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Busted: The Myth of the Fat Burning Zone

  By posted Mar 20th 2012
Weight Loss

 

 

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A popular myth is that there is a specific range of heart rates in which you must exercise to burn fat. Even many cardio machines display a “fat-burning one” on their panels, encouraging people to exercise in a specific heart rate range. But have you ever wondered if you really have to exercise in a specific heart rate zone to lose fat? And what happens if you move out of this “fat-burning zone”? You use both fat and carbohydrates for energy during exercise, with these two fuels providing that energy on a sliding scale. Confused? Let's take a look at why the fat burning zone is a myth.

During exercise at a very low intensity like walking, fat accounts for most of the energy expenditure. As exercise intensity increases the contribution from fat decreases while the contribution from carbohydrates increases.  Since more fat is used at low exercise intensities, people often assume that low-intensity exercise is best for burning fat, an idea that has given birth to the “fat-burning zone.” 

For fat and weight loss, what matters most is the difference between the number of calories you expend and the number of calories you consume. Fat and weight loss is about burning lots of calories and cutting back on the number of calories consumed. 

For the purpose of losing weight, it matters little whether the calories burned during exercise come from fat or carbohydrates. A great way to perform high-intensity exercise and decrease your body fat percentage is through interval training, which breaks up the work with periods of rest. Not only does interval training allow you to improve your fitness quickly; it is also more effective than continuous exercise for burning lots of calories during exercise and increasing your post-workout metabolic rate. 

Try these exercises to get you in the training zone: Squats, leg raises, push ups, jumping jacks, walking plank.

*Images courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images  

 

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