The Fat Burning Zone:  Media Myth or Too Legit To Quit?


Cardio machines promote a fat burning zone that promises to burn more fat than if you were to actually set fat on fire.  Is the best way to lose fat to slowly trot on a treadmill for hours? 

Before you start, I’m thinking of getting some sweet-ass Aesthetic Physiques t-shirts made.  If you’re interested in wearing the hottest gear this fall go here.

If you’ve seen any piece of cardio equipment made in the last 20 years or so, I guarantee you’ve seen a sticker that looks something like this:

fat-burning-zone-sticker

And I bet you thought to yourself, “I can lose fat by walking and not have to sweat?  Sign me up!”

Then you begin your monotonous journey of slowly trotting along at a snail’s pace until you quit of boredom or you fall asleep.

The end result?  You’ve seen the same episode of SportsCenter twice and you still have the same bodyfat percentage as you did the week before.

But you keep on doing it day after day because you’re in the “Fat Burning Zone” hoping one day you’ll see progress staring back at you in the mirror.  But like the “hot girl” (which was really a dude in a stained wifebeater btw) you met on Tinder, the progress never shows up.

So why didn’t the progress show up?  Why haven’t you lost weight yet?  Are you immune to the fat burning zone?  Do you have super resistant beer fat from all those games of beer pong where you guys crushed 3 30’s between 4 dudes?

Go easy on yourself, you tried so hard at those beer pong games you deserved the beer fat you earned.

REST EASY, IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S THE FAT BURNING ZONE YOU WERE SOLD.

HOW YOU USE ENERGY

Your body uses 2 forms of fuel primarily for energy depending on what you’re doing.  For low intensity activities (walking, stretching, light yoga) fat is the primary source while at high intensities (sprinting, jumping) carbs are the main source.

Here is a massive oversimplification of the process but fats are calorie dense (9 calories/ gram) but it needs to be converted to a useable fuel source for the muscles to use which equals more time.

Carbs on the other hand, contain about half the energy (4 calories/ gram) but can be quickly used for fuel.  So, for example, if you were playing football – you would need quick energy to sprint to the end zone, to jump over a defender and make a sick grab or to impose your will and Hit Stick some guy coming over the middle.  All quick sudden movements that usually don’t last all that long.

Low intensity activities, where that sudden burst isn’t needed, then fat is the main dog.  So walking, weight lifting, even long distance running predominately use fat for fuel.

Now to complicate things just a hair, your body flip flops between energy sources all the time so there is no true fat only activity or carb only activity.  Once the body is used to a certain movement and becomes more efficient, fat is used more.  Long distance running is a great example of this.  When you start off it’s carb dominate then the further into the run your fuel becomes more fat dominate.

SO THE FAT BURNING ZONE IS WHACK?

Yes and no.  The intro in the last section is a really long way to tell you this is where the idea of the fat burning zone comes from.  The idea that low intensity activities will help you burn fat more so then carbs, thus (yea I just dropped a thus) you are in the “Fat Burning Zone”.  This, btw, is not to be confused with the Danger Zone.  Just as popular, just as stupid.

The fat burning zone is based on a percentage of max heart rate.  As an example, you burn a ratio of 60% fat when you exercise at 50% of your max heart rate.  Using me as the guinea pig, let’s do some complex math.  To calculate max heart rate, subtract 220 by your age (220-33=187).  Now 50% of my max heart rate of 187 = 94 roughly.

I can get to 94 watching my fantasy football season go down the toilet.  That really is almost doing nothing.  I hope you can see the problem with this.

HOW YOU REALLY LOSE FAT

The real – tried and true – way to lose fat is to be in a calorie deficit.  We’ve all heard it, but I’ll add the caveat that you need to be eating real foods too.  No processed shit, including protein bars and other “health foods”.  I added that caveat because processed foods contain chemicals that you shouldn’t be consuming on the reg, plus they tend to jack up your insulin levels promoting fat storage rather than fat loss.

SO HOW DO YOU CREATE A CALORIE DEFICIT?

By coupling eating less, exercising and adding muscle.  Your head probably looks like one of those Jet commercials.

