In my last article I wrote about what calories are, in this one, I will explain what happens when we burn calories and fat. We hear and use the expression “burning calories” and “burning fat” all the time, but how many of you actually know what this means?
We know that we burn calories when we exert ourselves.
We know if we consume more than we burn, we will get fat.
But, when you ask people what actually happens in your body when you burn calories or fat, you will often be met with a blank stare.
When you lose weight, where does the lost body fat go?
In short, it helps to remember that fat is basically stored energy in your body. During the day when you are moving about, or even at rest, your body converts fat to usable energy for your muscles and other tissues through a series of complex metabolic processes. This causes your fat cells to shrink. These metabolic processes generate heat, which helps maintain your body temperature, and waste products. These waste products are water and carbon dioxide, which are excreted in your urine and sweat or exhaled from your lungs.
Are these two women burning calories or are they burning fat?
Is there a difference between these terms?
This is a simple fact for all of us, to lose weight and get in shape you have to commit yourself to maintaining a good diet coupled with regular exercise in order to burn that unsightly body fat. The first thing you must comprehend about a physical fitness regimen is that just because you are burning through calories, it does not mean you are burning fat. It takes about twenty minutes of moderate exercise for your body to get into the fat burning stage. You will not burn even an ounce of fat until you have exhausted your glycogen stores. If you want your exercise to be meaningful to your overall health, your main focus when you exercise should on burning body fat. You simply can’t lose body fat just from burning calories.
When we exercise, for it to have much benefit we must get our heart rate into the fat burning zone for a minimum of twenty minutes before we start burning body fat for energy. Of course our bodies will start burning calories from the start, however the calories we burn are from the carbohydrates in our system.
For weight loss, it is not enough to just burn through calories alone!
In order to burn calories from your body fat stores, your body requires the presence of oxygen. There is a certain amount of oxygen that your body needs in order to start burning fat and the only way for you to measure the amount needed for your own body is to keep up with your target heart rate during exercise. We have seen on more than a couple of weight loss sites where they allow their clients to figure into their caloric needs the calories burned through activities such as cleaning house. Unless you are huffing and puffing when pushing your vacuum cleaner around your house, these calories burned are pretty insignificant towards losing body fat. It irritates me to no end that these businesses who promote this actually do know, or damn well should know, this kind of calorie burn is next to meaningless. If pushing a vacuum cleaner did not help their clients to never gain weight, this activity is not going to help them lose that weight either.
Understand this, if you only burn calories from carbohydrates, you will lose almost exclusively “water weight”, this actually leads to a decrease in your metabolism instead of an increase.
When you begin an exercise regimen of any type your diet and exercise become a balancing act. The calories burned from carbohydrates are your energy calories. You must manage your caloric intake when you are on an exercise program to replace your burned energy calories. A common mistake that people make is when they reduce their caloric intake too far. They manage to slow down their metabolism when they actually need to increase it. This is why we advise to adjust your daily intake of calories for only a one to two pound maximum of weight loss per week. If you need to lose faster than this, you really should consider doing so only under the supervision of a doctor.
Burning Fat Calories during Exercise
When we exercise, our body goes through a few stages before it reaches the point where we are actually burning body fat. For the most part, you are only burning sugar (carbohydrates) and little to no fat during about the first 20 minutes of exercise. You have to get your heart rate into the fat burning zone past the 20 minute mark if you want to burn fat. And, you must increase your intake of oxygen in order to burn that fat. If you are not working out hard enough for your body to want more oxygen, or conversely, if you are working out too hard, you can’t supply your body with enough oxygen for fat burning.
When you do cardio exercise, you must move at a steady pace so your body will utilize your stored fat as its energy source. You must also bear in mind that once you have reached the fat burning stage, it does not necessarily mean you will stay there. Remaining in the fat burning zone depends on you moving at a pace that is right for your body. Make sure that you are within your target heart rate range.
If you can speak easy, your heart rate needs to increase.
If you can carry on a labored conversation, you are in the fat burning zone.
If you cannot speak, you have gone anaerobic and need to slow down your pace as you are no longer burning fat because of a lack of oxygen to your muscles.
Burning Fat Calories at Rest
Could burning fat while at rest be any better of an option?
Sounds like a fantastic idea for the lazy among us I would guess. However, in order to burn fat while at rest comes from paying your dues to the resistance exercise, weight training either with weights or your body weight.
The way for you to continue to burn fat calories at rest takes effort beforehand. This is possible through the anaerobic exercise of weight training.
Weight training is the key to burning fat at rest.
Weight training is an anaerobic activity that will cause you to burn more calories than aerobic exercise.
The calories that you burn during a weight training session are mostly calories from carbohydrates. However, the calories you burn at rest afterwards are mostly from fat. The scientific and biological reason you are burning fat at rest after weight training is because it increases your metabolism which uses your stored fat as energy. When you boost your metabolism at rest, you will be more efficient at burning fat calories.
How is this possible?
Muscles grow through protein synthesis, which is one of the most energy consuming processes in the cell . If you’re building muscles, it is not just the workout itself but also the growth of muscles that consumes energy and burns calories. Additionally, muscle tissue is metabolically more active and burns more calories than fat tissue. The more muscles you have, the bigger your resting energy expenditure, which means that your body burns more calories and fat “while doing nothing”.
Live well, Be Well!
Do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone!