Should You Stay in the Fat Burning Zone?

Posted: April 12, 2013

Hello Cardio Enthusiasts!

I’m sure that if you are a person that loves to do cardio (I am not), then you have most likely tried to stay in the fat burning zone. There is a considered “sweet spot” heart rate that while you are doing cardio at this low rate of exertion, you are getting your energy from stored fat. I know, right away, you are thinking great! Don’t forget that this workout takes over an hour. However, during HIIT, which is high intensity interval training, you should know that you burn mostly carbohydrates for energy during this intense, hard to do for long, type of cardio. Here is the great part. HIIT is done using very short time frames. Sometimes 8 minutes as in Tabata style, or for newbies, not more than 20 minutes. Using a complex mixture of oxygen, food ingested, body types, and fitness levels, during each type of exercise, the body taps into either more fat burning, or more carbohydrate burning as the fuel source. Right now, you are thinking, “which one do I want to chose, fat or carbohydrates?” Hold on, ill let you decide at the end of the article!

You see, the body is a little more complex than that. There are a few factors involved that matter. Resting heart rate, diet, training levels, etc. So before you try to stay in the “fat burning zone”, think of these factors. Exercise scientists have now proven that the higher the intensity, the higher the caloric afterburn. What that means to you is this. Let’s say you work out for 1 hour doing steady state cardio on a treadmill. (boring). Lets also say to make it easy that you are in ok shape. Ok weight but would like to drop some fat, and no other health issues. So according to the computer on the treadmill after you have entered your numbers in the beginning, it says at the end of the hour long workout, that you burned 450 calories. Now on your way to the rest of your day, your calorie burn just stopped.

Since most of us want the biggest bang for the buck in least amount of time. Think about this. HIIT, or interval training is done like this. You set the timer for not more than 20 minutes. You go from an all out sprint for 20 seconds to a slow jog for 1 minute, to sprint to slow, etc….til you are done. Or you can go from flat terrain to high elevation doing the same thing, fast to moderate, fast to moderate. The idea is to work with an all out effort for about 1/3 of the workout. This is where the body burns carbohydrates. But wait! Here is the good part. Let’s say that when you get off of the treadmill, it says you burned 275 calories in that 20 minutes. What the machine doesn’t tell you is this. For the next 36-48 hours, since you were killing it with intensity for a portion of that workout, you are in a state that exercise physiologists call EPOC. Exercise post oxygen consumption. In layman’s terms that means you are still burning calories at a high rate from that 20 minute intense workout you did for the next day at least! Now imagine over time what that does to your body, and your conditioning levels? You want to know? It changes it. It makes your muscles, your lungs AND your metabolism work for you. It turns you into a fat burning machine, even when you are not working out. That is the difference.

So you decide. Work out for an hour, slowly plugging along, making sure you keep your heart right in the exact zone that some computer says? Hoping the number is more than what you ate last night in front of the TV. Or, blow through your workout, using a heart pounding, oxygen sucking, muscle burning rhythm for part of the time til you get your heart rate down enough to do it again…(all in 20 minutes)…knowing that for the next day and a half your body is still revved up burning calories. I hope you chose the later. The numbers come out in favor of interval training.

You can chose to do this with running outside, cycling, in line skating, rowing, and even weight lifting. However you chose to work out. Do it with intensity. Get the most out of your body, and the most out of your workouts. Spend your time enjoying life. Don’t spend your time staring mindlessly at a computer that is telling you how many calories you burned. Forget the numbers all together. Pay attention to your body and how hard you can push it. Keep your workouts short, fun, and most of all intense. That is how you will see the fat start melting off, and your new body underneath it just in time for Spring!

Always searching and sharing ways for us to achieve optimal health, wellness and strength,


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