Is Your Fat-Burning Furnace Fired Up--or Fizzling Out?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/3/2013 6:00 AM   :  98 comments   :  200,456 Views

See More: fitness, weight loss,
Whether you're trying to lose or few pounds or maintain your current weight, most exercisers are interested in "burning fat" during their workouts. Of course, the fat-burning benefits of exercise vary based on when and what you last ate, what type of workout you're doing, how hard you're pushing—and countless other factors. On top of that, you've probably heard a lot of conflicting advice about what types of exercises burn the most fat. But I believe fitness professionals can all agree on one thing: The more calories you can burn, the more body fat you will lose. So what can you do to burn more calories and get the results you want?

Today I'll share three simple things you can do to accelerate your workout fat burning, along with three other "techniques" you should avoid.

For three of my top tips to burn more fat during your workouts, check out this short video.

The keys there are to get yourself to work harder, which ultimately burns more calories and fat. Whenever you can work harder without perceiving your workouts as being intense, you'll be even better off! That's why tricks like listening to music or picking fun workouts really pay off.

So what shouldn't you do? Here are three commonly advised strategies that may sound like sage advice--but are only going to hurt your weight-loss efforts.
  1. DON'T "Exercise in the fat-burning zone." The fat-burning zone is—shockingly—still a very common workout mode on cardio machines. It is programmed to keep you working at a low heart-rate (intensity) level because at low-energy levels your body uses more fat as fuel. That's is true in theory, but in practice it doesn't work out so well. When it comes to weight loss it does not matter where the calories you burn come from, whether glucose in the bloodstream from a recent meal you ate or stored body fat. What really matters is that you burn as many calories as possible regardless of the source of those calories. And what burns more calories? Working harder (hence my tip from the video above).
     
  2. DON'T "Exercise on an empty stomach." It is NOT true that exercising on an empty stomach will cause your body to burn more fat. This is a continuation of what I explained above, that the source of the energy you burn doesn't matter when it comes to weight loss. And in many cases, if you are hungry and forcing yourself to work out without eating something first—simply to burn more fat—you are only shortchanging yourself. Your body needs energy to be available for optimal exercise, especially if you want to work hard, which really burns the most calories (and, subsequently, fat). When you're low on fuel (energy), you can't work as hard or as long and your workout suffers along with your calorie burn.
     
  3. DON'T "Lift light weights for lean muscles." Perhaps one of the best things you can do to unleash your body's fat-burning potential is strength training. And I do believe that any strength training is better than nothing, even if it's lightweight. But the idea that lifting light weights is going to give you better results or "smaller" muscles is only a half truth. Sure, without lifting heavier you will probably not get much stronger. But stronger doesn't mean "bigger" (very important!) and the less strength you have, the fewer calories you are burning while you read this blog, while you run and while you do just about anything.

    Muscle can help elevate your metabolism, and lifting weights to fatigue can also burn some serious calories—even after your workout ends. Not to mention that during weight loss, about 25% of the "weight" you lose could actually be lean tissue like muscle. Over time, that can wreak havoc on your metabolism and fat-burning potential. So pick up those weights at least twice a week and don't fear getting stronger. You'll cut that muscle loss that often accompanies weight loss in half, and it will only make your fitter, slimmer and healthier.

Do you currently follow any of these fat-burning tips?  Are you guilty of any of the mistakes? Share your favorite method for burning more fat with us below!





