Forget the fat-burning zone

July 20, 2012

Diet, Exercise, Health

The latest recommendations are focusing on higher-intensity cardio training, aiming for heart rate zones of 75 to 85 percent to burn the most calories per workout.

by Matt Schoeneberger — 

The fat-burning zone was originally conceived more than 15 years ago, based on research stating that an exerciser will burn a higher percentage of energy from fat if they keep their working heart rate (HR) between 60 and 65 percent of their maximum HR.

This has since been debunked as irrational thinking, since burning a higher percentage of fat during a workout does not mean you will burn more total fat, when compared to a higher-intensity style of workout.

The latest recommendations are focusing on higher-intensity cardio training, aiming for heart rate zones of 75 to 85 percent to burn the most calories per workout. The thinking here is that it does not matter what percentage of calories come from fat or carbohydrates, as long as you are burning the most calories per workout. Because we all know that burning calories while working out is one of the keys to weight loss and leanness, right? Not so much.

Here is a quick question. If you could optimize calorie- and fat-burning during one hour of exercise, or the other 23 hours of the day, which would burn more total calories? It seems pretty obvious, right? Almost too obvious? Yes, it does, but it was not until recently that exercise “experts” realized that if we affect the hormonal system optimally during a workout, we can maximize our calorie and fat burn for the rest of the day, regardless of how many or what type of calories we burned during our workout.

Sprints — that is the answer to the question you should have been asking. You affect your hormonal system through high-intensity (relative to your fitness level) workouts like sprints and heavy (also relative) weight training. These exercises will optimize fat burning, improve endurance and have a positive impact on heart function.

So stop worrying about the fat-burning zone or counting how many calories you burn during your workouts. You can even stop counting calories altogether, but that’s for another article. Have fun!

 

Matt Schoeneberger, B.A., C.P.T., is a personal trainer and co-owner of L.E.A.N. Wellness Center in Mesa, Ariz. He approaches health and fitness holistically, teaching clients how to live a healthy lifestyle in order to reach their goals. 480-200-4206, MattS@getleanstaylean.com or www.getLEANstayLEAN.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 1, February/March 2008.


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