If you use any of the cardio equipment at the gym, you've probably used its built in fat burning program. Before you get too excited about all the fat you're going to lose, you should know why these types of programs aren't the best idea for getting toned or even losing weight.
Just as a flex fuel vehicle has the ability to use traditional gasoline or ethanol to power its engine, the body can use three types of nutrients for energy: fat, carbohydrates and protein.
The fuel your body burns during physical activity largely depends on the circumstances your body is in at the time as well as what your last meal was composed of. If you eat a meal high in fat right before exercising, your body will burn more fat. If you eat a meal high in sugar, your body will use more sugar for energy.
Your body will also burn different fuels depending on certain conditions it’s facing. If you eat very little, your body will begin to breakdown muscle protein for energy. If you are working out at a very high intensity (over 85% of your max heart rate) your body will burn carbohydrates for energy. If you work out at a lower intensity, your body will use more fat for energy.
Fat Burning Zone
This concept is what fat burning programs on cardio machines are based off of. When you work at a lower intensity, you burn more fat as opposed to other sources of fuel and the result is that you'll get better muscle definition, right? Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
Though it's true that when you workout at a lower intensity, you burn more fat, it's also true that at lower intensities, you burn less calories. If you’re trying to get a more toned body, lose weight or need your abs to start showing, at the end of the day, it’s about calories you burn not which type of fuel your body uses.
If you still aren't sold on this, consider the math. If during your fat burning program you use 200 calories, instead of 300 calories of various fuels at a higher intensity, (if all other variables remain the same) that’s 100 extra calories that your body holds onto at the end of the day. Everyday, any unused energy gets stored as fat. That extra 100 calories you didn't burn will be stored as fat.
Losing weight is about creating a big calorie deficit. The more calories you burn through exercise, the larger your deficit will be and the faster you'll lose weight, get toned and see your abs.
Fat burning programs are popular because they’re easier than more effective methods of working out and by using the term “fat burning” they’re making it sound as if you'll get toned a lot quicker by doing it. When you work harder, you will lose weight faster. Worry about how much, not what kind of fuel your body is using.