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Comments

  • 98
    Remember, muscle burns fat even at rest. - 8/31/2014   2:41:49 PM
  • 97
    I was doing ST first for fear of being too tired after cardio to get it done. Will now do cardio first to see if ig improves tjibgs fof me. Thank you for sharing this! - 5/29/2014   11:12:38 AM
  • SCHEI27FITNESS
    96
    thanks for sharing this article Nicole so i have saved this for future reference. I know people are different but i have to eat before and after my workouts(strengh and cardio) ,since they are long. Because of my weight and height,it takes me awhile to burn alot of calories. From my expierence on working out on a growling stomach,I ran of energy during my workout. For me,I would never never ever workout on an empty stomach. I take something healthy and portable like almonds with me to the gym. - 4/7/2014   7:55:30 PM
  • PREMAMEHROTRA
    95
    I work out in the morning - 2 to 3x a week at 630am when I am running and 3x a week at 7am with my trainer using weights, etc. I have never been able to eat in the morning before I exercise. I will try on Sunday when I am doing a long run to see the effect. Thanks for the article and enjoyed reading the feedback from the others. - 1/21/2014   1:52:54 AM
  • REMAREIS
    94
    Thanks - 1/20/2014   8:58:34 AM
  • 93
    My workout consisted of time on the eliptical and treadmill followed by strength training. That increased strength in my legs came in handy when I had a serious back injury and was forced to use a walker for the first time in my life. If it wasn't for the strength in my legs, especially my upper thighs, I would have been struggling to get out of chairs, and would have needed more help to get around. I am now working to regain and increase the strength in my body since inactivity leads to musle loss. I did it once and know that I can become a strong person again. I will always have strength training as part of my workout. - 1/19/2014   10:23:49 PM
  • HEALTHY2BNOW
    92
    Thanks for this advice. Wonderful. - 1/19/2014   8:49:53 PM
  • TUFFEEB4
    91
    I am on track, already doing these things, thank you! - 1/19/2014   7:46:39 PM
  • 90
    Good tips! Thanks, Nicole! - 1/19/2014   9:19:53 AM
  • 89
    I have to say I was doing some things that were probably hindering my weight loss. Thank you for the tips. - 1/19/2014   9:02:37 AM
  • 88
    Great advice - 11/10/2013   4:04:18 AM
  • DELLMEL
    87
    Great blog - 11/9/2013   8:49:38 AM
  • 86
    Yes It's very Important to eat before you workout and do cardio before anything else. - 11/1/2013   9:44:14 AM
  • 85
    Great tips!
    I always have to have something before I work out. I'm not a morning person & not a big breakfast person, so it's usually just something small. If I don't I start getting dizzy & seeing stars and have to stop completely....
    When I first started again I was all about the 'Fat Burning Zone', but now have moved into the Cardio settings on the elliptical.
    And I completely agree with you on the music thing.....Load up a good playlist and you don't even notice the time flying bye! Another good tip, related to music, is to try and update your playlist every once in a while to switch it up. I get bored of music pretty fast though... - 10/4/2013   1:44:47 PM
  • 84
    I have a cup of green tea while I get dressed, then drink 8 oz 15 gram protein/ fruit drink. This works well for energy, no heavy food in the stomach. When I finish my workout I wait about an hour to unwind then I have my fruit salad and get on with my day! - 8/21/2013   1:18:21 PM
  • GOODMILA
    83
    thx great to know - 7/14/2013   5:33:16 PM
  • 82
    Well, it's good to know I'm following all the tips. I find it difficult to eat before working out. I do my exercise early in the morning (5:30 or 6am) before work, and eat breakfast at work. I just don't like to wo after eating, as I usually feel sick if I do.
    - 5/28/2013   10:34:28 PM
  • TSHIRT24H
    81
    I have been tryting to eat breakfast! I have been guilty of not and execrcising ! Eating seems to give me more energy to do things anyway! - 5/3/2013   12:09:48 PM
  • 80
    Thanks for the list of don't some of them I never even thought about. - 4/24/2013   4:31:17 PM
  • 79
    need to work on thes - 4/11/2013   1:03:23 AM
  • 78
    Great article. Thank u. I do elliptical workout 5 days a week, with a 10 minut warm up and cool down, and 10 minutes of interval elliptical sandwiched in between. Its a great workout. I am up to 2.5 miles in 30 minutes with this.
    i also do 3 different upper body exercises with 5 lb weights, 3 sets of 10 reps, 2-3 days weekly. I am trying to build up some upper body strength that i am losing with age, as i am in my mid 50's. - 4/7/2013   1:14:14 PM
  • 77
    I have never eaten before my morning exercise. I wake up change into my work out clothes, head down to the lower level and do my work out. Could be the treadmill, the bike, work out to a DVD, but I always work out for at least 30 minutes. Then during the day there may be trail walking and/or hiking and taking stairs. So I suppose I should look at eating something first and see if doing that gives my weight lose a boost. - 4/5/2013   10:13:45 AM
  • 76
    I just recently started eating a healthy "snack" before my am workout. Usually a yogurt with 2 TBSP of chopped walnuts in it. When I first started Spin classes it took me a long time to start sweating but once I "fueled" my body, it was easy to do. Gotta keep stoking the furnance to get it to burn efficiently. - 4/4/2013   4:52:09 PM
  • KMSMSH
    75
    Exercise for fitness (and health), eat for nutrition, weight control and health. If you are having trouble losing weight even though your calorie intake is as needed, consider what you are eating. Is it real food? By switching to real food close to it's natural form, so mostly veggies, fruit, and very little animal food, no processed carbs and sugars, and removing added fat from the diet, I helped my husband lose 20 lbs in a couple of months. It's not a "diet" it's a lifestyle. Most of us are addicted to what I call fake foods, non-nutritious calories. We are misinformed (lied to) with the food pyramid, telling us to eat in a way that is unhealthy. Think about it. It's not that hard to change to eating almost all you want of very low calorie, very high nutrition foods and it is very satisfying to break the addiction of sugar, carbs, fat, and low nutrition foods. - 4/4/2013   1:36:08 PM
  • 74
    Thanks - 4/4/2013   12:52:24 PM
  • 73
    I love that "Don't fear getting stronger!" SO true. After just a couple weeks of doing squats and other dumbbell/bands/machine-free strength training, I realized it was easier to get up after playing on the floor with my girls, and easier to pick them up... and easier to carry them and groceries at the same time... just any kind of day-to-day activities that shouldn't have been terribly hard in the first place. But you definitely have to keep it up. I let those calisthenics go after the week we spent at the hospital, and very quickly it's gotten harder to do those day-to-day things again. If it's possible to get TOO strong... I haven't found it. Thanks always, Coach Nicole! - 4/4/2013   9:40:25 AM
  • 72
    Okay so now I am totally confused...... I have been doing an hour on the treadmill every day since 2/17/13 and the first month I lost 9 lbs and the trainer at the gym recommended to up the treadmill to "fat burner" which doubles calories burned....I have switched to doing treadmill 1 hour 3 days in a row and then 1 day strength training and repeat; been doing this for 3 weeks and have only lost 1 lb !!!! I have been logging my food now, every bite and balancing calories for 326 days straight and have only lost 42 lbs. Not sure where to go now and how to fix before I get frustrated..... any suggestions? - 4/4/2013   9:03:39 AM
  • DRUM-MAJOR
    71
    Short, sweet and to the point! Thanks for the 3 quick and easy advice!! Very helpful! I will incorporate your suggestions! - 4/4/2013   8:04:56 AM
  • 70
    Bless you Nicole. Wonderful information. Do not listen to the negative comments. If something doesn't ring true, people need to check it out and decide for themselves. "my sister said something different" Then check it out or decide which to follow. Keep on keepin' on Nicole! - 4/4/2013   7:35:11 AM
  • 69
    I once did an intense workout without eating breakfast - and passed out at the gym. won't ever do THAT again. scary.

