How To Lose Upper Body Fat: Best Ways To Lose Fat & Tone Your Upper Body In 2024

Donald Romeo, Researcher/Writer/Contributor
Dr. Maggie Herrmann, PT, DPT
Unlock the secrets on how to lose upper body fat effectively. This 2024 guide offers science-backed methods, tips, and preventive measures.
how to lose upper body fat
Unlock the secrets to combating upper body fat health risks. Photo: Ba Le Ho

In our fast-paced world, we must actively seek knowledge about our health and well-being. If you’re grappling with how to lose upper body fat for females and males, due to your concern for looks and improving your health, this guide is for you.

Dive deep into the insights on cardiovascular exercise, strength training, diet, intermittent fasting, sleep, and the root causes of upper body fat. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to take charge of your health and tackle the challenges of losing body fat head-on.

5 Ways To Lose Upper Body Fat

  1. Cardiovascular Exercise
  2. Strength Training
  3. Balanced Diet
  4. Intermittent Fasting
  5. Sleep

Best Methods To Lose Upper Body Fat

Follow this step-by-step guide to sculpt and tone your upper body with proven strategies. 

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Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular exercises are not just for building endurance—they’re a potent tool to lose fat

The Science Behind Cardio

Cardiovascular exercises[1] actively elevate your heart rate and kick your metabolism into high gear, crucial steps for effective fat loss. This heightened metabolic rate and increased heart rate directly enable your body to burn more calories, a key element in losing excess fat.

High-intensity or sprint interval training also does the work of cutting down your overall fat mass. While these forms of exercise might not maximize the process of converting fat into energy, they significantly boost fat loss by elevating your metabolic rate and calorie burn.

Cardio Exercises

Here are examples of great exercises that will get you started.

  • Jumping jacks. 
  • Burpees. 
  • Mountain climbers.
  • Rowing machine. 
  • Treadmill sprint.  
  • Cycling.  
  • Freestyle swimming. 
  • Elliptical. 

Strength Training

how to lose upper body fat
Strength training: Sculpt muscles, boost metabolism, and elevate overall health. Photo: BLACKDAY/Shutterstock

Strength training serves multiple purposes. Building muscle is one aspect, however, it also offers a way to burn fat, such as back, chest, and neck fat.

The Science Behind Strength Training

Strength training[2] is a comprehensive approach to overall body health. When you engage in strength training exercises, you’re causing microscopic damage to your muscle fibers. Your body then works to repair these damaged fibers. This process not only makes you stronger but also increases muscle mass. 

As muscles grow, your body demands more energy to maintain these larger muscles. This increase in demand for energy from the muscle mass you’ve developed, allows your body  to burn calories faster even when you’re not exercising. Furthermore, if you are hoping to target specific muscle groups and wonder how to lose back fat, spend more time doing weight

Strength training also activates what is known as the afterburn effect. Afterburn is your body’s continued calorie-burning state, lasting for hours after your workout.

Strength Training Exercises

Push your limits with these effective upper-body exercises targeting. For peak performance in strength training, take a longer rest, about two minutes or more,[3] between sets.

  • Dumbbell bench press.
  • Lat pulldown.
  • Shoulder press.
  • Bicep curl.
  • Tricep dip.
  • Seated row.
  • Chest fly.
  • Lateral raise.

Be sure to utilize the assisted variations of these two exercises if you are unable to manage your body weight initially. This will help you gain upper-body muscles and increase repetitions until you can lift your body weight.

It is also important to pay attention to form and technique to stay injury-free. If you are new to strength training, consider talking to a certified trainer or other trained professional.

Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is a cornerstone of any effective fat-loss strategy. 

The Science Behind A Balanced Diet

Start your day with protein and healthy fats[4] to keep your blood sugar steady and help burn fat. You’ll create a calorie deficit[5] if you burn more calories than you eat. This deficit is a crucial component of losing body fat. Choosing the right foods and being mindful of calories can improve overall health.

