Proven Strategies for Losing Cellulite
Why Do Women Get Cellulite and Not Men?
Cellulite: That dimpled, cottage cheese look that is prominent around the buttocks and on the backs and fronts of thighs. Men do not seem to have it, but just about every woman has it to some degree. Why? Research shows that connective tissue in men and women have different organizational structures at the first layer of subcutaneous fat, leading to less visible adipose tissue on the surface of men's skin. Unfortunately, many experts recommend therapies that, in my opinion, are simply worthless. In this article, I will examine the theories and remedies typically offered, and then I will give the diet and exercise strategy that I have found to ultimately eliminate cellulite.
What Is Cellulite Anyway?
The Mayo Clinic defines cellulite as:
"the appearance of dimpled skin on the thighs, hips, buttocks and abdomen of most women and some men, too. Cellulite is most common in areas of fat deposits and is the result of the unevenness of this fatty tissue beneath the skin surface."
Yet other experts have his to say about cellulite:
"... cellulite is not a fat problem, it's a skin problem. It has nothing to do with what you weigh, or how much weight you lose," says Hollywood dermatologist Howard Murad, MD, author of The Cellulite Solution.
The fat that causes cellulite is not the same as the fat that takes us from a size 10 to a 14, experts say. That fat lies far below the skin, closer to our bones, and it is what the body burns as fuel for energy.
Cellulite, on the other hand, is made up of fat cells that reside within the skin. They can't be burned as fuel, says Murad, so dieting, exercise, even liposuction won't help."
This is confusing, no doubt. Both mention that cellulite is basically fat and that the skin has lost some elasticity which leads to the dimpled effect, and that is true, but they give the impression that cellulite cannot be removed by a good diet and exercise program. Instead, they offer their own remedies that I believe can be misleading, and I will address those later.
First of all, the fat that lies under the skin is simply subcutaneous fat. It is the same fat that can be found around the arms, upper back, legs, and stomach. The doctor quoted above that says this kind of fat cannot be used as energy in relation to the visceral fat (I have also written about this type of fat.). This is only half true. Visceral fat is the most active fat, meaning it is drawn into the bloodstream first and fastest for energy, but for longer-term energy needs (such as a chronic daily calorie shortage), the body does call on subcutaneous fat. It is no different than when a man is trying to lose the last bit of fat around his waist. He has to be committed to a diet and exercise regime for a long time to see definition in his midsection. There is no difference between abdominal fat and cellulite.
Secondly, I agree with the above experts in that the skin is part of the problem. Women, in general, have thinner skin than men do, and I believe that the estrogen women have tends to break the collagen fibers down. The fat then pushes up against the weakened fibers, creating the cottage cheese look. There is one other plausible explanation I would like to offer:
"As we age . . . the normally elastic septa can become hard and rigid. When they do, they bear down on the buoyant cellulite cells, which begin pushing up through the spaces of the hardened septa pattern.
When the septa run vertically, it results in a 'mattress tufting' effect,'" Katz tells WebMD. "The fat cells push up in between and create those dimples we know as cellulite."
To further expand on this point, the septa run diagonally on men, whereas on women it runs vertically. In any case, it seems the fibers break down, or spread in women which creates the pockets. This is another reason why you do not see much cellulite on men as you do on women.
Good and Bad Remedies for Cellulite
As one can expect, there are many remedies that claim to get rid of cellulite. Now that we are a bit more clear as to the cause of cellulite, let us take a critical look at some of these remedies to see if they can really work.
- Creams and lotions. The logic behind the use of creams and lotions is that these products can melt fat away, stimulate cell circulation, and get rid of toxins. I can tell you this: fat does not "melt away". Fat is simply stored calories. If you have fat around your thighs, you need to lower your calories and move more to start getting rid of the fat there. Remember, visceral fat is used for energy first, so you need to be committed to a good diet and exercise program for quite a while to see fat loss. As for cell stimulation, how can they prove that? And what kind of cells? Fat cells? Skin cells? Muscle cells? The same goes for toxins. Do women accumulate different types of toxins than men? If not, why do toxins cause cellulite on women, but not men? This claim does not make sense. I find these claims dubious. I would not put much faith in lotions doing what these experts say they would do.
