You probably have heard various theories on how to burn fat. Some may be true, some may not. The reality is that there is definite science behind how you burn and metabolize calories, and for that matter, fat. Here is some basic information and rules of thumb to ensure that you maximize your fat-burning during exercise:
- Exercise Type: To effectively burn fat, you need to incorporate both aerobic exercise and strength training into your workouts. Strength training increases your muscle mass, which in turn increases your metabolism (meaning you will burn more calories in an average day). Aerobic exercise does not have the ability to permanently raise your metabolism the way weight training does, however, it is most effective in burning calories and fat.
- The ‘Fat Burning Zone’: This refers to a target heart rate (THR) zonewhere your heart rate is essentially in the most effective zone to burn fat. This zone allows you to work at a level that is intense enough to burn fat and calories at a productive rate, but not so intense that you will burn-out or become exhausted too quickly. Use the following calculation to find out your personal fat burning zone:
Fat Burning Zone = (220-Your Age) x (.75)
Your fat burning zone is basically 75% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). (To quickly gauge your Fat Burning Zone, look at this quick reference chart using your age and 75% column.) You should aim to stay within 10 beats of the number.
- Timing of Your Workouts: When you exercise, you first use up your carbohydrate stores (glycogen), then your fat stores and then muscle. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes of exercise to use up your carbohydrate stores before you start tapping into your fat stores. For this reason, there are two ideal times to do aerobic exercise:
- In the morning before you eat. Assuming you didn’t go on a pasta or carbohydrate binge late the night before, you don’t have any stored carbohydrates in the morning (you slept most of them off), and as a result, your body will use your fat stores for energy. For this reason, you can burn up to 300% more body fat than at other times of the day.
- Right after strength training. If you are not a morning exerciser, the next best time to do aerobic exercise is right after you do your strength training. Assuming you do strength training for about 30 minutes, you will use most of or all of your carbohydrate stores prior to starting your aerobic activity.
If you do aerobic exercise at times other than those mentioned above, you will have to exercise for 20 to 30 minutes to burn off your carbohydrate stores and then an additional 20 minutes or so to burn a reasonable amount of fat, making this a much less effective way to burn fat.
If you adhere to these three simple rules, you should see a difference in how much fat you burn as compared to before, hopefully resulting in a greater lean body mass and lower body-fat percentage. Both of which are good for your health.
Are you a morning exerciser? Have you seen the tips listed above already? Have they worked for you?
- Calculate your Lean Body Mass and Your Body Fat
- The Benefits of Exercising in the Morning
- Your Target Heart Rate Quick Reference Chart
- Calculate your Target Heart Rate Range