Is the Fat Burning Zone a Mythical Creature?

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a mythical creature?

It must be! Otherwise, all those people plodding along on the treadmills at the gym would be in great shape. Like a beautiful, sparkly unicorn, we want to believe that it exists but the concept of the fat burning zone has been regularly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The fat burning zone theory is that lower intensity exercise, at about 55% – 70% of maximum heart rate, burns more fat. Basically, your body burns more fat at a lower intensity of aerobic exercise than it does at a higher intensity. This sounds good in theory. After all why work harder if you don’t have to, right?

The misinterpretation of this theory happens because there is a difference between percentage of fat burned vs. actual fat burned. In reality, you burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities but generally more fat overall at higher intensities. Your body draws energy from two sources, fat and glycogen or stored carbohydrates. The percentages of these two fuel sources vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.

At a lower intensity, you may burn 60% of total calories from fat. And at a higher intensity only 45% of total calories from fat. On the surface, that seems like lower intensity would be better. But at a higher intensity you burn more calories OVERALL which bumps your actual fat calories up even though the percentage is lower.

For example:

 

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The numbers above are just for example purposes but hopefully, you get the point. Percentage vs. actual are very different. Lower intensity exercise has its place in a workout program but if you’re relying on it to help you burn fat, it’s not the best idea. Circuit or interval workouts are efficient and help you burn more calories in less time.

Stop searching for the mythical creature! To truly burn maximum fat, focus on building muscle with a comprehensive strength training program and healthy eating habits. These will do far more to help you reach your goals then chasing the unicorn at the end of the treadmill!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. If you want help creating an effective exercise program, check out my monthly coaching services here.

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I bailed on a race…

20 years ago I ran a race while I was recovering from bronchitis (not the smartest thing I’ve ever done!) I’ve run races after very little or no training. I’ve run races with various injuries. I’ve run races in horrendous weather and on terrible courses. (My sister likes to remind me repeatedly of a 5K I “forced” her to run with me that was seemingly uphill the entire way despite it being a loop course!!)

Once I pay a registration fee I find it very hard to NOT participate in a race. I know in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter whether I run or not. The organization already has the money and in most cases I already have my T-shirt or whatever other giveaway is involved. Although, I do have issues with wearing a T-shirt for a race that I did not actually complete but that’s a blog for another day!!

My point is, that despite having a number of legitimate reasons for not running a scheduled race, I very rarely bail out. Even when, sometimes, I really should.

However, I bailed on the five miler I’ve been training for that was supposed to happen two weeks ago. The Celtic Solstice 5 Miler takes place in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore about an hour from where I live and is a great race. The course is hilly and it’s usually very cold but overall, the race is just a great atmosphere during and after the run. There’s a heated tent at the end with cookies and hot spiced wine! What could be better than that! And this race offers beautifully designed, high-quality jackets with registration. Not a thin, cheesy looking t-shirt but a running jacket.

But the morning of the race, my friend and I would have had to leave at 6 AM and at that time my driveway was a sheet of ice and there was a “wintery mix” coming down. We decided to skip the race for our own safety. We knew the weather was probably better in Baltimore but our current location posed some problems. And let’s be honest, it’s not like this was an emergency. I’m not a doctor, police officer or other emergency worker that needed to be out. There was absolutely no reason for me to be on the road. And yet, I felt this ridiculous need to run because I put my name on the list and paid money. I run this race every year. How could I not go this year?

I know, logically, we made the right choice but it drives me crazy that I had to miss that race. It’s still bugging me almost two weeks later. I ran 5 miles on my treadmill to make up for it and have decided in my own mind that justifies me wearing the jacket even though its not really the same!!

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Celtic Solstice 5 Miler Premium Jacket

My point in all this is that one of my goals for 2017 will be to lighten up a little bit when it comes to racing. Or any other fitness endeavor really. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody but myself and my personal health (and safety!) are my priority. That being said, I already have several races lined up for 2017 so stay tuned!

Let me know in the comments what you have planned for the new year.

Happy Exercising!

Just Start Now

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I recently wrote about New Years resolutions (click here if you missed it) so to go along with setting goals at any time…don’t wait for the perfect time to start a new fitness plan.
Start now. Don’t wait for Monday or next month or the perfect plan or New Years or whatever…

I know it’s a cliche but the perfect time is now. If you’ve decided to make a new fitness plan (or any other healthy habit for that matter) a priority, why wait? What’s going to happen between now and your “start date” that you need to wait for?

I know the holidays are crazy and stressful and you have other priorities so putting off your new fitness goals until after the holiday season seems like a smart idea. But…exercise can improve your mood and lower your stress levels (helpful when dealing with visiting family!) When you exercise your body’s level of stress hormones drops which helps you relax. Exercise can also give you more energy. I know that sounds contradictory but trust me. And who couldn’t use an energy boost during the holidays? And last but not least, going out for a 30 minute run or a quick weight session gives you a break from all the merriment!

So just start now.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not ready to start your formal fitness plan and are sticking with your pre-determined “start date” at least get out and do SOMETHING! Go take a walk or do some crunches or push-ups.

Here’s a fun holiday workout to help you out!
My family loves the movie “Christmas Vacation”. We watch it A LOT! So I decided to make it into a workout game. It’s simple.

Every time someone gets hurt (usually Clark) do 10 push-ups.
Every time something breaks do 10 squats.
Yep, it’s like a drinking game! Enjoy!

Happy Exercising and Happy Holidays!

Annual Goals

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New Years resolutions…

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions because I think goals can and should be set and adjusted at ANY time. But, I can also appreciate the idea of the new year being a great opportunity for a new beginning. The holiday season is busy and chaotic. January is usually the time where everything settles down and gets back to a normal schedule so it presents itself as a good time to start something new. I get it! It is a good time to re-evaluate current goals or plan new ones for the coming year.

It was about this time last year I set goals for 2016. I had a main goal and two secondary goals and I even used a goal planning sheet to post them in my home office. I was quite proud of my organized self!

And, literally, three weeks into 2016 they promptly went to hell with a cancer diagnosis.

Obviously, my goals changed and I had to make a new plan. The end of 2016 looks very different than I thought it would but I still accomplished goals and in some ways even made unexpected progress.

My point is, flexibility is key. So many people make New Year’s resolutions in January only to find they have “failed” by February or March. Don’t look at resolutions as success or failure. Sometimes, they have to be adjusted out of necessity and sometimes just because you feel like it. If you find yourself “failing”, take the time to figure out why and re-adjust. Don’t just give up. Maybe the resolution you made wasn’t right for you or maybe you need a different plan to accomplish it.

Goals should be written down but they’re not chiseled into the sidewalk out front – they can be erased and rewritten. Trust me, it’s OK! I did not accomplish my original goals for 2016 so for me, 2017 is just another opportunity to begin again.

Take some time today to think about what you want to accomplish in your new beginning.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Here’s a printable Goals pdf to help you get started.