the right diet protocol and exercises.

Learn how to reduce thigh fat.
Learn how to reduce thigh fat. | Source

Thigh Fat - The Female Hormone Issue

We ladies have often been envious of the opposite sex due to their gifted genes of never seemingly gaining thigh fat. However, we have been gifted with the ability to bare children. Paired with certain hormones is the only way we can have this wonderful gift, though it may not always feel like a win-win when observing one's self in the mirror.

Though you most likely have already attributed hormones as being the great contributor to thigh fat, they are necessary for pregnancy, child bearing, and breast feeding. Both estrogen and progesterone play a role. Estrogen is mostly responsible for fat storage around your thighs and derriere, while both estrogen and progesterone are responsible for larger breasts. If you didn't know, breasts consist mainly of body fat.

Estrogen and progesterone balance, as well as how those hormones interact with other hormones (i.e., cortisol and insulin), is key to reducing thigh fat. If you carry most of your body fat in the thigh and butt region, this is an indication that you have higher estrogen levels compared to progesterone. Larger breasts with smaller thighs and butt may indicate the opposite balance of hormones (i.e., higher progesterone compared to estrogen). Your menstrual cycle may also be a clue to your hormone balance. You may have an imbalance with higher estrogen compared to progesterone if you suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with the usual symptoms like fatigue, depression, moodiness, breast tenderness, and bloating.

Though estrogen may seem like the evil of the two hormones, it is very necessary for proper function of your body. Too much or too little of it is not good. However, the right balance can help you lose body fat from all the right places, build muscle, and regulate insulin levels. No worries on the 'muscle building.' We women only have a fraction of the testosterone levels of men which build 'big and bulky' muscles.


Where do you carry your body fat?

  • Thighs and butt
  • Breasts
  • Abdominal region
  • All over
See results without voting

Estrogen Dominance Causes

What causes estrogen dominance? There are actually a number of things that create hormonal imbalances in women, especially estrogen dominance:

  1. Age
  2. Stress
  3. Food
  4. Environment

Unfortunately, we all age. With that, our hormones also change. Living a healthy lifestyle through low stress, right food choices, and exercise may help prolong your youth. However, the days of of childbearing will diminish with age. Thus, hormonal imbalances will occur. Other than age, your lifestyle choices may contribute to imbalances as well. The consequence of stress, bad food choices, and environmental chemicals is estrogen dominance. Certain food and environmental chemicals contain estrogen mimicking compounds.

While age and lifestyle choices (i.e., stress, food, and environment) all contribute to hormonal imbalance, your fat cells also push your body towards estrogen dominance through an enzyme called aromatase which is found in fat cells. While all these contributors are taking place, your human growth hormone (HGH), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) hormone, and progesterone decline. These particular hormones help your body to stay slim and build muscle. All create a perfect storm for gaining body fat in the thigh and butt regions.

Estrogen dominance occurs in the first half of your menstrual cycle - usually Day 1 to 14 on a 28-day cycle.
Estrogen dominance occurs in the first half of your menstrual cycle - usually Day 1 to 14 on a 28-day cycle. | Source

Ways to Restore HGH

  1. Adequate protein.
  2. Weight or resistance training.
  3. Rest and sleep.

Diet and Exercise Myths

If you're one who has contended to a low-calorie diet and an extensive aerobic exercise plan to lose thigh fat, then this information is very important for you. Unfortunately, this approach to losing thigh fat is a myth when it comes to estrogen dominance.

With estrogen dominance, you must restore HGH in the body to attain leanness and firmness, as well as stay youthful. HGH is women's testosterone. It is the only thing a woman can count on once progesterone levels diminish due to menopause, stress, or other contributing factors. The stress of extended aerobic or cardio exercise, along with low-calorie diets, will only exacerbate hormonal imbalance. If you are currently following this regimen, you are doing more harm to yourself than good. Three of the most reliable ways to restore HGH is by eating enough protein, performing weight or resistance training, and getting enough rest and sleep.