Infuse your diet with essential nutrients to amplify your calorie-burning capacity and boost your weight loss results. Optimal nutrition[6] elevates your mood and ramps your energy levels, facilitating adherence to your exercise and diet plans.

Incorporate fiber-rich foods[7] like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into your diet. Fiber streamlines your digestive process[8] by adding bulk to your stools and promotes a feeling of fullness for extended periods. Additionally, fiber moderates your body’s absorption of sugar, ensuring your blood sugar remains steady.

Stay hydrated by sipping water all day.[9] It helps you feel satiated, curbs unnecessary hunger, and reduces your calorie intake. 

Seek advice from a healthcare provider or certified nutritionist, especially if you take fat burners and have pre-existing medical conditions.

The Best Foods For A Balanced Diet

Here are some food choices that can be your allies in your fat-loss journey.

  • Lean protein: Chicken breast, turkey, fish including salmon, tuna and mackerel, egg whites, tofu, lentils, and chickpeas.
  • Healthy fats: Avocados, nuts including almonds, walnuts and cashews, olive oil and coconut oil.
  • Complex carbohydrates: Quinoa, brown rice and whole-grain pasta.

What To Avoid On A Balanced Diet

When aiming for a balanced diet to lose weight, you should avoid certain foods and drinks.

Sugary Drinks

Drinking sugary drinks[10] not only bombards your body with empty calories but also leaves you deficient in essential nutrients. Despite the flood of calories, you’re left nutritionally impoverished. Therefore, it is best to avoid sugary drinks and hydrate with water or unsweetened drinks. 

Processed Food

High in salt content, processed foods[11] can significantly elevate your blood pressure posing a risk to your cardiovascular health over time. These options often lack essential nutrients, leaving you nutritionally deficient and jeopardizing your overall well-being. 

Such foods are also high in calories but low in satiety value, leading to weight gain. To make matters worse, certain processed items contain additives that may interfere with your hormone levels. This can disrupt your body’s natural weight control mechanisms leading to additional weight gain.

Examples of processed foods which may interfere with your ability to lose upper body fat include: 

  • Fast food.
  • Packaged snacks.
  • Pre-boxed frozen meals.
  • Candy and sweets.
  • Canned soups.
  • Sugary cereals.
  • Sausages, hot dogs, and deli meat.
  • Instant noodles.

Excess Carbohydrates

When you consume carbohydrates,[12] your body actively transforms the surplus into stored fat, putting you at risk for weight gain. Similarly, following a diet high in simple carbohydrates but low in protein hinders your metabolism’s efficiency. 

Without sufficient protein, you lose muscle mass. As a result, your body burns fewer calories while at rest, complicating both weight gain and weight loss efforts.

Some common carbohydrates that may lead to additional fat storage include: 

  • White bread.
  • Pastries and donuts.
  • White rice.
  • Potato chips.
  • Pasta.

Trans Fatty Acids

Trans fats are artificially created[13] fats found in many processed foods. These fats negatively affect your weight and overall health by increasing bad cholesterol levels, lowering good cholesterol, and promoting inflammation. Trans fats also pack a high-calorie punch in small servings, quickly leading to rapid weight gain. 

Trans fats throw your metabolism off balance, sabotaging your weight loss efforts. On top of that, trans fats fuel bodily inflammation, making the journey to reduce upper body fat even more challenging.

Some examples of foods containing trans fats you may be familiar with include:

  • Margarine.
  • Shortening.
  • Fried foods
  • Non-dairy creamers
  • Frozen pizzas.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Traditional fasting often involves abstaining from food for extended durations without a set pattern.

The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting enhances your metabolic rate, helping your body burn energy more efficiently.

Regarding insulin, intermittent fasting improves its effectiveness in[14] your body, aiding in the conversion of sugar and fat into energy. Better insulin effectiveness means your body becomes more adept at using fat as an energy source.

