The seasons are changing and with warmer weather comes a new wardrobe. I’m talking about dresses, skirts, shorts, and swimwear! If you are one of the many people who dread this time of year due to unsightly knee fat this article is for you. Fat accumulation above the knees is a very common problem, especially as we age. There is no quick fix for reducing fat above the knees, but it is possible by implementing a few changes to your daily routine. For most people losing some weight and increasing exercise will solve the problem. Don’t worry, there is still time to have your legs looking great this summer.
- 1 How do you reduce excess fat above the knees?
- 2 A Healthy Diet For Weight Loss
- 3 Daily Tips for a Healthy Diet:
- 4 Aerobic Exercise
- 5 Strength Training
How do you reduce excess fat above the knees?
There is no diet or exercise that will remove only the fat from above your knees because It’s impossible to spot focus on just one location. The good news is that when you make diet and exercise changes you will see them on your entire body. My three recommendations to see changes in your knees (and other parts of your body) are:
- A balanced diet low in processed foods
- Aerobic exercise
- Strength training focused on legs
What is the best diet to lose fat above the knees?
The best diet to lose fat above the knees is a balanced diet filled with fresh produce and low in processed foods. I will walk you through my recommendations below.
How long does it take to remove fat above the knees?
My clients typically see results after about 4 weeks of implementing changes to their eating and exercise habits. However, it is important to remember that everyone’s bodies are unique and depending on your body you may see results faster or slower.
A Healthy Diet For Weight Loss
Proteins + Healthy Fats + Complex Carbohydrates + Fiber = Balanced Diet
A healthy diet is a balanced diet. By consuming a diet made mainly of proteins, healthy fats, complex carbs and fiber you will be giving your body the nutrient-dense type of foods it needs to maintain healthy body weight. Let’s break down each category.
Protein is an important macronutrient because it is necessary for muscle growth, tissue repair and used as a source of energy. It’s particularly important for weight loss because it helps reduce hunger by making you feel full longer and by increasing the speed of metabolism. To figure out how much protein you need a day to multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8. Try to Include a source of protein in every meal and snack. Some excellent sources of protein include lean meats, chicken, fish, beans, lentils, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known as healthy fats. Fats are used as a source of energy and contain 9 calories per gram compared to proteins and carbohydrates which only contain 4 calories per gram. This means that they are more nutrient dense and lead to feeling full faster. Incorporating healthy fats into your diet has also been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease. Foods high in healthy fats include avocados, fatty fish like salmon, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and nut butter and chia seeds.
Complex carbs differ from regular carbs because they contain more fiber. Therefore, it takes longer for the body to break them down into sugar causing reduced appetite and feelings of fullness. They are an important part of a diet for weight loss because they are a great way to supply your body with energy. Try swapping carbs for complex carbs so that you can continue to eat similar foods while receiving more health benefits. For example, swap regular pasta for whole grain pasta. Examples of complex carbs include Oats, whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes, brown rice, multigrain bread, quinoa, and barley.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by your body. It helps in weight loss by adding bulk to your stool, feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut and by swelling in your stomach to make you feel full quicker. Woman need 25g/day and men need 38g/day, but the average American is only getting 15g/day! If your diet is currently lacking in fiber increase the amount gradually over several weeks to avoid discomfort such as gas and bloating. It’s also important to make sure you are drinking plenty of water to avoid constipation. Some foods that are high in fiber include pears, berries, avocados, artichokes, lentils, chickpeas, almond, oats and chia seeds.
Daily Tips for a Healthy Diet:
- Making changes to your diet can seem overwhelming. As a Registered Dietitian (RD) I help my clients improve their diet in ways that fit into their lifestyle. These are my top tips for people with the goal of weight loss. Keep in mind that slow changes over time are the best way to get lasting results.
- Vegetables at Every Meal: Adding vegetables to your meals is one of the best ways to limit caloric intake while remaining full. Vegetables contain important vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function as well as fiber. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. I like to start with a vegetable and then build a meal around it. A sample day could be spinach and mushroom omelet with sourdough toast for breakfast, large salad topped with grilled salmon for lunch and equal parts veggies and whole grain pasta for dinner. If it feels like too big of a change start with adding to one meal a day and work up from there over the course of a few weeks.
