March 1, 2013
The Fat Burning Zone

In my last blog we discussed how to turn your body into a fat burning furnace. This topic resulted in some questions of, “what about the fat burning zone?” You may have heard of this zone. This is where they say you can burn the most body fat while you exercise. This is the zone where the fat will just melt right off! Today we are going to clarify this myth.

The lure of the “fat burning zone” is misleading and can ruin your workouts and results if you are not aware of what it really means. To workout in the “fat burning zone” is to exercise between 45-60% of your maximum intensity. At this intensity your body is getting most of its calories from fat stores. During training the body is burning up fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. At lower exercise intensities, the body derives a larger percentage of its energy from fat. As intensity increases it shifts to draw from our limited carbohydrate stores. The fat burning zone is the intensity at which the most fat is being mobilized and burned. As you increase your exercise intensity, the body starts to rely more on glucose for energy, so fat’s percentage of energy contribution decreases. To remain in the fat burning zone does not mean that you will burn the most fat over the course of the day.

Research has shown that exercising at a lower intensity (the fat burning zone) can decrease abdominal fat more effectively than exercising at a higher intensity. But guess what, research has also shown that exercising at higher intensities is a more effective way to lose body fat over the long term. What is the moral of this story (besides noting that more research needs to be done to iron out the variables)? The moral is to exercise. Regardless of how you exercise it is the fact that you train that is important. When we consider weight loss, we follow the general rule of “calories in and out.” Burn more calories than you eat, or consume less calories than you burn (these sentences have different assumptions and implications). There is a lot of research out there showing us that long slow exercise and hard intense exercise can both result in long term body fat reductions. However, if you can burn more calories during a workout, then you could potentially lose more weight (given our rule above). That being said, try to burn as many calories as possible during your workout. If you exercise vigorously, you can potentially burn more calories AFTER your workout as well. Much of the work on post-exercise-oxygen-consumption has shown that working out vigorously increases your resting metabolic rate over the course of the day, but lower intensity training does not. This means that finishing your workout with intervals could help you burn an extra 250 calories over the course of your day. That is an extra ½ pound worth of calories per week! Would you be ok with losing 25 more pounds in a year just by making sure you pushed yourself?

If you choose to remain in the fat burning zone for your cardio you will be missing a huge opportunity to challenge your fitness, push your muscles, and burn way more calories. Both long slow training and high intensity training have their place in your routine, and your body is perfect for handling different intensities. Don’t settle for the fat burning zone! Every
once in a while, sure… but not every workout!


Also if you ever have questions regarding your diet or fitness we are here to help you! Check out out Expert Insights and Support to learn more!

Get back to health, team. Stay strong.

Written by Clark Masterson

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