The Skinny On Fat Burning

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How do you KNOW you’re burning fat when you exercise?  What’s the difference between fat loss and weight loss?  How do you get rid of fat and keep the muscle?  Most people have no real way of knowing.  They do what they’ve been instructed.  They follow what they’ve read.  They replicate what worked for somebody else.  They try different diets that work for a while – then slowly the pounds creep back on.  Knowledge is power.  Human bodies are designed to function basically the same way.  What burns fat today, burned fat a million years ago.  If you understand the most basic science about the human body, you will ALWAYS be able to control your body’s fat content.he MOST important thing to remember about burning fat, while exercising, is that it’s an oxygen driven process.  The greater the volume of oxygen you can force into your body, over a longer period of time, the more fat it will burn as fuel.  This means Aerobic exercise is best for fat burning.  The term “Aerobic” literally means “with air”.  Why is this true?  The body’s ability to store fat is based on its need to survive famines, droughts and extreme weather conditions, at a time when men used to hunt for food and there was less of it to go around.  Critical nutrients would lodge inside the fat and release slowly over time to keep humans alive.  Now men only hunt for parking spaces and the wine and cheese aisle at Whole Foods.

Elevating your heart rate anywhere between 60% to 100% of its full capacity to work, should be your first goal.  How do you find this number?  220-AGE = Maximal Heart Rate.  Find the percentage of your Maximal Heart Rate and then try to keep your heart rate in that range.  Most treadmills, bikes, watches and smartphones offer convenient ways for you to measure this.  But if all those fail, simply apply your two middle fingers over your Radial artery (under your thumb, below your wrist), count the number of beats for 10 seconds and multiply times 6.  This will give you an approximate value for a minute.  If that’s too complicated, just know that you should be able to talk and your heart rate along with your breathing should be rhythmic while you work.

Once you’ve established the ideal heart rate for fat burning, it is now critical for you to sustain that over an EXTENDED period of time.  Here’s why.  For the first 20 minutes of work, your body is using the food in your stomach for fuel.  After those 20 minutes, your body switches over to a more efficient fuel source (stored fat), because it assumes the body is going to be working for a while.  So for every minute beyond the first 20, you’re burning fat for fuel, more than anything else.  A 60 minute session means 40 minutes of fat burning.  A 20 minute session means zero minutes of fat burning.  It’s also quite alright for your heart to come down to the lower part of the aerobic range in order to meet the duration requirement of your optimal aerobic exercise session.

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The best aerobic exercises use your legs. If more oxygen consumption means more fat burning, then the largest, most powerful muscles in your body – the legs, will achieve the greatest aerobic effect.  This is why Cross Country Skiing, Cycling and Running burn the most fat.  The more intensely you use your legs over longer periods of time, the more oxygen is forced into your body, the more fat burns at a higher rate.  The stronger your legs are, the better the effect.

Vary your aerobic exercise.  One of the biggest mistakes people constantly make when they train, is that they do the same thing over and over and over.  What once worked initially, will cease challenging you, when your body has adapted to it.  This is why some people exercise for decades and never change.  The more you challenge your body and vary the exercise, the harder your body has to work to adapt.  As long as the principles of intensity and duration are there, your body will keep burning a maximal amount of fat.

If you remember that food is fuel for physical work, but without that work, it easily becomes fat, you will always be in control of your body’s fat content.  Muscle is a gift.  Fat is the wrapping.  Shrink the wrapping.  Keep the gift.

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