    As for fat burn - well - I let exercise take care of that. I switched my mindset from exercising to lose weight to exercising to live long and actively - now I don't have to push myself to workout at all. some things really do get better with age. - 4/4/2013   6:41:15 AM
  • 68
    I'm not hungry in the morning, right now my cardio is walking 3-5 miles. I eat afterwards. - 4/4/2013   6:26:48 AM
  • 67
    I don't exercise at this time. This is one of my goals. It always seems to take a back seat to the rest of my life. I have lost 85 lbs which but I don't really like the look of my body. I need to get this going. I never knew there are different types of exercise much less which should be done first. It's nice to get a bit of information to encourage me to get started. - 4/4/2013   3:37:36 AM
  • 66
    I like doing my strength after the cardio. I believe the benefits and the longer calorie burn. It also takes care of 2 birds with one workout session. Thanks for all the great information. I normally use 5lbs weights when I do upper body and I swapped out a couple of times this week to lighter but I guess the 5lbs are better. - 4/4/2013   12:58:03 AM
  • 65
    For those worried about exercising on an empty stomach: It's not good or bad to do so. It's about individual preference. The point is that you won't "burn more fat" on an empty stomach... so there's no benefit to doing so. However, some people do better if they eat breakfast before exercising. Others get upset stomachs or can't function well. I'm a little of both. ;) If I'm doing an intense exercise for an hour or more, I have to have something before (usually liquid, like a protein shake.) But if I am doing a light workout, I don't like to eat.

    It's okay to not eat until after, you won't hurt yourself. It's about knowing your body and its needs. But don't fall for the "I should work out on an empty stomach because I'll burn more fat and lose more weight" myth. - 4/3/2013   12:55:54 PM
  • 64
    I exercise at 4 in the morning,and don't eat until a slim-fast shake at 8. i only loose about a pound a week, but i wish I could burn more. perhaps eating before I work out will help boost my metabolisim? - 4/3/2013   12:25:03 PM
  • JGMARIE80
    63
    I was guilty exercising in the fat burning zone. Now I exercise to burn more calories and lose weight. I work hard. Sometimes I exercise on an empty stomach, sometimes I don't. It depends if I 'm hungry. I drink a lot of water when I exercise . Thanks for the tips on the video. - 4/3/2013   12:07:21 PM
  • 62
    I think these are all pretty good reminders/tips. Seems like whether or not to eat breakfast before the workout has generated a lot of conversation. I prefer to have something light, such as a banana or yogurt if I workout early in the morning--almost like a morning snack. After the workout, I will go on and have a full breakfast (if its the weekend) or a light breakfast if I'm at work. I particularly like the tip about not just using the light weights. It would take ages for me to bulk up, so I'm fine with pushing myself to the limit with weights and want to increase my overall strength as much as possible. - 4/3/2013   11:19:53 AM
  • 61
    Your tips bring Zumba to mind, an intense, music filled, fun workout! I love it. - 4/3/2013   10:57:50 AM
  • 60
    I usually do cardio before breakfast, empty stomach. Is that not good? - 4/3/2013   10:14:40 AM
  • 59
    How much cardio should you do before strength training? I'm getting conflicting answers on this. And thanks for the tips! - 4/3/2013   9:53:50 AM
  • 58
    I have been with spark since 2009 and lost and gained. Right now I am in the gain and I truly feel it is because my knees are just wearing out. I so enjoyed spin and now can't do that. I know when I get the knee replacement it will be better, but I don't think I will ever be able to push the way I used to for the fat burning.

