I received one of those photo collage cards this year, and I was in it. It wasn’t very flattering because my arms look far too big. Big enough that if I weren’t already exercising regularly and paying attention to my diet, I’d have all the motivation I needed to start. Arm fat is a shock. But to get rid of arm fat requires knowing a few lessons.
And that, right there, is lesson number one: sometimes, what looks like arm fat is actually at least partly muscle. I mean, my arms aren’t fat-free, but they aren’t flabby, either. We’re all built differently, and I think some of us need to work on forgiving ourselves for not having supermodel-skinny arms almost as much as we need to work on consuming fewer calories than we burn. That being said, all the tips below will help you live a healthier lifestyle while you work toward slimmer arms.
Best Ways to Lose Arm Fat
Eat less—and better
Your body stores fat to use as energy on days when you don’t eat quite enough calories to fuel it. If every day becomes one of those days, your body will be forced to burn that extra fat. To ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need and to help fend off hunger for longer periods of time, eat healthy whole foods, especially lean protein sources — like nuts, beans, fish, and chicken — and high-fiber vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Cut out foods that supply more sugar, salt, and fat than nutrition.
Get plenty of sleep
Giving your body all the rest it needs at night can help keep your appetite in check during the day, making it easier to stick to the kind of diet that will reduce arm fat. Researchers have learned that people who sleep for about eight hours a night tend to produce lower levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and higher levels of a hormone called leptin, which makes us feel full. It seems that when we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies associate the lack of rest with an excessive loss of energy, and try to compensate by making us want to eat more.
Cut back on the booze
If you’re a drinker, slimming down is going to be more of a challenge. Most people know alcoholic beverages are high in calories — an average-sized drink of just about anything has 100 calories or more — but what’s worse is that drinking alcohol can actually inhibit your body’s ability to burn fat. When alcohol is broken down in the liver, one of the resulting substances is acetate, a more easily accessible fuel than fat. Research suggests that our bodies burn much less fat than usual for several hours after we drink alcohol because they’re burning acetate instead. Which means a beer might actually be worse for your diet than a brownie.
Get your heart rate up
Cardiovascular exercise is crucial for getting rid of excess fat anywhere on your body, including your arms. Ideally, you should get in 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise, five to seven days of every week. To help yourself stay motivated, you should do whatever kind of cardio makes you most happy (or least sad, anyway). But swimming, using an elliptical machine, or carrying light weights while you run or walk are especially good exercises if you’re mainly concerned with arm fat because, even though they can’t actually force your body to burn fat on your arms instead of somewhere else, they can help firm and sculpt your arm muscles.
Build a bit of muscle
Weight training can do more than just tone your upper arms; it can also help your body burn fat. Even when you aren’t actively using them, muscles use a lot of your body’s energy, so the more you have, the more calories you burn all the time — even when you’re resting. That’s why it’s important to strength train your entire body, not just problem areas like flabby arms. If you’re a woman, don’t be afraid to lift weights out of a fear of developing massive thighs and bulging, veiny biceps. Most women don’t produce enough testosterone to get that effect naturally.
Note that you can’t spot-burn fat. Doing arm exercised doesn’t necessarily reduce arm fat, just like doing back exercises don’t burn back fat. The goal is to get more overall tone, so when you fat starts shedding off, your muscles show more shape and definition.
Getting Rid of Arm Flab
Jiggly, dangling flab on the back and underside of the arms can often be blamed on fat, but not always. Sometimes, arm flab is just loose skin left behind by rapid weight loss or the aging process, just like stretch marks. And when that’s the case, no diet or exercise regimen in the world is going to make a difference. In fact, the only real solution is a surgical procedure called brachioplasty, also known as an arm lift, in which the extra skin is cut away and the remaining skin is sutured together on the underside of the arms. And there you have it: possibly the only time I’ll ever recommend cosmetic surgery.
Natural Appetite Suppressants
For many people, the main challenge in sticking with a reduced-calorie diet is hunger. If you’re one of those people, there are several things you can do to keep your stomach from growling between meals and reduce the impulse to overeat during meals:
Water takes up space in your stomach without adding calories to your diet, so drinking plenty of water throughout the day can keep hunger from gnawing at you between meals. And drinking a glass before a meal can help you feel full even if you eat less than usual. Also, being hydrated is better for your health.
Drink green tea
Just like water, green tea fills your stomach with something other than calories. Plus, it contains caffeine, which can help reduce feelings of hunger. We recommend Tazo Green Tea (link to Amazon)
Snack on vegetables and fruits
If you need to eat something between meals, high-fiber fruits and raw veggies are your best bet for staving off hunger without packing on more pounds.
Take up yoga or pilates
Many devotees of these disciplines claim that the heightened bodily awareness they get from their practice makes them more sensitive to the feeling of being full. We’d recommend something like Yoga For Beginners, or a similar online video with an Amazon Prime account.
Upper Arm Exercises
Standing with your back straight and your upper arms against your sides, lift one dumbbell at a time to about shoulder height. Keep your palms facing up, and do not let your elbow come forward as you lift the weight. Lower the weight slowly, then repeat the motion with the other arm. Do up to 15 reps on each side, increasing the weight over time as your biceps get stronger.
Overhead Triceps Extensions
Sit on a bench or chair with your back straight, holding one dumbbell straight up in the air with your arm next to your ear and the palm of your hand facing forward. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head, using only your forearm; do not let your elbow or upper arm move. Slowly lift the dumbbell above your head again and repeat no more than 15 times before switching arms.
Push ups shouldn’t be your only arm exercise because, while they do work the triceps, they actually tone chest and shoulder muscles more. To do a push up correctly, place your hands a little wider than your shoulders and keep your back and legs straight as a board throughout the exercise. Slowly lower your body until your elbows form a 90-degree angle, then straighten your arms again. Do as many push ups as you can, adding one more rep each time you work out.
Covering Up Your Arm Fat
We usually don't about cover-ups, as they don't address the root cause issues. But sometimes you don't have time to do weeks of exercise. Here are some ways to reduce the visual of arm fat while you take longer-term steps to get rid of it.
Wear longer-sleeved shirts
A simple long-sleeved shirt can obviously conceal your arm fat, and the fact is short-sleeved shirts do an impressive job of making the arm fat look better. What you should avoid, if you are self-conscious about arm fat, is the sleeveless shirt or top. Sleeveless cuts allow the arm to be fully exposed — great when you want to show off your defined arms, but not so if you want to cover-up the arm flab.
Think about your hair
Many people want to get rid of their arm hair, and sadly there is often a different standard on this front for men than women. The fact is that some dark-colored arm hair can conceal a bit of arm fat, just as having no arm hair at all will show off that tricep definition once you have it.
Don’t be so quick to get rid of that arm hair, especially if you are not as self-conscious about it as you are the fat.