The regimen also triggers a cellular cleaning process known as autophagy.[15] Through this process, your cells get rid of damaged components, which in turn boosts your metabolism.

In addition, intermittent fasting reduces your eating time. This limited eating window naturally leads to fewer calories consumed, making weight loss and fat reduction more achievable.

Lastly, the practice increases levels of norepinephrine.[16] This hormone encourages your body to use fat for energy, ensuring that your weight loss is both effective and focused on fat reduction rather than muscle loss.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

Here are some popular options that have shown promising results in losing fat. 

  • 16/8 Method: Engage in a 16-hour fast, then eat within an 8-hour window.
  • 5:2 Method: Consume your usual diet five days a week.  During two non-consecutive days, limit yourself to 500-600 calories.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: Complete a 24-hour fast either once or twice a week.
  • Alternate-Day Fasting: Commit to fasting every other day while eating normally on the days in between.

If you experience lightheadedness or extreme fatigue, consider ending your fast and seek medical advice.


how to lose upper body fat
Sleeping rejuvenates the mind, restores the body, and boosts well-being. Photo: Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

A lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain.

The Science Behind Adequate Sleep

Insufficient sleep[17] can wreak havoc on your body’s hormonal balance. Leading to increased hunger and fat accumulation. Sleep is crucial in reducing the likelihood of developing chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Adequate sleep[18] also fortifies your immune system, making you better equipped to fend off illnesses. Quality sleep can also elevate your mood and become a vital tool in managing stress and anxiety.

Effective Practices To Get A Good Night Sleep

Sleep is not just about quantity but also quality. Here are some effective practices to ensure you get restorative sleep.

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time daily.
  • Optimize your bedroom environment: Keep it dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Steer clear of screens: Phones, tablets, and TVs at least one hour before hitting the sack.
  • Meditate for 10 to 15 minutes before bedtime.
  • Take a warm bath or shower one or two hours before bedtime.
  • A comfortable mattress and supportive pillows are essential to good sleeping posture.

If you’re experiencing chronic sleep issues, it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

What Causes Upper Body Fat?

Your genes may dictate where your body prefers to store fat. Some people are genetically inclined to accumulate fat in the upper body. Additionally, sedentary behavior may result in weight gain.

Your hormones could also have a role in the presence of your body fat. Hormones like cortisol, insulin, and estrogen affect fat storage in your body. 

What you eat can cause upper body fat. Consuming high-calorie, low-nutrient foods often results in weight gain. Overeating, even healthy foods, also contributes to fat accumulation.

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The Health Risks That Come With Upper Body Fat

Carrying excess fat[19] in the upper body directly raises your risk for chronic diseases. This fat increases your chances of facing cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and other health threats. 

An increase in body fat percentage, may lead to additional health concerns.[20] Some of these concerns include metabolic syndrome, heart ailments and insulin resistance. If you take action to decrease belly fat now, you can help to decrease the likelihood of these health conditions and improve your overall wellbeing. 


Upper body fat is more than just a cosmetic concern; it’s a health issue that demands attention. One can effectively tackle this challenge through cardiovascular exercises, strength training, a balanced diet, intermittent fasting, and adequate sleep. 

Understanding the root causes and health risks associated with upper body fat empowers individuals to make informed choices for their well-being. By integrating these insights and strategies into daily life, one can achieve the desired physique and a healthier, more vibrant life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it difficult to lose upper body fat?

Losing upper body fat can be tough. With the right strategies, you can achieve your goals.

How long does it take to lose upper body fat?

The time it takes to lose upper body fat varies from person to person and depends on various factors like diet, exercise routine, and metabolism.

Does running burn upper body fat?

Running is an effective cardiovascular exercise that can help burn upper body fat.

Does walking burn upper body fat?

Walking can contribute to overall weight loss, which includes losing upper body fat.

What exercises burn upper body fat?

While you can’t target specific areas, activities like running, swimming, cycling, and strength training, are effective in burning body fat.


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