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Fat Burning Zone – Myth or Truth?

October 20, 2011 0 Comments

images (3)There are several urban legends when it comes to health, fitness, and exercise, and while it’s hard for me to say which one is my favorite, the infamous fat burning zone is real close to the top of the list for me.  So without delaying the suspense of what my take on the issue is, I will simply say the fat burning zone is nothing but a big fat lie.

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

The “fat burning zone” as it is known is that magical zone of intensity where fat melts off of the body like butter in a frying pan. Health clubs and fitness equipment manufacturers alike advertise fat burning zone posters, heart rate zones, and workout profiles to lead gullible exercisers to the promised land of leanness.  How and why are they able to do that? Simple.  It’s the infamous play on words. At the metabolic level, the body is burning three sources of fuel.  They are protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Depending on your level or intensity of activity, the body shifts percentages of usage of each fuel.  In this case, the fat burning zone does not mean that stored bodyfat is the selective source. It only describes the relative percentage of utilization of fat. Or in laymen’s terms, the percentage of calories burned that are derived from fat as an energy source. Is there a fat burning zone? No.  Is there a time when a greater percentage of fat is used as the energy source? Yes, but it will most likely shock you.

The Fat of The Matter

The highest percentage of fat utilization is at rest. Yes, while you’re sitting, sleeping, watching TV, etc. So if that’s the case, why aren’t more people walking around lean and mean? Simple. It’s about the number of calories burned or amount of energy spent, not the number of those calories that come from fat as a source. If the fat burning zone idea actually worked we could get extremely lean by simply sitting still. I think too many would like to believe that one.  But here’s the best example I can share with you to make you better understand this concept

Let’s assume we have two identical exercisers – one will walk for twenty minutes and one will run for twenty minutes. Which one works harder?  Which one will burn more calories?  Which one will be leaner over time? It’s not rocket science. Regardless of what “fat burning zone” propaganda sells you, the winner for most calories burned goes to the one who works the hardest and the one who burns the most calories is the one who drops the most weight.

When it comes to fat loss and exercise, stop worrying about burning fat and start worrying about working harder.

Til Next Time, Train Smart, Eat Well, and Be Better.


About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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