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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Fat Burning Zone! - Will I Burn More Fat in the Fat Burning Zone?

This is possibly the biggest misconception in the health/fitness world, although, it is understandable how such a myth has had such an impact on the training of so many people. It does exist, but the way in which we use it has been completely misinterpreted.

What is the fat burning zone? It's at the low end of your target heart rate zone, around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. This is low intensity exercise at which you can still maintain a conversation or the equivalent to taking a walk, a slow bike ride, or a light jog.

The correct answer to the question "does slow and steady burn more fat?" is, as with many things in health and fitness, a bit more complex than just a simple yes or no. It depends on a few things, mainly training intensity and duration of exercise. While in the fat burning zone you actually are burning a higher percent of fat. "Percent" is the key word here, though.

The main error with the fat burning zone premise emanates from a basic misunderstanding of absolute (total) versus relative (proportional) values. I'll explain this with an analogy: If I offered you 90% of £100 or 20% of £1000, after some deliberation, you would (hopefully) choose 20% of £1000 knowing that it equals £200 when 90% of £100 equals only £20.

So, just because you're getting a higher percentage of money, it doesn't mean you're getting a greater total amount. Likewise, this analogy is explaining that just because you're getting a higher percentage of fat burning, it doesn't mean you're going to burn a higher amount of overall fat.

While the fat burning zone burns the highest percentage of fat in correlation with effort, higher intensity exercise will actually burn more fat in correlation with time. In other words, you need to use your time wisely in order to get the highest amount of fat burned.

What to do about it:

The body burns more calories when it works harder. It's simple. Put two identical people, with the same diet and sleep patterns on two identical treadmills. If you make no.1 work at a steady state (in the fat burning zone) and make no.2 work at a higher intensity, no.2 will obviously burn more calories.

Your goals and how much time you have will depend on how you choose to train. If you are training for maximum fitness, then higher intensities are the obvious choice. If you are training for fat burning and you have hours to use up, then a moderate intensity would be better. However, if your goals are fat burning and you're short on time, high intensity training would burn more calories in the form of fat than a moderate 30-45 minute workout.

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