"Fat Burn," two words that stick out and grab the attention of many people. You see these two words everywhere; magazines, infomercials, and ads. Today’s culture is obsessed with the idea of burning fat and advertisements for losing fat consume the popular media. Yet, do we burn the most fat by the ways that are typically advertised? Should we press that “Fat Burn” button on the treadmill in the hopes of losing some fat, or is there a better method out there?
As a CSCS Certified Personal Trainer, I recognize a big problem in the exercise community surrounding the topic of burning fat. There are many ads and articles about this “Fat Burning Zone.” First to understand what this is, I will provide a quick background. The human body uses three substrates, energy sources, to provide the body with enough energy for all of its daily functions. These substrates are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. When a person exercises at a low intensity their body uses fat as the main substrate. Fat is also the main substrate that is burned at rest. Although the body is using a higher percentage of fat for its energy when exercising at low intensity, it is not using a lot of overall energy. Therefore, the body is not burning as many calories overall. When you exercise at a high intensity, the main substrate being used is carbohydrates, and when a high intensity workout is being performed, the body will burn a lot more overall calories. This means that more fat calories will be burned in a high intensity workout compared to a low intensity workout. The main goal for weight loss is to create a caloric deficit. This means that more calories are being used and burned than the amount of calories being ingested. Therefore, if a person desires to lose weight, they should focus on the higher intensity workouts to maximize the total amount of calories they burn.
When people step onto the cardio machines there is a button for a workout named, you guessed it, Fat Burn. It’s usually bold and in red. So many people click this workout wanting to lose fat. The Fat Burn workout is likely a low intensity workout which will utilize fat as the main energy source. Yet, the workout will burn less calories overall. The makers of these treadmills and machines are in a way telling the truth about burning fat, but they fail to acknowledge that more overall calories will be burned (and therefore, more fat calories) at a high intensity workout. Rather than hitting that “Fat Burn” button on the treadmill, try to utilize interval training and exercise at a moderate to vigorous intensity to burn that extra fat.
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