Like I went over in the diet post aim for about 13 calories per pound of bodyweight to start and over time lower that until you reach 10 calories per pound.  Don’t go too low or drop calories too quickly because your metabolism will adjust just like it does with fuel sources.  Crafty devil isn’t it?

Too little calories = slow metabolism = no fat loss=no one likes you (JK… or am I?).

You don’t need to go full on retard at the gym either by doing every exercise and running for 37 miles everyday.  I’ll leave it up to Sweet Brown to tell you what I think of that.

Start slow, and when it gets easy; add more weight, more reps or more sets.

Your muscle mass plays a roll in how fast your metabolism is working.  Muscle is that sports car you’ve always wanted.  Looks nice but expensive to own.  The cost of muscle is in calories rather than cash money (records).  Calories maintain the muscle.  So the more muscle you have- the faster, in theory, your metabolism is.  I say in theory because there are multitude of different internal components that affect your metabolism like your thyroid function.

Exercise, adding muscle and diet are how you create a calorie deficit to get in the real fat burning zone.

BETTER WAY TO SLIM DOWN

Instead of walking on a treadmill for 20-30 minutes which is about as entertaining as watching glass flow.  I’d rather optimize my time and get the most bang for my buck because I got shit to do, and so do you.

Let’s look as better examples that will burn more calories and help you on your fat loss journey.

What we are looking for is to burn more calories per minute than walking does which is about 2.5.  Guys, there is nothing good that can come from that puny number unless there is millions or billions after it.  I think you all catch my drift.

To burn more than 2.5 calories per minute – that eliminates sitting and doing nothing, everything else is fair game.

So skip the treadmill walking for 20-30 minutes and do 15 minutes of running/jogging or if you have a hard-on for walking, put the incline up to 5-6% and walk for 15-20 minutes.  That is a really good way to work up a sweat and catch up on SportsCenter.  Multitasking like a boss.

Even less time?  Then do some HIIT for 10 minutes.

Here is what I do, every minute – starting at 1 minute on an elliptical- I’ll go as fast as I can for 20-30 secs (start at 20, don’t be a hero) then I walk or jog until the next minute.  Rinse, lather, repeat until I get 10 bursts in.  If you can breathe after that you have my ultimate respect.

Or you can do a favorite of mine and do some walking lunges for 10 minutes straight.  You can only stop to throw up or to flex for that girl (or dude) across the gym.  Believe me they see how rugged you are.

Not only will you be breathing heavy, your heart will be exploding out of your chest and your legs will be en fuego.

No time for cardio but still want to maximize fat loss?  Then cut your rest periods down to 30 secs or do your entire workout as a circuit.  And you still have time to flex for that girl cause she’s still eyeing you.  Such a stud.

I’d love to hear from you:

Do you have a favorite cardio workout I didn’t mention?

Did you actually stop mid set, pop a flex for that girl and then continue on?

If you liked this article, hell if you hated it share it through various social medias on the left or below.  The more you share, the more other people will see it and you guys can bash it together.  

Dave

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9 thoughts on “The Fat Burning Zone:  Media Myth or Too Legit To Quit?

  1. Love me some stairmaster… can “walk” for 15 minutes and be dripping in sweat….

    Also started doing deadlifts for cardio… 20 reps, pace for 2 min, 20 reps… repeat for 5 cycles… definitely sweating it out

  2. Thanks for reading and I’m 100% with you. If I have the time I wouldn’t mind the long walks/runs but most of the time I don’t.

  3. I worded it poorly. I do 20 reps as fast as i can keeping form, then jog in place or pace around for 2 min, then do another 20, rinse and repeat… basically an extended HIIT but using deadlifts instead of sprints.

    This came out of my twisted way to try and rehab/prepare for heavier deadlifts. Every time I go to 1 RM i can’t bend over for a day or two, no matter how strict i am on form. I might be way off, but my hypothesis is it comes from my legs still being able to lift heavy, but having not done serious deadlifts for a while, my back atrophied so now i throw it out every time. So I reset my 1 RM to 135 and i’m building up no more than 20 lbs a week… Hoping when i get back up to 460, my lower back will be caught up…

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