The Fat Burning Zone Myth Uncovered

The concept of a ‘fat burning zone’ (as you will see on a technical looking graph on the cardio equipment in the gym) implies that you should work out less hard to burn more fat.   A tempting concept?  Why work out hard if you’re not actually burning fat?  Might as well chill out and read a magazine while moving as little as possible?

Well, no.  The ‘fat burning zone’ concept is seriously flawed.

You do burn a higher percentage of fat the less hard you exercise – taking the concept to its logical conclusion, as you are burning the highest percentage of fat while at rest, this theory would imply you might as well just rest and watch the fat melt off! Maximum fat burning is at complete rest by this line of thinking. But of course you are not burning many calories – and of course it is the overall calories that count.

Resistance training, especially when performed in super set or circuit form, with intense work periods and short rest periods, can be one of the best ways to burn fat, and is far superior to steady aerobic work. 

You burn calories during the session, but also elevate your metabolism via EPOC, for up to 24 – 48 hrs after the training session. That means that when you are at rest, burning that higher percentage of fat for fuel, you are actually burning more fat! Steady cardio does not have this ‘afterburn’ effect: intervals and resistance training do.

Resistance training also ensures you maintain lean muscle. If you are a woman that does’t want to get Y2mate bulky, do not fear – it is extremely hard to pack on significant size, just ask any guy in the heavy weights room trying to get big (especially if he’s going the ‘all natural’ route)! It takes concerted effort and lots of calories to ‘bulk’. So women don’t need to fear resistance training – you will become lean and ‘toned’, not bulky.  What this extra lean muscle does, though, is mean you burn even more calories when you body is at rest, burning a high percentage of fat for fuel.  The overall effect is a shrinking one – you get smaller as the fat disappears. But the magic is in the workout, not the rest.

Resistance training can give you all the heart health benefits of ‘aerobic training’ (do a superset resistance session with a heart rate monitor on to prove that you’re cardiovascular system benefits!) but also the benefit of preserving muscle, accelerating fat loss and metabolism and balancing out the entire body. Steady state training, such as running, certainly has it’s place, but if all you do is run they you are setting yourself up for repetitive strain injuries and imbalances. Resistance and body weight training work all the 600 muscles of the body in all the 3 dimensional planes of motion and works joints through their full range. So, heed my advice, and prioritise the resistance!

To supplement your resistance programme you can also do intense cardio intervals, rather than simply steady state plodding on the cross trainer.  This has similar benefits to resistance training performed in a super set or circuit style.  It also means you can get in and out of the gym, or get your workout done without having to go to a gym at all, in under 30 minutes, while also benefiting from the fat burning elevation that the workout has created for hours afterwards.

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