Exercising in a manner to burn off a higher percentage of calories from fat than from glucose, can be classified as a fat burn workout. The body obtains its energy from carbohydrates (in the form of glucose) fat and protein. Carbohydrates provide a readily available source of energy, and is what the body burns mostly when you begin your exercise routine. Fat burn workouts are designed to optimise the maximum amount of calories coming from fat, during the period you exercise.
At different intensities of physical activity, the body burns varying proportions of fat to carbohydrates to produce energy. When sitting down, for example, the proportion of energy produced from fat to that produced by carbohydrates might be 50-50. If you then get up and go for a run, the body needs a quick source of energy, so the proportion now might be 70% from carbs and 30% from fat. As you continue to run, the body’s metabolism alters to conserve the limited stores of carbohydrate and the ratio now might be 40% carbs and 60% fat.
Fat burn workouts are sometimes performed at a low intensity (60-70% maximum heart rate) because at this level, the body has less use for the quick energy it can obtain from carbohydrates, and relies more on burning fat for energy. This level of intensity is sometimes called the fat burning zone. However, this term can be misleading as more demanding workouts will use more total calories and consequently more fat calories. For example, consider these two exercise routines:
• Walking for 20 mins burning 100 calories in total – fat burning zone – 60% fat 40% carbs
• Running for 20 mins burning 250 calories in total – 30% fat 70% carbs
Running for 20 mins will burn 75 calories of fat compared with only 60 calories by going for a walk for the same period of time. So although the proportion of fat burnt per minute is greater for low intensity activities such as walking, you would have to spend longer in order to burn the equivalent total fat burned by running. If your workout goals are to burn the maximum amount of fat, there are a few guidelines to consider:
Whether it is walking, a high intensity workout or swimming, they can all be considered fat burn workouts as they will all burn calories from fat. Even at rest you will be burning calories from fat! The fat burning zone is a misleading term as more strenuous exercise will burn more fat calories than say walking would. If your goal is to shed as much fat as possible, the key points in your exercise routine should be being consistent, exercising at moderate to high levels and using strength training to build lean muscle – and perhaps most importantly, make sure that whatever you decide to do, you enjoy it!
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