- Say No to Processed Foods and Sugar: Cutting processed foods and sugar is the number one best way to eliminate calories from your diet and in turn lose weight. Processed foods are filled with fat, sugar, and salt. This trio leads to overeating and weight gain. These foods often contain little nutritional value which is why they are referred to as empty calories because your body doesn’t get the nutrition it needs which can lead to cravings and the desire to continue to eat.
- Drink More Water: Reach for water instead of a sugar-filled juice or soda next time you’re thirsty. Water is the absolute best fluid for your body and has zero calories. If you consume sugar-sweetened beverages daily simply removing this habit will likely cause you to lose weight.
- Pair Protein with Fiber: When building your plate for a meal or snack pair a protein and fiber. This combination will not only satisfy your hunger but it will keep you fuller for longer. Some examples are grilled chicken with whole grain rice and black beans, turkey burger over a bed of vegetables or a cheese stick with an apple.
- Eat Mindfully: In today’s busy world many people have lost touch with their hunger cues. In order to eat mindfully, it’s important to get back in touch with these cues that tell us when we are hungry and full. To practice mindful eating only eat when you are hungry. Start eating slowly and take awareness when you begin to feel full. You may be surprised how quickly this happens! When you feel full, stop. If you have extra food left over on your plate save it for later. One of the top benefits of practicing mindful eating is weight loss!
Aerobic exercise helps to promote overall weight loss by burning calories and reducing fat stores in the body. Adding aerobic exercise to your daily routine will help reduce fat stores all over your body including the area above the knees. There are many other health benefits of aerobic exercise besides weight loss, including a decreased risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, improved lung function and increased HDL levels (good cholesterol).
My clients who introduce aerobic exercise into their daily routine are the ones who reach their goals the quickest. They often report that they feel better both mentally and physically and that it is empowering to see changes in the way their body looks and also at the number on the scale. For the reduction of fat in the body aerobic exercise is key.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week. I recommend breaking this down into either 30 minutes 5x per week or 50 minutes 3x per week. Examples of moderate aerobic exercise include:
- Brisk walking or jogging
- Elliptical machine
- Jumping Rope
In order to reduce the appearance of fat above the knees, it’s important to include leg strength training exercise to your routine. Strength training helps to increase the presence of lean muscle mass which will tighten and tone the appearance of your legs. By adding leg strengthening exercises to your routine you will notice a difference in your entire leg, not just the knee area which is a win-win for your warm weather wardrobe!
I recommend working up to 45 minutes of strength training 2x a week for best results. Here are some exercise recommendations to get you started.
- Lunges: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and step forward bending both knees at a 90-degree angle. Keep your knees aligned so that they do not go past your toes on your front leg or touch the floor on the back leg. Hold this position for one count and then return to the original position. Repeat 15 times on each leg for a total of three sets. You can increase resistance by adding weights in your arms.
- Squats: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees while reaching your bottom back. Bend until your knees are parallel with the floor and hold for one count. Then return to an upright position and repeat again 15 times for 3 sets. You can increase resistance by adding weights in your arms. Also, try turning your toes out for a variation that will focus on your inner thighs which will help target the above knee area.
- Stair Stepper: If you have access to a gym, the stair stepper is an excellent machine to help tone your legs. The movement used on this machine will engage your entire lower body helping to increase muscle mass and smooth the appearance of fat on the legs. Start with 10 minutes at medium resistance and work your way up to 30 minutes. If you don’t have access to a gym you can get the same benefits by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walking hills: This can be done outside or by utilizing the incline function on the treadmill. Walking uphill benefits the legs by adding resistance and building muscle mass. This exercise will leave your legs feeling strong and looking smooth. I recommend starting at an incline of 8 for 10 minutes and working up to 30 minutes over time.
Implementing some of the ideas I have outlined above will help get you into your favorite leg showing summer clothes while feeling good in no time.
Medical disclaimer: Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program or adding supplements to your diet.
Isabelle Bertolami is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is a freelance nutrition writer and runs an online nutrition counseling practice. Using evidence-based research and a personalized nutrition approach Isabelle helps her clients reach their health objectives. She lives in Paris, France and spends her free time whipping up new healthy recipes and eating her way through France. You can see what’s on her plate at @eatwithisabelle.