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.
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?
Estrogen Dominance Causes
What causes estrogen dominance? There are actually a number of things that create hormonal imbalances in women, especially estrogen dominance:
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.
Ways to Restore HGH
- Adequate protein.
- Weight or resistance training.
- 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.
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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.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
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
other whole grains
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:
- Alternate low intensity and high intensity cardio exercise throughout the week.
- 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.
- 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.
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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.