Get Abby's Book Today!

One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan - $19.95
One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan - $19.95 | Source

Dieting to Reduce Thigh Fat


As you learned in the previous section, restoring HGH is most important in losing body fat and particularly thigh fat. One of the ways to do that is by getting adequate protein in your diet. A good rule of thumb for protein intake is multiplying your weight by 1 to 1.25.

Protein Intake Example:

  • Weight: 180 pounds
  • Protein Formula: 180 x 1 to 1.25
  • Protein Grams = 180 to 225 grams per day
  • 3 Meals & 2 Snacks = 36 to 45 grams per meal


Below is a table of some foods that are high in estrogen that you may want to limit. Most are starchy carbohydrates like whole and refined grains, sprouts, legumes, seeds, and peanuts. Some fruits and vegetables also contain phytoestrogens, but they also contain a host of other nutrients that counter estrogen promotion within the body. In a few minutes, the effects of estrogen and progesterone will be discussed on fat burning. In the meantime, it's good for you to know that insulin can wipe out any effects of fat burning from estrogen and progesterone. Therefore, it would be wise to limit your starchy carbohydrate intake. You can do this by eating them only twice per week 'after' your two most strenuous workouts. If your leg training days are your most strenuous days, then switch it up and make other body parts more strenuous. Starchy carbs will also help build muscles, and eating them after a strenuous leg workout will make your muscles stronger which will make them 'appear bigger' if the fat layer has not been burned first.

Starchy Carb Intake After 2 Strenuous Workouts Per Week

  • Approximately 50 to 100 grams.
  • If you're under 180 pounds, stick to 50 grams.
  • If you're over 180 pounds, you can gradually move towards 100 grams.


Essential fatty acids, especially Omega-3s, are also important to losing thigh fat. Try to get at least 3 to 6 grams per day in the form of fish oil or coldwater fish (i.e., salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, or sardines), or other seafood.

Foods High in Estrogen

soy beans & products
split peas
kidney beans
sesame seeds
lima beans
navy beans
poppy seeds
pinto beans
pinto beans
sunflower seeds
red beans
wheat flour
white beans
rye flour
mung beans
white rice
split peas
other whole grains
some fruits
clover sprouts
some vegetables
Weight training for women is a great way to reduce thigh fat.
Weight training for women is a great way to reduce thigh fat. | Source

Cardio and Weight Training for Thigh Fat


Your menstrual cycle makes burning body fat interesting. Estrogen is great for burning fat while exercising, though it is less efficient in burning sugar. Progesterone is the opposite in that it is counters estrogen's effect. Since longer low intensity exercise is better for burning fat, while shorter high intensity exercise is better for burning sugar, a combination of both types of cardio makes a good regimen. You can do this by incorporating both into your routine in a few different ways:

  1. Alternate low intensity and high intensity cardio exercise throughout the week.
  2. Do high intensity cardio for 20 minutes, followed with low intensity cardio for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, spread three times throughout the week.
  3. Do low intensity cardio during the follicular dominant phase (estrogen) of your menstrual cycle (first half), and do high intensity cardio during the luteal dominant phase (progesterone) of your menstrual cycle (last half). If you're on a 28 day cycle, you would do low intensity cardio from Day 1 to 14 and high intensity cardio from Day 15 to 28.


Weight training for women is just plain good for all. However, it is especially good to counter stress and build HGH. Remember our talk on HGH earlier? It's one of the three most reliable things you can do to help yourself in balancing your hormones and beating the stubborn thigh fat.


No matter what, don't beat yourself up if you've been following the diet and exercise myths. You can reduce thigh fat by beginning now.

Tell Us What You Think

You're reading "How to Reduce Thigh Fat" by Abby Campbell. Please leave a comment and tell us what you think below. Then share the article with your family and friends. You may even share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest (buttons to your right).

Helping those who desire it!
Helping those who desire it! | Source

About the author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.