- High-tech massage. According to Web Md, this is how it works: "The procedure is known as endermologie—a deep mechanical massage that combines cylindrical rollers and suction to affect the skin's connective tissue, stimulate blood flow and lymphatic drainage, and trigger what the developers say is the body's natural system for eliminating fat from cells." The author goes on to explain that it does work, but the results are temporary. One would need a monthly maintenance program to keep it under control at a cost of $300.00 to $500.00 a month. I find it hard to believe that simply massaging your muscles will make the fat disappear. There are 3,600 calories to a pound of fat, so massaging it will not get rid of it. The body needs to use it as energy to lose it.
- Light devices. Light devices are supposed to work by "using light energy to melt cellulite while mechanically massaging the skin to increase circulation and encourage drainage of lymph vessels." This is yet another claim that cellulite can be removed without exercise.
- Diet. There is merit here. Good nutrition will help the skin repair and grow, and proper nutrition can keep your calorie intake in alignment with calorie expenditure. It does not have to be complicated or draconian to work. Good common sense will go a long way. I will give greater detail about how to accomplish this below.
- Exercise. Yes, this is very important indeed. In my opinion, you cannot lose cellulite without it. More on that later.
How to Get Rid of Cellulite
My approach is a simple, two-pronged approach: A good nutrition and exercise program. It has to be a plan you can incorporate into your hectic life. The menu has to be malleable to your specific life and schedule, and the exercise program cannot consume most of your time. But most of all, it has to work. I have created an exercise and eating plan that does just that.
Eating to Reduce Cellulite
Keep your calories under control. Cellulite is fat, that's all. With that in mind, you have to take in fewer calories than you use on a daily basis to tap into the fat stores (in this case, the cellulite).
An Anti-Cellulite Diet
For many people, this is a very confusing topic. There are diet programs that work, but only for a short period of time. They are very hard to stick to, and we can't have that. You must enjoy your foods, and you cannot feel deprived. I cannot give you an exact menu, for you may or may not like what I eat, but I can give you some salient guidelines to put together your own eating plan that fits your needs. Having said that, here are the main considerations:
- Keep your calories under control. Cellulite is fat, that's all. With that in mind, you have to take in fewer calories than you use on a daily basis to tap into the fat stores (in this case, the cellulite). I have been remarkably successful with female clients, advising them to eat between 1,500 to 1,700 calories a day. Fat loss happens. The cellulite becomes less noticeable.
- Eat high-quality protein. This means lean meat, fish, chicken, and I will also include nuts here too.
- Eat plenty of vegetables. This is obvious but often overlooked.
- Keep your carb intake low. This includes not only pastries and sodas but even the types of carbohydrates that are considered healthy. Specifically, I am talking about rice, beans, potatoes, pasta, and bread. All of these carbohydrates will fill up the glycogen stores. To tap into the fat stores, you need to have your glycogen stores depleted. This will turn your body from a sugar burning machine to a fat burning machine. Truthfully, I have found that fat loss happens faster this way, for both my clients and for myself. Do keep in mind that calories still count, but cutting carbs makes it easier for the body to tap the fat stores. As a guideline, if you want to lose a lot of body fat, keep your daily total intake of carbohydrates under 100 grams. 50 grams a day or less would be even better.
- Stay away from heavy sauces. Use lemon, lime, and vinegar (there many varieties to choose from), along with various spices to season your foods.
- Limit your alcohol to 1 to 2 drinks a week. During holidays, you may double that but cut it back as soon as the holidays are over.
That's it. Pretty simple. Very flexible. Create menu ideas using these food choices around your tastes, and enjoy.
The Take-Home Message About Slow- and Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers
Through exercise, slow-twitch fibers cannot change shape, but the fast-twitch fibers do. If you want a more lifted butt, more definition on your arms, or to achieve more of an hourglass shape, you need to train the fast-twitch fibers.
