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The fat-burn zone myth

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The New Year is upon us and with it will come countless new resolutions to get back into shape. For my latest article, I think it is appropriate that I dispel one of the most common fitness myths out there: The Fat Burn Zone.

If you have ever worked out on a piece of cardio equipment, then you have likely seen the Fat Burn Zone: this is not because you were in it, but because it was advertised on the piece of equipment you were using. The Fat Burn Zone is usually a graphic on the machine that says your body burns more fat when exercising at lower heart rates and thus, at lower intensities. Even though this may technically be true, it is not a principal to base any weight loss exercise program on. Here is a quick physiology lesson why:

Your body gets the energy to exercise (aka. calories) from a variety of sources: mainly carbohydrates and fat. The body is always burning these sources during exercise, but prefers one over the other depending on intensity. The body will burn a higher percentage of calories from fat at lower intensities, but exercising this way will lead to fewer total calories burned. So even though you burned more fat than carbs during your walk on the treadmill, you still didn't burn very much.

Contrast this to a shorter, higher-intensity workout. These workouts usually burn more total calories, and when you do the math still burn more total fat. Another important factor to consider: high intensity exercise speeds up your metabolism through a process called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). That phrase is a mouthful, but it basically states that a person’s metabolic rate becomes elevated for hours after an intense workout. This means more calories continue to burn even after the workout is finished. EPOC is your friend.

This year, don’t be afraid to push the intensity up a notch. As a general rule, it is better to do a shorter, higher-intensity workout over a long, slow, boring one.

Happy New Year and enjoy your EPOC!

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