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How To Help Fight Upper Arm Flab

After all, doesn't everyone want toned arms?

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Min Heo
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Lift weights, they said. You won’t bulk up, they said. Little did they know about my Bubbe Yetta and her zaftig upper arms (may her memory be a blessing). Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had what my friend once generously described as “voluptuous” arms. And now, as I creep into my mid-50s, I’ve noticed that my arms are increasingly looking more like Bubbe Yetta’s. I know that I’m not alone in the fight against “bat wings.”

According to Jason Falcon, owner of Falcon Nutrition, upper arm body fat is a common pain point for many women over 45.

“Some women are genetically predisposed to store more body fat in certain areas than others, and that part is out of our control to an extent. Hormonal changes as we age, as women start to enter and go through menopause, this can start to cause a shift in what we perceive as ‘stubborn areas’ as well, and upper arms are often an area that begins to store more fat than it did before going through these hormonal shifts,” says Falcon.

So, if you are like me and are noticing that your jackets and shirts are fitting more snugly, or not fitting at all anymore, here are a few ways to help fight the battle against upper arm flab.

Diet

Sorry, but you can’t exercise your way to thinner, more toned arms. Changing your diet is critical. Reducing your overall caloric intake, increasing lean proteins and vegetables, and cutting back on alcohol and sugar are a good place to start if you are trying to reduce body fat.

“First and foremost, a caloric deficit is needed to lose body fat,” says Falcon. “Ideally this deficit is achieved via managing our nutrition and our physical movement in tandem, so neither one being leveraged alone has to be extreme.”

The ideal for most women over 40 who want to improve their body composition, sustain great energy levels and lose body fat steadily, Falcon says, 40 percent protein, 30 percent carbohydrates and 30 percent fat in their daily diet. He also says that aiming for 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass may lead to results. 

Strength training

Personal fitness trainer Rachel Posell says that you will not bulk up from lifting weights. To actually bulk up like a bodybuilder is really difficult, she says, and requires changing what and when you eat and lifting very, very heavy weights, among other things. The benefits of strength training are multifold. “Strength training builds muscle and also boosts your metabolism, burns calories and accelerates weight loss, leaning you out in the process," says Posell. She suggests doing exercises that work the biceps and triceps, such as biceps curls, triceps kickbacks, extensions or dips, shoulder presses and push-ups at least a few days a week, and recommends compound exercises because they are more effective and “less boring.”

Barre

Barre is a low-impact, high-intensity workout designed to strengthen and tone your body using isometric muscle contractions, mixed with dynamic movement patterns that target all the major movers of the body, including arms. “The goal is to work your muscles to full fatigue," says Michelle Ditto, training development manage at Pure Barre, "and to challenge your stamina both physically and mentally to push through, to build endurance and gain strength over time. The longer you can hold in a position, the stronger your muscles get." She recommends training at least twice a week for 30 minutes and says that higher reps using light weights are a great way to tone muscles. Exercises during a barre class may include bicep curls, triceps dips, triceps extensions and chest presses, all of which Ditto says “provide a well-rounded approach to muscular engagement for the upper body, while highlighting healthy shoulder mobility as a key ingredient to ensuring success at each of these exercises.”

CoolSculpting

Diet and exercise not working? A noninvasive treatment like CoolSculpting, which freezes fat cells with a cooling technology, might be helpful. According to Nora Kavanaugh from SkinSpirit, CoolSculpting can reduce subcutaneous fat by 20 to 25 percent each area typically will need two to three treatments for the best result. Patients will begin to see results about a month post treatment and will see the full effects three months after the treatment series is completed. Ideal candidates for CoolSculpting include people who are close to their goal weight and have stubborn pockets of fat that they can't get rid of with exercise and dieting. Other noninvasive treatments to slim down upper arms include Emsculpt, a muscle-building device that sends 20,000 contractions to your muscles per visit. The ideal candidates for Emsculpt would be “anyone that is looking to gain strength and have more defined muscles,” Kavanaugh says. Venus Legacy is another treatment available to reduce volume and tighten skin on the upper arms. It uses radio frequency, suction and heat to "melt" fat cells and tighten the overall appearance of arms. Both require a series of treatments for optimal results.

Liposuction

“Liposuction is a very effective tool to contour the arms. Yet not every patient is a candidate,” says Alexander Zuriarrain, M.D., a quadruple board-certified plastic surgeon with Zuri Plastic Surgery. Patients with loose skin will need a combination of liposuction and surgery to remove the loose skin. However, for patients who don’t have loose skin but do have a predominance of fat on their upper arms, liposuction would be a great option, he says. Zuriarrain typically includes liposuction with radiofrequency skin tightening to “get the best of both worlds.”

Upper arm lift

An arm lift or brachioplasty is a surgical procedure to remove extra fat and cut off extra skin, which leaves a scar on the inner arm. It is the most invasive and expensive of all the options when it comes to slimming down upper arms, but it can be highly effective. Women interested in this type of procedure should take the time to have consultations with at least a few board-certified plastic surgeons to determine if they are good candidates.

Do you have upper arm flab? Do you try to fight it? If so, let us know how in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health