Let us get something out of the way first: There is nothing you can do to spot-reduce fat on your thighs—or anywhere on your body, TBH.
That is because losing fat is kind of an all or nothing deal. “You can reduce your overall body fat by eating healthy and exercising, but your body doesn’t know where it’s burning fat,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., CEO of NY Nutrition Group. “Wherever there’s fat on your body, it will come off. And we have fat all over our bodies.”
I know, not exactly what you want to hear. However, there are a few steps you can take to de-bloat and tone your legs while losing weight all over.
1. Monitor your Salt Intake
Salt makes your body retain excess water, and that causes bloat that can affect your whole body, hips, and thighs included. “Water follows salt, so the more you eat, the more water gets stored into your body instead of being filtered out by your kidneys,” says Moskovitz. “By cutting back on salt, you’ll notice almost an immediate change in how you feel and how your clothes fit around your body.”
Per the American Heart Association’s recommendations, most people need 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day (the upper limit is 2,300 milligrams)—but many of us are getting way more than that. Cut back by limiting processed foods, like sauces, canned veggies, and soups, which are often loaded with sodium.
2. Add electrolytes to your diet
You have seen them in sports drinks, but electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are plentiful in many healthy foods that might already be in your diet.
All of them—and potassium, in particular—compete with salt. “The more electrolytes you consume, the less salt your body will retain,” says Moskovitz. “It also helps keep the fluid balance stable, so that your body flushes out any water retention,”
Dark leafy greens, yogurt, and bananas are excellent sources of various types of electrolytes. Moskovitz says everyone should aim for nine servings of fruits and veggies every day: two to three half-cup servings of fruit, and the rest veggies (one cup raw or one-half cup cooked).
3. Cut Back on Carbohydrates
When your body transforms carbs into glycogen, they are stored along with water in your liver and muscle. That means that the more carbohydrates you eat, the more water is stored in your body. “That’s why a lot of people find they lose a few pounds immediately on a low-carb diet. A lot of that lost weight was water weight,” says Moskovitz.
She suggests that you get a minimum of 75 to 100 grams of carbs on a daily basis, although some people might need quite a bit more depending on their height, weight, and activity level.
Just do not skip whole-grains altogether, since they’re an excellent source of filling, heart-healthy fiber as well as folate, iron, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
4. Drink Your Morning Coffee
Coffee has a very mild diuretic effect and may stimulate your metabolism, your body’s fat-burning ability, and your workouts.
That said, there is such a thing as too much coffee. “It can lead to crashes that contribute to overeating at night and generally not feeling great,” says Moskovitz. She suggests sticking to two cups per day max.
5. Drink Enough Water
It seems counterintuitive, but the less water you drink, the more your body holds onto it. Drinking plenty of water flushes out the excess salt and fluids your body does not need, reducing bloating.
It also helps curb your appetite, since dehydration mimics hunger. Moskovitz suggests aiming for two to three liters per day—on the higher end if you are exercising or it is hot outside.
6. Play Some Sport
Aerobic exercise is another great way to flush out the excess salt and fluids from your body, says Moskowitz. What’s more, any activity you perform that gets your heart rate up is also a great way to spend calories and burn body fat—including on your hips and thighs.
Just remember: You have to stay hydrated. Aim to drink 16 to 20 ounces more water per hour of intense exercise and eat extra foods with electrolytes if you are crushing it at the gym for more than an hour.
7. Track Down Your Meals
Keeping a daily record of every single food you put in your mouth helps you stay on track and accountable when you are trying to shed body fat. Moskovitz likes the app MyFitnessPal since it is easy to use and has estimates for most foods (but plain old pen-and-paper works fine, too).
Monitoring your diet also means planning your meals ahead of time as often as possible. “Life gets in the way and it’s hard to stay on track, so having your meals planned out helps for sure,” says Moskovitz.
8. Include More Fibers and Protein in Your Diet
Pack every meal with fiber and protein to boost weight loss, since both macronutrients help keep you fuller on fewer calories.
Protein, in particular, is essential to build the lean muscle that will make your legs look great. Moskovitz suggests trying for a total of 25 to 35 grams of fiber and 75 to 100 grams of protein per day from veggies, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats.
9. Train Your Thighs and Legs
While you cannot spot-reduce thigh fat, you certainly can spot-train your muscles so that they look toned and strong. Target your thighs all over by doing curtsy lunges, sumo squats, and goblet squats.
Focus on your inner and outer thighs with lateral lunges and band leg side raises; and hit your hamstrings with deadlifts, reverse leg curls, and bridges with hamstring curls.
Choose the exercises that fit you most from each group and complete each for eight to 12 reps at your maximum weight for a total of three to four sets. Ideally, try for two days of leg workouts each week, mixing multi-muscle compound movements (think squats and lunges) with more targeted exercises (like bridges and hamstring curls).