Exercise to Get Rid of Cellulite
Exercise is where I take a different approach than most fitness professionals. The general consensus for the best exercises to remove cellulite are a good aerobic program such as treadmill running or biking, and "butt-lifting" exercises. Movements such as lying hip extensions, kneeling and kicking a leg back, and so forth are common. I will not deny that these exercises work the butt muscles, but they will not tighten up the butt muscles and make them rounder.
Why? Because the exercises are not intense enough. By design, they can never be intense enough. To better explain my recommendations, I need touch on a couple of physiological concepts (understanding the science of the function of living systems). In particular, I will discuss briefly the difference between the slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers, and the size order of recruitment principle.
Slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers
There are, throughout our entire body, slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers (fast-twitch fibers are broken down into further subcategories, but for our purposes, we will consider fast-twitch fibers as a whole). Our bicep muscles, for example, have a combination of both slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibers. Slow-twitch fibers produce low levels of force and can do that for a very long time. They do not fatigue very easily. They are the endurance fibers. Doing long bike rides or jogging long distances primarily work the slow-twitch fibers. One other feature that sets slow-twitch fibers apart from fast-twitch fibers is the size. Slow-twitch fibers are smaller. This is important to keep in mind (more on that below).
The fast-twitch fibers, on the other hand, produce large amounts of force for a short period of time, and then they fatigue. They also take a lot longer to recover between exercise sessions. Strength training, powerlifting, and kettlebell work are examples of exercise programs that work the fast-twitch fibers.
The following statement is the take-home message about slow- and fast-twitch fibers: through exercise, slow-twitch fibers cannot change shape, but the fast-twitch fibers do. In other words, if you want a more lifted butt, more definition on your arms, or to achieve more of an hourglass shape, you need to train the fast-twitch fibers. More on that in a minute, but let me talk about the size order of recruitment first.
Size order of recruitment
The size order of recruitment principle means that whenever the muscle is called on to create force, it will always recruit the smaller fibers first, and only what it needs to get the job done. Let us go back to the bicep as an example: if you lift something light, such as a glass of water, the body will only call into play the smaller, slow-twitch fibers to do the lift. Since these are endurance fibers, they can recover quickly so you can lift and lower the glass all you want without fatiguing. If you add, let's say, 20 pounds and try to lift it, the slow-twitch fibers cannot produce enough force to do it. The body will have to call on the fast-twitch to assist the slow-twitch fibers in the lift (the slow-twitch do not "turn off" and the fast-twitch "turn on". The slow-twitch are still assisting the fast twitch fibers). Every time you lift and lower the weight (with good form . . . this is imperative!), you recruit more and more fast-twitch fibers to continue the movement. As the fast-twitch fibers get called on, they, in essence, are stimulated. A demand is placed on them causing them to get stronger and more shapely during the recovery phase between workouts.
So, in my opinion, if you want to see your cellulite minimized, or even completely gone, you need to train your butt muscles hard and be progressive with your weights over time.
Full-Body Workout to Rid of Cellulite on Thighs and Arms
I'll start with the good news. You do not have to do very much exercise to see the cellulite go away. Truth be told, I recommend only three, thirty-minute workouts a week for best results. The bad news? You have to work hard. To get to the fast-twitch fibers, you really have to fatigue the muscle you target. Here is the basic exercise plan:
- Good exercises that target the butt muscles are leg presses, barbell squats, deadlifts, and lunges (both barbell and dumbbell).
- I recommend to train the whole body, for the rest of your muscles will need to be toned as well.
- Do one set per body part: legs, upper back, chest, shoulders, arms, and core.
- The repetition speed should be slow and controlled. I found that you do not need to go really slow, nor do you want to go fast either. Do not lock out at the top of the repetition or "fire" out of the bottom. Just nice and smooth tempo throughout the rep.
- Use a rep range of between 8 to 12.
- Start with light weights to get the feel of the exercise and the and form down. Doing ten reps to start your training program should feel somewhat easy.
- Every workout, increase either your amount of weight or the number of reps you do. For example, if you did 12 reps with 15 pounds, do 17.5 pounds for 10 reps the following workout. The workout after that, do 12 reps with the same weight, and then increase the weight a little bit on your next workout. Be conservative, but consistent with your progression.
