Energy Expenditure

I hypothesize that it’s possible for a person to have the exact distribution of body fat that they want. Who would even want to have fat, though? Women, presumably, want to gain or retain fat at their chest and butt. So if you wanted a body with big breasts, a muscular butt, and fat ankles, you could have it! I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m just saying it’s possible without exogenous hormones and cosmetic surgeries. It’s possible through proper training and mindfulness of all your movements throughout the day. So it’s definitely not easy.

When it comes to gaining muscle there is no debate whatsoever: you can develop any muscle you want (and only that muscle) by doing high-intensity exercise of that body part. If you want bigger forearm muscles, you do wrist curls with dumbbells. If you want bigger abdominals, you do sit-ups. The higher the intensity, the bigger the muscle. I hypothesize that fat loss works very similar to this: you can lose fat at any body part you want by doing high-repetition exercise of that body part. The more repetitions performed, the more fat lost.

Popular belief today is that it’s impossible to “spot reduce” fat. That is, you cannot target a certain body part and only lose fat there, like you can with muscle. This is undoubtedly based on anecdotes; no one’s ever heard of a person who lost just their beer belly fat and nowhere else. I say it is possible but nobody does it. Nobody does 4,000 bicep curls with zero pounds (i.e. high-repetition exercise) because that would be insane. You can kill a lot more birds with one stone by doing full-body cardio. Full-body cardio is the only form of high-repetition exercise that people do today and it is effective at burning fat. And thus the notion that it’s impossible to “spot reduce” fat becomes popular. I hypothesize that it’s possible to “spot reduce" fat through high-repetition use of that body part. This doesn’t necessarily mean exercise! For example, folding shirts all day at a clothing store would have the same result as “4,000 bicep curls with zero pounds”—lean, low-fat arms.

Today, it’s popularly believed that the locations of fat storage on the body are 100% genetic—predetermined and beyond our control. We believe that a woman with big breasts and booty got lucky and received good genes. We believe it’s genotype -> phenotype (body shape). I think this is oversimplified. I believe it’s genotype -> nurture (e.g. body movements) -> phenotype. I hypothesize that you can gain fat exactly where you want via deliberate disuse of that body part. Say, for example, a woman has a very slender body all around yet big breasts. I would conclude that her body type is the result of high-repetition use of all her muscles except for her chest for many years. This configuration of use/disuse came from using her body either according to nature (i.e. default hormone levels) or nurture (e.g. taking up a sport). For example, this physique is likely if she was an endurance runner for many years while growing up. This is especially true if her personal running style doesn’t involve thrusting the arms forward for extra propulsion, because that would use the chest muscles and thus burn chest fat. Another female endurance runner could have a similar physique yet small breasts due to her running style.

Odd physiques like this one should not just be chalked up to “unfortunate genetics.” I hypothesize that this is the result of high-intensity use of the arms and chest and disuse of the abdominal area. Even if this use/disuse distribution was a genetic predisposition, it can be willed differently.

Here’s my chart of fat vs. muscle when looking at the entire body. It’s important to see here that muscle and fat are independent axes—x and y. That is, muscle + fat = body; X coordinate + Y coordinate = body type “tile”. It's muscle and fat—not muscle or fat; it’s not a simple spectrum that goes from fat to muscular.

A, B, C, and D are the 4 corners of the chart and represent the 4 extreme body types:

A is complete disuse of the body and very high Calorie intake.

B is not pictured but it is the top right corner. This is the typical “strongman build,” a.k.a. “bear mode.” This is having a lot of fat and muscle. This body type is accomplished by doing one or two repetitions of very heavy lifting.

C can be achieved two ways: one, disuse of the body and very low Calorie intake; two, a normal diet plus at least an hour of cardiovascular exercise every day. This is the typical “marathon-runner build.” A couple tiles to the right of C would be a “swimmer’s body,” a.k.a. “otter mode.”

D is only possible by taking steroids or dedicating most of your day to working out.

The body types in the leftmost column (from A to C; e.g. obese, fat, “skinny-fat,” skinny) are the only body types that can be achieved in two distinct ways. One way is to have a regular Calorie intake and then expending Calories through cardio exercise, such as jogging for 0 (for Body A) to ~180 (for Body C) minutes every day. The second way is to restrict Calorie intake and never exercise or do physical work. The mantra “Calories in, Calories out” is not even relevant to people who live like this. This is a popular lifestyle among women, especially in East Asia, and based around the idea that it is masculine to perform any physical work.

For all other body types (right of the leftmost column)—for any kind of muscle development—physical work must be done.

If you start at Body Type A and begin the P90X workout program, your progress will follow the blue line. P90X is what’s considered a “high volume” workout with weights. (“High volume” means there are lots of sets. So it’s basically cardio with weights.)

If you start at A and begin the Insanity workout program, your progress path will end a couple tiles to the right of C. Insanity workouts don’t involve dumbbells and are therefore more cardio-oriented.

