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What Causes Inner Thigh Fat? (5 Proven Solutions)

Tracy Thompson
Published by Tracy Thompson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 8, 2022

Plenty of clients I've worked with dread excess fat in their thighs as it can be stubborn despite exercise and eating habits.

While small lifestyle changes often help slim down the inner thighs area, in some cases, the reason behind is more complex.

I took the time to read scientific studies and asked for an expert's opinion to get the most accurate information.

Read on if you want to know what causes fat in the inner thigh area and what it takes to lose it.

Summary Of Key Findings

  • Fat in the inner or outer thighs is heavily influenced by genetics.
  • Excess weight around the thighs area is more common for women for hormonal reasons.
  • Some possible solutions for losing weight include cutting unhealthy foods such as processed foods, including empty calories, exercising more, lifestyle changes, and liposuction.

What Exactly Causes Inner Thigh Fat?

thigh view of a person using tape measure on her legs

Where you store excess body fat is fundamentally determined by genetics. If you're carrying extra weight around your inner thighs, that's just how your body operates [1].

That said, carrying excess weight around the thighs area is more common for women for hormonal reasons, but it can affect men in some cases.

The fat surrounding the thigh muscles can be intramuscular (located in the muscle) or subcutaneous (located just below the skin).

Both can be unhealthy in excess, although the reasons behind them can vary [2].

Excess subcutaneous fat is usually caused by lifestyle reasons, while excess intramuscular fat can be due to other health conditions such as diabetes or insulin resistance.

Here are the most common causes of inner and outer thighs fat:

  • Lack of physical activity: with a sedentary lifestyle, blood circulation can slow down, resulting in fat accumulation and cellulite.
  • Unhealthy diet:  eating more calories than your body can burn with exercise, and lack of nutrition-dense food can lead to excess weight.
  • Broad Pelvis:  for evolutionary reasons, women have larger pelvis for childbearing to protect their child at birth [3].
  • Estrogen: estrogen is often the reason behind weight gain in your thighs. This hormone is responsible for increasing fat cells in females [4].
  • Knee Osteoarthritis: studies show that knee conditions can influence abdominal and thigh fat [5].

Why Is Inner Thigh Fat So Stubborn?

If you're one of the ‘lucky’ few who store fat in their inner thighs, chances are pretty high that you will be struggling with fat accumulation in this area even when you're at your healthy weight.

This is especially common for women since, for hormonal reasons, they tend to store extra body fat in the lower body – hips, lower belly, and thighs.

One of the most common mistakes I see my clients make is trying to spot reduce fat, which is impossible.

For example, doing crunches won't help you lose belly fat in itself.

Similarly, if you want to lose inner or outer thigh fat, you'll have to lose body fat all over.

Strategies To Lose Inner Fat From Your Thighs

bowl of veggies and a woman napping in bed

A healthy diet and calorie deficit, followed by cardio and resistance training, will help you attack stubborn thigh fat without adding extra muscle bulk.

We'll cover each part below.

1. Change Up Your Diet

To lose your stubborn fat pockets, you need to adjust your diet for maximum weight loss.

By calculating your body mass index (BMI), you can ensure you are under your usual calorie intake and don't binge on extra calories [6].

One pound of fat is around 3500 calories which means eliminating 500 calories a day already guarantees 1-2 pounds weight loss per week.

Other fundamental dietary changes that help you lose weight from your thighs include:

  • Cutting sugary drinks and processed food
  • Minimizing carbohydrates and eating more vegetables instead as a side
  • Eating more lean protein
  • Eating fruits to satisfy your sweets cravings

2.  Strength Training & Cardio

Move! Incorporating compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups and high-intensity interval training 2-3 times per week will make you burn calories along with targeting those thigh muscles.

Besides helping in your overall fat loss, cardio exercises also have numerous health benefits, such as strengthening your heart, reducing risks of certain diseases, and improving lung health.

3. Sleep More

Being short on sleep can really affect your weight since sleep regulates various hormones, including those that affect hunger. Being tired sets the brain up for bad decisions: saying no to workouts because you feel tired or eating some "comfort food" seems way more tempting.

According to a study by the Ohio State University, poor sleep is closely linked to eating more snack-related carbohydrates, added sugar, fats, and caffeine [7].

4. Liposuction

It's a surgical option for those who cannot lose the desired amount of weight through exercise, healthy eating, and lifestyle changes.

The procedure involves breaking up the fat cells and using a vacuum to remove them through one or more small incisions.

The Best Exercises To Lose Inner Thigh Fat

woman doing planks and a man jogging outdoors

When it comes to shaping your thighs, it's important to do all kinds of exercises, including aerobic, anaerobic, and resistance training.

“The first thing I tell clients is get off the couch! Just start making some small lifestyle changes such as walking to work instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the lift. The small things you can change all add up.” - Jessie Pavelka, Fitness Instructor

1. Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises include everything you probably know as "cardio," such as running, swimming, or cycling.

Walking is one of the best exercises you can do to shape your legs. Try to get some steps each morning and incorporate some brisk walking ( fast paces walk) in your routine, too.

Try aerobic strength circuits, where you alternate between performing strength exercises ( like lunges, pushups, dips, or squats) for 1 minute and then jogging for 1 minute as an active rest. Take no more than 5 minutes of rest in between circuits—cool down afterward with some stretching.

2. Anaerobic Exercises

man working out his muscles outdoors

It means "without oxygen.” That is because, during anaerobic exercise, your body requires immediate energy and relies on stored energy to fuel itself ( instead of oxygen as in aerobic exercise). That said, it's perfect for burning calories and fat loss.

Some of the best anaerobic exercises to burn fat include:

  • Treadmill HIIT Runs: Alternate between short sprints and less intense recovery periods (jogging) until it gets too hard to continue. If you don't like running, try doing HIIT on a bike or any other cardio machine.
  • Calisthenics:  A form of strength training, often performed rhythmically and with minimal equipment. It mainly entails body-weight exercises.

3. Strength Training

As you lose fat, start strengthening and shaping your body by building muscle in a particular area you desire via exercise.

Here are some of my favorite exercises:

  • Curtsy Lunges
  • Skaters
  • Supine Inner Thigh Lifts
  • Sumo Squats
  • Side Lunges
  • Side-lying adduction

FAQs

Can Everyone Get a Thigh Gap?

No, not everyone can get a thigh gap. Due to our bone structure being influenced by genetics, it's structurally impossible for many women to "achieve" the thigh gap [8].

Do Squats Make Your Thighs Look Bigger or Smaller?

Squats don't make your thighs bigger. If your goal is slimmer thighs, squats are an excellent way to tone up your entire lower body.

Ready To Shape Your Inner Thighs?

If your genes were blessed with stubborn fat on your thighs, it would take hard work and consistency to get the desired results.

The good news is that most people successfully shed the extra pounds with a healthy diet, exercise, and small lifestyle changes.

Since prevention is better than the cure, make sure you get your daily exercise in for the day, consume healthy calories within your limits, drink lots of water and get plenty of rest each night.

Your body and your thighs will thank you.


References:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190121103400.htm
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160425161349.htm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4305164/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3964739/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4137500/
  6. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm
  7. https://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/us-study-links-poor-sleep-routines-with-more-snacking.html
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9263181/

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