I’m sure you have heard about the ‘fat burning zone’ (usually seen demonstrated on a graph on the cardio equipment in your gym). The implication is that
you should work out less hard to burn more fat. Now this is a very tempting concept, is it not? Why should you 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, just to make sure that every single calorie you burn off is pure fat?
Well, sorry to break it to you, but the ‘fat burning zone’ concept is seriously flawed. And it’s all in the maths…
You 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, as you are concerned about percentages, rather than totals. But of course you are not burning many calories at rest or at low levels of exertion as you are when you work out harder – and of course it is the overall calories that count.
In fact, 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 low intensity aerobic work.
You burn plenty of 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 than if you had just done some steady state cardio!
Resistance training also ensures you maintain lean muscle. If you are a woman that doens’t want to get bulky, don’t worry – 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 a huge effort and lots of calories to ‘bulk’. 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, again, maximising the amount of fat you burn at rest (when you are burning a greater percentage of fat for fuel, remember?). The overall effect is a shrinking one – you get smaller as the fat disappears.
Resistance training can give you all the heart health benefits of typical ‘aerobic training’ (do a superset resistance session with a heart rate monitor on to prove that you’re cardiovascular system benefits!) but also has the benefit of preserving muscle, accelerating fat loss and metabolism and balancing out the entire body. Steady state training, such as jogging, 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! Especially if you have limited time to train – and let’s face it, who has lots of time in this hectic age?
To supplement your resistance programme you can also do intense cardio intervals, rather than simply steady state plodding on the cross trainer. This has all the benefits to resistance training mentioned earlier. 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.
If you have more time, then by all means add ‘lifestyle cardio’ into the mix, but I would urge you to stop seeing the gym as the answer for this! Go for a long walk with your family or friends, go for a bike ride in the evening or at the weekend – make it about socialising and having fun too! Treat your workouts more seriously and keep them focused and not endless: 45 minute intense workouts 3 or 4 times per week plus as much general activity as possible in day to day life is the recipe for best results!
Following my advice means you get maximum ‘bang for your buck’ and in an era where time is at a premium, making a clever investment and getting maximum return for that investment is what separates the ‘have a fab physique’ from the ‘have nots’. You don’t need all the time in the world, you just need to use that time very wisely!
It is the overall calories in a day that counts, not where they have come from in your workout. The sooner we realise that we need to work out hard and be more active, the sooner we will be able to get results, so take my advice, and forget about the ‘fat burning zone’ now!This entry was posted in Training Tips. Bookmark the permalink.