The Skinny On The Fat-Burning Zone
Exercise has a sweet spot?known as the fat burning-zone. It?s the activity level at which your body burns the greatest proportion of fat. However, the idea is frequently taken out of context, say Capital Region fitness specialists. If weight loss is your goal, the zone alone isn?t enough to get you there, they agree.
The best sign that you?re in the fat-burning zone is if you can speak easily, says Paul Arciero, a professor with Skidmore College?s Department of Health and Exercise Sciences. He studies how exercise and nutrition influence metabolism. If you?re too winded to converse, you?re not inhaling enough oxygen to keep burning fat, he says.
Our bodies convert fat into energy through a process called oxidation. As the heart rate increases, our cells consume less oxygen and produce more carbon dioxide, says Arciero, who measures test subjects? oxygen-carbon dioxide ratio at the cellular and ventilatory (breathing) levels. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220, he says.
Our cells burn the greatest percentage of fat during relatively gentle aerobic exercise (exercise that uses oxygen), Arciero says. Such steady aerobic exercise is also great for mental health because it releases endorphins ? natural pain killers that can produce euphoric feelings, he says. Aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging or swimming is also good for the circulatory system and blood vessels, he says.
However, it?s generally not the best route to optimizing weight and metabolism, he says. Because many people are overweight, scientists currently recommend interval training ? alternating between higher-intensity exercise and lower-intensity aerobic exercise, Arciero says. For instance, you could walk at a brisk pace for a period of time and then slow it down to a leisurely ?window shopping pace,? he says.
Gain your health professional?s permission, base your efforts on your own perception of intensity, and if you haven?t exercised, ease into it for two weeks, he advises. In between a five-minute warm-up and cool-down, you can fit four 30-second sprints, each followed by three to four minutes of recovery. Ideally, do this twice a week, he says.
?You?re pushing yourself to your maximum for that brief period of 30 seconds,? Arciero says.
How we eat is also important?for keeping our metabolisms humming. Ideally, you should consume 80 calories of quality protein every three hours, he says. Half your food intake should be fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains.
?If you want to lose weight Click Here, don?t worry about staying in the ?fat burning zone? because it?s often misunderstood,? advises personal trainer Brian Nunziato, owner of Synergy Fitness and Nutrition and manager of the Omni Fitness Center in Albany.
It?s preferable to think in terms of overall calories, he says. A calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise a gram of water one degree Centigrade.
?For fat and weight loss, it matters little whether the calories burned during exercise come from fat or carbohydrates; what matters most is the difference between the number of calories you expend and the number of calories you consume,? he says. ?If your goal is to lose weight and decrease your body fat percentage, high intensity exercise for a shorter duration will actually help you burn more calories in less time.?
Rather than spending hours working out, he says, you can engage in high intensity exercise, and ?you will not only burn more calories during your workout, but it will also boost your metabolism so you continue to burn fat while sitting at your desk or couch.?
It is ?simply not true? that there is some ?magic fat burning zone that will melt away a person?s body fat,? despite many claims that have been made, says exercise physiologist Scott Larsen of LifeWay Wellness, a Capital Region nutrition, fitness and lifestyle counseling program.
?The concept of the ?fat burning zone? is an enigma,? he says. ?The understanding of how we use fat during aerobic exercise has been identified, but misapplied, and more often used for hype, marketing campaigns and sales.?
The body primarily uses blood fat for energy at low exercise levels, intramuscular fat at medium exercise levels and carbohydrates at high exercise levels, he explains. High intensity exercise?may be inappropriate for those who are sedentary, obese or have heart or orthopedic issues, he says.
?For these populations, a lower-intensity aerobic exercise program that stresses progressively longer duration would be appropriate,? he says. ?In other words, burn more calories by extending exercise time, not intensity.?
Our bodies continue to burn energy at a slightly higher rate after each exercise session is through, he says. One way of capitalizing on this, he recommends, is exercising more often for shorter periods ? for instance, working out twice a day for half an hour instead of once a day for an hour.
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