More by this Author


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

The mere fact that I am here reading this article should tell you that I am one of your loyal followers. LOL I have no thigh fat and even if I did, at my age I'm not sure I would care. :) Still, good article from a lady who knows what she is talking about.

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thanks for the smiles, Bill. I appreciate your comment very much. :-) Also, I so appreciate you being a loyal follower. Though I try to write most of my articles for both genders, this is a question that was often raised to my attention over my vacation. Therefore, I thought I would address it.

clairewait profile image

clairewait 3 years ago from North Carolina

I like that you are discussing hormones as the impetus for women's weight issues. I'm beginning to understand how they control just about everything. I appreciate your approach from this perspective. I think it is difficult to nail down a generalization based on large thighs, breasts, or belly, but again, I appreciate the hormone discussion. Wish more doctors (and women, ultimately) were invested in research and natural balancing remedies in this area.

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Hi Claire. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I wish more doctors researched more for their patients... as well as women for themselves. BTW, I noticed you're from North Carolina. I am too... the Charlotte area. It's nice to meet someone from my neck of the woods. :-)

Insane Mundane profile image

Insane Mundane 3 years ago from Earth

Well, I'm not a female either, but I did show up for the illustrations... ;)

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Oh, me, well I commented and then it went away! Anyway, this is a very useful and informative hub here.

It was the estrogen in my own body that fed the type of cancer (DCIS) I had. And due to that type of cancer, I cannot whatsoever eat soy, as it is so very bad. So, I appreciate these aspects of your hub.

As far as the thighs, I am thankful that I have really long longs, which helps a bit. But alas . . . sigh

Thanks for this really great hub here.

Voted up +++ and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper

CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 3 years ago from Nottingham UK

What are some alternative ways to reduce estrogen dominance- are there any particular foods to consider or techniques considered towards weight loss?

From my sporting background we tend to find that competitive female cyclists often have a prominence towards larger muscles thighs due to long term muscle development in many riders.

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

LOL. Well, thank you for stopping by and commenting, Insane Mundane. I appreciate your comment and the smile this morning. :-)

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thanks for commenting, Faith. I'm so sorry you had to go through cancer. I am also a cancer survivor... almost 20 years. It's really strange how hormones can affect us in so many ways. Have a wonderful day. :-)

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Good morning, CyclingFitness. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Some alternative ways to reduce estrogen dominance were given in the article like staying away from particular foods. The best way towards weight loss has also been given with building HGH levels by making sure you're getting adequate protein each day, including weight or resistance training, and getting enough rest and sleep.

Yes, competitive female cyclists (as well as male cyclists) tend to gain larger muscles in the thighs with prolonged cycling (usually years). This article is not particular for them but for those who have a tendency to gain body fat in that region. If a female cyclist wishes to reduce the size of her thighs and has little body fat, she will have to re-determine her goals to include reducing the muscles. She can do that with less resistance training (cycling) as well as less weight training while including more less-resistant cardio (i.e., running, elliptical) and plyometrics (i.e., jump squats). Eliminating starchy carbs after leg workouts will also help to reduce muscle size since carbs feed muscle.

clairewait profile image

clairewait 3 years ago from North Carolina

I'm currently reading "The Hormone Cure..." by Sara Gottfried. This book outlines (in a lot of depth) different symptoms of specific hormone imbalance and lifestyle, dietary, herbal, and medical remedies.

On a completely personal note, my first line of defense in all the hormone mess was getting off birth control. I seriously think our society is largely unaware of the health problems caused by controlling our most basic human cycle with synthetic drugs.

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

I totally agree with you, Claire. I absolutely detest synthetic drugs as I have seen so many side effects that require more drugs. I was on birth control in my early 20s, and I had a ton of issues with it... all led to having cancer at the age of 24. There are always alternatives to conventional medications. I'm glad you're seeing all this and educating yourself too. ;)

epigramman profile image

epigramman 3 years ago

Please forgive me Abby for I am just a hot blooded man but I love the thighs on that lady in your first picture. Oh yeah babyyyyy , lol lol.