- After a few weeks, it will be difficult to continue to progress. That's O.K. Train hard and take note of what you did. For example, if you did 8 reps with 30 pounds, but could not finish the 9th rep, try as hard as you can maintaining form. If you cannot finish, note what you did.
- Wait at least 48 hours in between workouts.
- Try the same weight again, and see if you can get one more rep then the last time. More often than not, you will be able to do so. The body will get stronger. Eventually, you will get to 12 reps again. Move up the weight a little bit more for the next workout, and start the whole process again.
- Move as quickly as you can between sets, but make sure you can do another hard set before you begin.
- Keep your workouts to thirty minutes or less.
- Do between 8 to 10 total sets.
- Design your workouts to what you like, but make sure you use one of the leg exercises I recommended above.
Keep in mind that your legs will get very strong but your upper body will not keep pace. This is to be expected. The legs and butt are very large muscle groups and can produce a lot of force. In general, your lower body will be about three times as strong as your chest or back. For example, when you can do a 400-pound leg press, you will most likely be doing pull downs with 70 or 80 pounds.
That's basically it. Do short, hard training sessions, and within 6 months you will see a big difference. Your cellulite will be greatly diminished, or even gone!
Cellulite and Too Much Exercise?
If you see your legs bulk up from strength training and don't like the way they look, I would still encourage you to continue working out. Getting to the fast twitch fibers is the only way to increase tone and definition and tighten up those cellulite pockets. Aerobic training will never cut it.
You're gaining muscle but not inches
From my experience training women over the years, I have never seen one woman gain inches around their thighs from getting stronger. Many of the women we train do upwards to 500 lbs on the leg press, so they did gain muscle. Just not inches. Several of them did think that their thighs were getting bigger because the legs would feel harder to them, and they started seeing some shape that they were not used to. I measured their thighs when they brought up these concerns, and many times not only did they not gain inches, but they lost about 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches and it surprises them.
"Bulking up" isn't from lifting too much
Realize this: When people "bulk up" from weight training, it is not the weight training that causes that. It is from taking in excessive calories (they usually take in upwards to 4,000 calories a day!). In essence, they are gaining fat more so than muscle. Keep your carbohydrate intake low so that you both lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. And if it looks like you are bulking up, take the measurements again and see whether it is true or not. I have no doubt that you will see better-defined thighs and less overall cellulite if you stick to this plan.
Anti-Cellulite Results and Transformations
I have noticed from training my female clients that when they got to around 450 to 500 pounds (yes, women can and do get that strong) on leg presses, the cellulite was way down.
I am sure you heard it all before, but when you tried the other programs you were a bit disappointed with your results. I understand that, and even though this program works, it isn't for everybody. All I ask is that you give it your best effort for three months. If you do it right, you will see some cellulite loss. As for proof, here it is. The photo at the top of the page was taken by me of my wife, who does the diet and exercise routine I outlined above, and I have to note that she also does no aerobic training. To drive the point home even more, she is also 53 years old. You can't beat that!
Great Demonstration of Leg Press
Above is an example of the leg press. Personally, I believe it is one of the best exercises to strengthen the butt muscles.
Dumbbell Press on the Ball
Even though you want to lose the cellulite around the hips and buttocks, do not neglect your upper body. Above is a demonstration of a dumbbell press on the ball
Cellulite is the curse of women. Men do not have that issue. It is largely due to how women store body fat and the thinner skin women have compared to men. This does not mean women have to resort to expensive treatments that are dubious and costly. An efficient strength training program, coupled with a low carbohydrate diet will reduce your cellulite dramatically. Give this program a try for at least three months. You will be pleasantly surprised.
To everybody who read this article, thank you very much! Out of all the articles I posted, this one has been read the most by a long shot.
The feedback has been so encouraging, I decided to take it to the next step. I am actually doing a study whereby I am taking three women who have a lot of cellulite to lose and putting them through a three-month diet and exercise routine. I am going to write a book describing their journey. It will be a follow along book where the reader can do the same diet and exercise routines as well.
I started the project a month ago, and I am blogging the journey. If you would like to read the blog, just click on my profile. It can lead you to my web page where you will find the blog.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2012 Gregg Hoffman