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Q&A Wednesday: How to Help Sagging Arms

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: A little over a year ago I stumbled across your website and if I’m able to share via this iPhone an August 2015 pic to an August 2016 pic you should see the difference. I lost about 40 pounds initially and total weight loss of about 75 pounds. Didn’t weigh often to become obsessed.

My goal was/IS to lose 100 and in the meantime decide if to lose an additional 50. I’m having issues or rather unsure of how to go about some target areas…[like] these sagging Hercules arms (minus the muscle of course).

[…] how I can go about resolving those problem areas?

So, here’s what people have to understand about the arm area—shoulders, armpit area, both extensions of the arm—in general.

my arms during my journey; they sagged a bit, but with work that changed

Regardless of how much you weigh, the area will have the “saggy” appearance to it if there’s no muscle there. The skin hangs because it has nothing to cling to—muscle, anyone?—and ultimately, as you age, only gets worse. The hanging pulls and tugs on the elasticity of the skin in the area, only making the sagging more ever-present as time goes on.

With an increase in body fat percentage, however, the elasticity in the arm area only gets worse as you age, causing the skin sag to only look more “full” and, as a consequence, even take on the appearance of “wings.”

Muscle fills up the arms, but in a different way. Muscle has connective tissue that keeps it connected to itself and to your skeletal system, making it much less burdensome on the elasticity of your skin. Body fat doesn’t have anything connecting it to your skeletal system to keep it from hanging and sagging, which is why we get things like hanging arms, thighs, and tummies.

see? a little more sag as I worked to lose body fat

If you want to lean out your arm area, here’s the truth: you can, but not without a lot of patience.

It bears repeating, that you cannot only lose fat in specific chosen parts of your body, also referred to as “spot reduction.” While it is true that there are things you can change that will quickly result in a smaller tummy, that has more to do with the fact that tummy fat is largely attributed to specific dietary flaws that, once changed, almost instantly reduce belly fat. It simply doesn’t apply to the rest of the body.

What you can do, however, is tighten up your diet and train in a way that helps you lose body fat. Reducing the amount of carbs in your diet and upping the fat and protein (while staying within your specific targeted calorie range) will not only help you slow down the creation of new body fat and starve your fat cells, forcing them to shrink, but this also provides your body with the nourishment it needs to keep the muscle you have now and possibly build a little more.

6 months (and maybe 40 or so lbs) later, look at that flex!

You may not be able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time—building muscle requires that you eat more calories than you’d otherwise need; losing fat requires that you eat less—but you can certainly lose fat while making sure you don’t lose a ton of the muscle you already have. Not only would it set you back in terms of having those leaner arms, but losing that muscle would also negatively impact your metabolism in a way that would take years to undo.

Focus on a training plan that incorporates full body high intensity interval training that will both challenge your muscles, thereby preventing them from simply wasting away in a blitz of cardio, and help you cut the body fat. Up your protein and fat while reducing the simple carbs (usually breads, noodles, processed foods), and you’ll see a dramatic change in your arm area. Once you start seeing lines in your arms, it’s time to make sure your training incorporates shoulder, tricep, and chest training that can help give your arms a new shape. Before you know it, you’ll be flexin’ (flexin’!) like a boss, with a smile in your face.

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