Did you ever notice the beautiful thighs on figure skaters or track and field athletes?

So my Abby of most awesome please know I have missed you and your world class hub presentations and I was so happy to see you the other day - I hope sincerely that you are healthy and happy and your family is too - I will send to you our warmest wishes from Colin, Little Miss Tiffy and Mister Gabriel at lake erie time ontario canada 6:22pm where the air is cooler today but the water still warm and I will madly and gladly post your awesome work here on my FB page for all to see and read

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Hi Colin. Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad to be back as well. I was on vacation for the last couple of weeks in Panama City Beach, Florida. So, I'm getting my feet wet again here at HubPages.

LOL on being a "hot blooded man." I would hope that you would be. ;) LOL. Yes, I agree about figure skaters. They have the most beautiful bodies... and thighs. LOL.

Sending you, Little Miss Tiffy, and Mister Gabriel huge hugs tonight.

mommyhood profile image

mommyhood 3 years ago

Gosh I have been struggling with having bigger thighs than most women for quite some time..dubbed "thunder thighs" lol it was great when I was in shape but not so much now postpartum. I will keep these tips in mind now that I will be starting a workout regimen, thanks for the info, voted +++ !

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thanks for stopping by, mommyhood. Your hormones should go back to normal now that your postpartum. I bet you'll find that you lose the "thunder thighs" quickly with exercise and nutrition. Please keep me posted on how you're doing. You may be interested in one of my other hubs with some exercise for legs and glutes:

Hezekiah profile image

Hezekiah 2 years ago from Japan

Nice tips there, and ladies never be afraid of heavy muscle workouts. Unless you are a body builder, most people will not bulk up that easily. It can actually burn for fat than jogging etc.

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for the comment, Hezekiah. You are right as it's difficult for most women to bulk unless they are taking sports enhancing supplements (legal and illegal). We just don't have enough testosterone to do so. Have a great day!

Somebody 2 years ago

Any pear shaped women get results?

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author


SaraLily07 2 years ago

This article is extremely helpful. I have been struggling with thunder thighs for years and I have followed a low calorie diet and high cardio workout to no avail. I will be cardio training based on my menstrual cycle.

I have a couple of questions:

1) Should I do weight training everyday?

2) How many minutes a day should I do weight training for?

3) Should I do weight training before or after cardio?

4) How many minutes should I do low intensity cardio on estrogen dominant phase days 1-14 ? High intensity cardio on progesterone dominant phase days 15-28?

5) What are some examples of high intensity cardio that I can do at home indoors (Its winter where I live right now so I can't do outdoor cardio) ?

Thanks you so much for writing an informative article!

Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Hi SaraLily07. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your comment.

As far as weight training everyday, I would say that your body needs at least 1-2 rest days per week. If you are doing full-body workouts, I would suggest 3 days per week. If you are doing half-body workouts, you can do each half twice per week making that 4 sessions per week. If you are targeting muscle groups, you can do each muscle group up to twice per week. Never do the same muscle groups two days in a row.

I would suggest limiting your weight training to less than 60 minutes per day. Go intense instead of focusing on length of time. I would also suggest doing cardio after strength training as you'll have more energy for a focused and intense weight training session. Though some people like cardio beforehand. You may want to try both and see how you do. There's nothing wrong with switching it up sometimes.

As far as cardio training based on a menstrual cycle, there's a lot to be said about this. As you know, we women do go through our hormonal ups and downs. Because there is so much to be said about this, you've given me an idea for a new future article, so stay tuned. Thank you!

Some examples of high intensity cardio are plyometrics (i.e., burpees, jump squats, jumping jacks, etc.). Even jump roping is great for high intensity cardio.

I appreciate your questions and interest. I haven't been on HubPages much as my mother has been going through treatment for breast cancer. Hopefully, I will be back to writing soon. I look forward to more of your comments. :-)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article