In addition to bodies, any workout can be plotted on this chart because every workout has a certain degree of weight training (x-axis) and a certain degree of cardio (y-axis). Thus, if you do the same workout every day, your body will transform into the body tile located where the workout is plotted. Let’s say you do P90X workouts 4 days of the week and jog a half marathon 1 day of the week, and do this routine for many months. For sake of example, say P90X is plotted at the very center tile with the blue lines crossing. The half marathon should be plotted at C. Thus, your resultant body would be one tile left and down from the center.

Here’s the same chart rotated 45° right and cropped to show all the body types one could possibly attain by working out ~50 minutes a day.

Even though muscle and fat are independent axes, building muscle and losing fat nearly always happen simultaneously. There are only a few exercises that don’t work on both simultaneously. One would be doing jumping jacks for an hour. This is as close as it gets to resistance-free exercise—pure cardio. This is therefore strictly fat reducing. Resultant body type: C. The other extreme is pure muscle-building and no cardio. This would be lifting an extremely heavy weight just once. For example, one rep of bench press (your max), one rep of leg press (your max), etc. Resultant body type: B, “strongman build.” Lifting a weight for more than one repetition is also doing “cardio” and thus burning fat. For instance, if a guy does ten reps of bicep curls, he will gain bicep muscle and lose fat around the bicep. As you can imagine, it’s very rare to only gain muscle or only lose fat.


So, the big picture is already understood: a person loses fat by doing cardio; a person gains muscles by weight training. My hypothesis is that this holds true for any individual body part.  Cardio is replaced by repetitions, and weight training is replaced by intensity. It’s just semantics, really—the concepts are the same.

I’ve used a steak to represent a single body part.

Intensity is already understood and accepted today: the more pounds you lift with a certain body part, the bigger its muscle will be. For instance, you can focus weight-training your biceps only and have only that muscle develop; doing bicep curls will not lead to a six-pack.

“Spot reduction” of fat, however, is not accepted by today’s society at all. Its non-acceptance is simply due to anecdotes: no one is isolating a body part and doing high-repetition exercise of that body part for hours on end—at least knowingly! High repetition doesn’t have to necessarily come from a workout. In 99.99% of cases it comes from manual labor. If a person folds shirts at work all day, that is 4,000+ reps of resistance-free bicep training. As a result, their arms would be like Steak C—fat-free. I believe different body types (i.e. locations of fat storage) arise from people unknowingly using certain body parts with high reps in their daily routine.

Because fat varies by body part like muscle, one’s “body fat percentage” is kind of meaningless. The term “body fat percentage” only perpetuates the incorrect notion that fat is uniformly distributed throughout the body.

Why does it matter that fat gain and loss can occur at a single body part? Because women do not want to lose fat indiscriminately. They want to retain breasts and booty while losing tummy fat, arm flab, etc. Most women want breasts and a booty between Steak A and B—actually, they probably want more fat than shown. As the chart shows, this is achieved by keeping the number of repetitions at the chest and butt to a minimum. This means no kickboxing classes (a high-repetition chest exercise), no long-distance running (a high-repetition butt exercise), and so on. Complete disuse of the chest and butt would produce Steak A. Some women prefer a foundation of muscle underneath the fat for “shapely” breasts and booty—Steak B. This is accomplished with high-intensity—yet low-repetition—chest and butt exercises. For example, doing a few very heavy bench presses and sprinting at full speed for 15 seconds. Obviously, a woman wouldn’t work out all her body parts in this manner unless she wanted the “strongman” physique.

Here are the four extreme types of butt that result from extremely different usage: A is low-repetition/low-intensity usage; B is low-repetition/high-intensity usage; C is high-repetition/low-intensity usage; D is high-repetition/high-intensity usage. This is assuming all four people have same Calorie intake.

The range for a typical man’s chest is from C to D. The range for a typical modern man’s butt is all over the place. This is due to some men sitting all day at their desk job and other men doing physical work. By nature/default, though, I believe a man’s butt would also be between C and D.

Many women want the biggest breasts possible, B, but actually exercise towards the smallest size possible, C. In other words, most women do high-repetition/low-intensity chest and butt exercises, which burns fat—the defining characteristic of breasts and booty—and does not develop muscle.

Pretend you are a 25-year-old woman who’s very skinny all over (including the breasts and booty). Let’s say your body is the result of very low Calorie intake—not from two hours of cardio every day. Say you want develop breasts and booty while keeping the exact same body. Most people today would say you were dealt bad genes and it’s just not possible. I say it is possible, though it would require a complete lifestyle change—Calorie intake and output. First, you would have to eat a lot more food than before. At this “stage” fat will be stored all over the body. Then, you would have to work it off by doing at least an hour of cardio every day while being mindful of how you’re using your chest and butt muscles: you do not want to train them with low-intensity/high-repetition (C); you want to disuse these muscles (for A) or only use them with high intensity (for B). For some people, this disuse comes naturally via hormones. For everyone else, it can be willed.

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© Buism 2016