Friday, July 23, 2010

Busting the Fat Burning Zone Myth! (say it ain't so...)

Have you been working out for a while, but seeing no results? The scale hasn't budged in months?
Well, I'm sorry to say, it might be because you aren't working hard enough!

 I'm doing an hour of cardio each day!
 Seven days a week!!
 And I'm working in the FAT BURNING ZONE!
 I'm a fat burning machine! It says so on my elliptical!! exactly...

 The Fat Burning Zone is the theory that you will burn more fat if you work at an easy intensity . It originated from the fact that our bodies burn fat for fuel at a low intensity but burn more glucose as our exercise intensity increases.
  Consequently, the theory that it must be better to work at a low intensity for optimum fat loss, started to circulate within the fitness industry.  It spread like wildfire because people love the idea that they can work less hard and lose tons of fat!

 Well, as with most things in life, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

  Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, La Cross tested this theory out and found that during low intensity exercise there is a higher percentage of calories coming from fat. However the total number of fat calories is less than during high intensity exercise, because the total number of calories burned during high intensity exercise is much higher.

    So in order to maximize your fat burning potential,  it is important to work at a high intensity. How do you know if you are working at a high intensity? First thing to remember is that "high intensity" is very subjective. Do not base what you consider to be high intensity with what your friend does. Obviously, the fitter you are, the more you will be able to do.

     At a high intensity...
 *  You shouldn't be able to read a magazine or sustain a conversation comfortably.  Sorry, that new issue of People with Zach Ephrons abs are just going to have to wait!   (Except during warmup and cool down, then you can enjoy all you want!) You should be able to talk if needed though.
 * It should feel as if you are being challenged but not close to passing out!

    How to get there...

  * A good way to increase your intensity is to increase the incline on the treadmill, increase incline or resistance on  the elliptical or switch cardio types all together and try something running. Sometimes just trying a new exercise even if it is at a low intensity to someone who has been doing it for a while, can be quite high for you.   (see my previous post on how to start a running program)

  *Also, because you are increasing intensity, the length of time you work out should be shortened.
  This is important!  If you are working out for 45 min -60 min now,  try working out for 30 minutes while you are adding your intensity.  When you feel you have reached the level of working out that is high  for you,  you can slowly add more time to your workout. Or you can keep it at 30 minutes if you feel that it is all you can do.

  *Add a little intensity at a time, exercising at each new level of intensity for a few sessions (or more) until you feel ready to add a little more. Stop at the level when you are feeling you are working hard but not at a level that is too hard for you.

  *I actually find that working for 30 minutes at a high intensity gives me better results than working out at a lower intensity for an hour.   (If you work out for 30 min now, cut it down to 20 minutes and increase your time once you have reached a high intensity on a consistent basis)
   I would just like to add that this is not to discount a good long run, during which you are running/jogging at a slower pace than you could when you only run for 30 minutes. I love those runs and find they are great for thinking and stress relief.  But, if you want to lose weight and more specifically fat, than it's time to finally bust the fat burning zone myth and workout hard!!
*Always get clearance from your doctor to work at a high intensity*
*Do not go directly from working at a low intensity to working at a high intensity. You want to increase your intensity gradually over a couple of weeks (or where you feel comfortable).
 *Do not work at a high intensity if you are just starting to exercise for the first time or are exercising after a long period of being sedentary.
 * If you ever feel short of breath or any chest pain or discomfort stop exercising immediately and get medical attention.

Do you work out at a low or high intensity? Do you have any questions about how to increase your intensity? Let me know!!

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