    Does more minutes at the slower pace make up for higher intensity fat burning? - 4/3/2013   9:42:15 AM
  • CHETTY90
    57
    I do follow the tips mention above, but the only thing which has bothered me is i work out on empty stomach, kindly suggest is working out early morning with empty stomach right way of excersizing??? I am highly inspired by this website and i walking for 01hour in morning and do perform yoga on empty stomach please advice appropriate method or excersizng. - 4/3/2013   9:15:49 AM
  • 56
    After reading coach Nicole's strategies for fat burning, I do feel I follow these tips pretty closely. At times I wish I could lift a heavier weight, but right now I can do 12 lbs with good form and do lots of reps which I think is important too because you want to fatigue the muscles. I can feel a burn so I must be doing something right? Also, I recently purchased some Bob Harper and Amy Dickson workout dvd's that would knock the socks off of anyone even your advanced athlete. So for now I think I am doing ok in the exercise category, but still need to work harder in the eating category. I believe that no matter how hard you work out, if you throw it all away by eating badly, then you won't achieve those results you are looking for! Thanks again coach Nicole for sharing valuable weight loss tips with us! - 4/3/2013   8:08:44 AM
  • CETORT
    55
    Hello. I would love for know what you think of products like raspberry ketone to reduce pounds. I'm about to start using. I've been looking for some information and if anyone is interested this is a blog I found
    fattlosss.blogspot.com/ - 3/6/2013   5:07:34 AM
  • 54
    I have yet to figure out how to eat something BEFORE I exercise (first thing in the morning), plus manage my calories for the day so that I am not hungry. I eat breakfast around 6, a banana around 9:30, lunch around noon, a granola bar around 2:30 and dinner around 6. The big meals with those snacks take me to my limit. - 6/16/2012   8:47:27 AM
  • MATHOTAKU
    53
    Vicky - on the rare occasions I work out first thing in the morning, I usually have a slice of bread with some peanut butter, a granola bar, or a banana. Just enough to keep my stomach from gnawing at my back mid-workout - eating a full meal that early doesn't agree with me either! - 6/11/2012   11:08:28 AM
  • 52
    People just need to try different things until they find what's best for them. There really isn't a one size fits all physical fitness philosophy. Everyone is different. For me personally, circuit training works the best for me. It keeps my energy up and I feel great when I'm done, whether I've eaten anything or not. It's a matter of time. I'm not getting up an extra 45 minutes to let my food digest before working out before work in the morning. - 6/5/2012   11:49:42 PM
  • 51
    This is a great article. One question though. I am an early morning workout person. I get up at 5am to do my workouts. It says not to workout on an empty stomach, but I do not really want to have a meal that early in the am. Ideas?? - 6/5/2012   7:55:44 PM
  • PRAIRIEGAL5
    50
    i do enjoy reading the helpful tips on here. now i just need to somehow get to teh spark points page id be ok got another computer adn i am sort of lost .need togetto tehstrt page nandthisisharder tousethoscomputerth tholdonebut had problemswtihti. - 6/5/2012   5:40:43 PM
  • HEALTHYBOOMER
    49
    I must say, this article has sure generated a lot of comments! I disagree with the idea that there is one way for everyone. Anyone who says that one specific plan works for every body has not worked with very many bodies. Everyone is different, and what each person needs varies. For instance, I also do my work-out first thing in the morning and there's no way that I can eat before. Whether you should eat before or after depends on the type of work-out that you're doing, what time of day you are doing it and for how long. And to answer Eric 1965, yes, using your body as weight absolutely is strength training. Push-ups, Pull ups, Squats with weights (even soup cans work) and you don't need special equipment. I work with people of all ages, sizes and shapes and what works for one does not always for another. My suggestion would be that if you are doing something that is working for you, DON"T change it because someone else says it doesn't work! - 6/5/2012   4:29:35 PM

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