October 23, 2012
How Your Cardio Intensity Burns Fat

How Your Cardio Intensity Burns Fat

Not all Cardio is created equal.  Yes, that's right!  If you're having a tough time with your weight management, it might just be a simple evaluation of your cardio effort.

Take a look at what you're doing for 45 minutes.  Is your shirt covered in sweat and you feel like you've gone 12 rounds and can't do anymore?  Or do you feel like you can go for another 2 hours, since those 45 minutes wasn't so bad?  If you're the latter, then it's time to re-evaluate.   

Obviously, your cardio intensity is based on your effort and it's related to how many calories you burn.  Let's take a look at two basic caloric burn comparisons and their differences.  If you're working out at a light to moderate intensity and you burn 500 calories during your 45 minutes.  For five workouts a week, you're burning 2500 calories.  That's less than 3/4 lb. per week of weight loss.  But what happens, when you workout at a higher intensity and you double your effort?  1000 calories per workout for 5000 calories total in the week.  That's almost 1 ½ pounds of weight loss just by upping your cardio effort! 

Burning fat during your cardio session is based on your Heart Rate Training Zones.  In 20/20 LifeStyles, we prefer you to work out in the range of 60% to 85% of your heart rate zones.  If you're not familiar with what your target heart rates are, read our blog titled: "Heart Rate Zones." The use of a heart rate monitor to measure your heart beats per minute is key to your workouts.  It prevents you from burning out initially and allows you to track your progress as you gradually increase your intensity. 

Now, let's take a look at the "Fat Burning Zones" and "Aerobic Burning Zones" you often see on the Cardio equipment as references.  Many times, there will be charts on the control panel that recommend what heart rate levels you should be training at.  These are zones I was referring to earlier.  So what do these zones all mean?  If I stay in the "Fat Burning Zone," will I burn the optimal amount of fat and calories during my workout?  If I exceed the "Fat Burning Zone," and work out harder into the "Aerobic Burning Zone," will this impede my weight loss because I'm no longer in the "Fat Burning Zone?"  While these references may appear helpful to the novice exerciser, the information is actually a bit misleading. 

Just because you exceed the "Fat Burning Zone" doesn't mean it's less effective.  In fact, it might even be better because you're burning more calories.  Burning calories at a lower intensity level isn't a bad thing.  It's all relative to how many calories you burn versus how many calories you consume.  Increasing your intensity will only help boost your weekly caloric burn.

Whether you normally work out at a low intensity or high intensity, you can still achieve the same objective in terms of weight loss.  If you're doing a long Cardio session at a lower heart rate in the 60% range, be sure to add in some high intensity cardio sessions like an Indoor Cycling class or a Combat Conditioning class to get that extra caloric burn during the week.  In contrast, if most of your workouts have been high intensity, interval cardio training, give yourself a day or two and work out at lower heart rate for longer duration to help build your endurance level and prevent yourself from burning out. 

Always remember, effort is what determines how much fat you burn during your cardio session.  The harder you go, the more calories you burn!

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