At some point in your life, you’ve probably engaged in exercise for the express purpose of losing weight or burning fat. How’d it go? Did it work? If it did, you know how much WORK you put in. If it didn’t, what happened?
I mean, you worked out more than ever! Treadmill, stairs, rower, elliptical… You’ve used them all. Maybe it’s genetics.
OR - (more likely) it’s the intensity you’ve been using.
De-bunking the Fat Burning Zone
You know that so-called Fat-Burning Zone? The magical zone that in which we’re told we can work out at a low intensity AND burn more fat?
That is actually NOT the zone you want to be in if you’re looking to burn fat and I’ll prove it to you.
At different intensities, your body gets energy from different places.
When you’re working at high intensities, the majority of your energy comes from carbohydrates.
When you’re working at low intensities, the majority of your energy comes from fat.
Burning a higher percentage of calories from fat sounded like a good solution and thus, the “Fat-Burning Zone” was born. But if we do the math, there is a better way...
Burn More Calories, Burn More Fat
When you work at such low intensities you’re hardly burning any calories. True, those calories are mostly fat calories. But it’s not much. You could be burning more calories. Wouldn’t you rather do that?
When you work at higher intensities, you may be using a higher percentage of calories from carbohydrates, but you’re still burning MORE TOTAL CALORIES and therefore MORE calories from fat in the process!
The key to burning more calories is working at a higher intensity. That means you want to get your heart rate up to at least 80% of your max heart rate, at least some of the time (more on that below).
We make this REALLY easy with our MyZone Training System. Myzone color-codes the training zones and calculates them for you automatically! No more math or guesswork! You just enter your age, gender, and weight once and the algorithm will adjust your max heart rate based on your fitness level.
With Myzone, doing high-intensity work means getting into the Yellow Zone. Each color in Myzone represents a different level of intensity (again, based on your heart rate). The Yellow Zone represents an effort equivalent to 80-89% of your max heart rate.
That might sound like a lot of work to maintain 80-89% of your max heart rate for a workout. But here’s the good news. You don’t have to!
What is HIIT?
HIIT is High-Intensity Interval Training and it is the #1 way to boost fat loss.
Sounds scary, but it isn’t! It’s actually MUCH more engaging than typical cardio where you pick a speed and have to go for nine hours just to burn off that ice cream you had last night.
A HIIT workout is made up of shorter, more intense intervals that alternate periods of higher intensity (WORK) with periods of lower intensity (REST). The best part is you can do it using almost any equipment: stationary bike, treadmill, rower, jump rope, etc. The options are endless!
An Example HIIT Workout:
Warm UP – 5 minutes
WORK – 60 seconds (to the yellow zone)
REST – 60 seconds, still moving, but trying to get your heart rate back down (to blue or green zone)
Repeat WORK + REST 5 times
Cool Down – 5 minutes
Why HIIT works so well
Ramping up the intensity burns more calories and throws your body out of its resting state more. The more your body is thrown off of its resting state, the more energy it has to use to get back. When you’re done working out, you’re (obviously) working at a lower intensity.
Now, pop quiz – what does your body use for energy at low intensities? FAT. You get this afterburn effect that lasts a few hours and you burn MORE calories.
The trick is that you have to get your heart rate up during the WORK! Shoot to get it up at least to 80%, or the yellow zone.
A HIIT workout can easily be 20 minutes or less and for optimal fat burning, I recommend you add it to your schedule 2-3x per week.
Go ahead! Give it a try and see how quickly your body starts burning more fat!