Does Burning Calories Mean You’re Burning Fat?

So, you want to lose some weight and get back into that outfit for a big date, a party, or reunion? Or maybe you just want to be a healthier version of you! Whatever the case, you are hoping to drop that ten or fifteen unsightly pounds of fat ASAP.

Reverting to what’s notably conventional…You start busting it on out a piece of cardio equipment or running around the block a few hundred times thinking it will get the sweat pouring and your metabolism stoked, burning those calories and undesirable fat pounds off your body, RIGHT?

Well not so fast…

You see, the truth is, just because you’re burning calories doesn’t necessarily mean you’re burning body-fat. During exercise, the first “calories” your body will use for fuel is glycogen or to make it less complicated—the sugar in your system, rather than the calories from your stored body-fat.

In order for your body to burn stored fat there are a few factors involved. The first thing you must keep in mind is that in order to get at those fat pounds you first must burn up and lower your glycogen reserve or the stored sugar in your muscle and liver. This will shift your body from predominately burning sugar to more efficiently burning your body-fat reserves.

Since glycogen is used during explosive muscle contraction the most effective way to lower your glycogen reserve is through anaerobic activity AKA resistance training. Free weights, machine weights or circuit training are all exceptional choices.

The second part to this equation is that you need the proper O2 (oxygen) level to effectively and efficiently burn body-fat, and in order to get the proper O2 level needed you must keep your heart rate in what is refer to as the zone.

The zone is the optimal heart rate that effectively shifts your body from predominantly burning glycogen for fuel to predominantly burning body-fat for fuel.

This target heart rate (THR) is slightly different for everyone but is achieved the same way, through aerobic type exercise AKA cardio or cardio acceleration.

The very word aerobic means: “involving, utilizing, or increasing oxygen consumption for metabolic processes in the body”

Keep in mind that if your body does not get the proper amount of oxygen required to burn stored body-fat you will end up losing water and muscle while burning very little body-fat. This negative response can actually cause a metabolic shift and slow your metabolism increasing the likelihood of actually gaining weight.

To really get at your body-fat reserves you have to find your perfect heart rate (HR) or the zone. This is the point where you are working out hard enough that you need more oxygen, but not so hard that the supply is inadequate, in which case your body will resort back to predominately burning glycogen.

The idea is to reach a level where your body needs more oxygen than normal but is getting it supplied effectively due to your increased heart rate, and then maintaining that level for as long as possible, preferably no less than 20 minutes.

So how do you know if you are in the zone and burning body-fat?

Here is a simple calculation to help you figure that out

1. Subtract your age in years from 220 to get your standard maximum HR.

2. Take your standard maximum HR and multiply it by 0.8.

E.g. 220 – 30 = 190 x 0.8 = 152

If you are 30 years old your target HR for optimal fat burning is 152 beats per minute (BPM).

This is a very simplified formula to help you achieve your target fat burning zone. And although basic, by using this simple equation along with the other information outlined here it can truly do wonders on your net result if applied.

Also remember that there is a two part equation here:

1. Anaerobic exercise (resistance training)

2. Aerobic exercise (cardio)

In order to make this work you first need to burn your glycogen reserves through resistance training followed by a minimum of 20 minutes of cardio with your HR in the zone.