Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

Fitness Articles  ›  Focused Fitness

The Best Fat-Burning Advice

Get the Facts to Burn the Fat

-- By Dean Anderson, Fitness & Behavior Expert
Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.
Wouldn’t it be great if all the fat-burning secrets you see in magazine ads and TV infomercials actually worked? If sauna suits, cellulite-shrinking creams, herbal wraps, and pills designed to “boost metabolism and melt fat away” did what they claim to, obesity would be a thing of the past.

But they don’t work. And neither do any of those exercise gadgets that promise to reduce the fat in your fill-in-the-blank problem area (i.e. belly, hips or thighs). That’s just not how your body operates. You probably know by now that the only healthy way to lose fat (and keep it from finding you again) is to spend more energy on physical activity than you take in from food. That takes a combination of moderate calorie restriction and increased physical activity–a healthy lifestyle, not a crash weight loss program or other magic gimmick.

But what about some of the less outrageous claims and advice about fat burning that are floating around? Can you burn more fat by exercising early in the morning, or on an empty stomach? Does building up a lot of muscle really make you burn a lot more calories even when you’re sitting still, making strength training more important than cardio? Will you lose more fat if you exercise at a lower intensity for a longer time?

We’ll take a look at each of these claims, and see how they stack up against the evidence that is currently available. Then we’ll put all this information together into an effective fat-burning strategy that will really work for you.

Exercising Early in the Morning

Fat-burning claim: Exercising first thing in the morning will force your body to use fat as fuel. Proponents of this claim say that while you’re sleeping overnight, your body is in a state of fasting that uses up most of the carbohydrates (stored as glycogen) that you ate during the day. Therefore, working out in the morning burns fat because fat is the only fuel available.

Fat-burning fact: Not true! Your body stores glycogen in two places: in your liver and muscle cells. When you sleep, your body turns to glycogen in the liver to keep your brain, nervous system, and other essential operations going while you’re not eating. Therefore, the stored carbohydrates in your liver will become depleted overnight. But remember how your muscles also store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen? This muscle glycogen can only be used by those muscle cells. So, unless you run a 10K race in your sleep, your overnight "fast" will not noticeably affect on your muscle glycogen. This is a good thing, because you’d never make it through the first few minutes of your morning exercise routine if you didn't have any muscle glycogen.
Continued ›
Page 1 of 4   Next Page › Return to main fitness page »

Related Content


Stay in Touch With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • BCLEMENT
    Are there really people that have 2 hours a day to spend exercising? Really? Do they have jobs? Do they have a life outside the gym? I'd love to know who has this kind of time, I'll consider a career change. - 5/5/2014 9:29:48 AM
  • DADKAJ
    Just adding a bit to the claim of exercising on an empty stomach or early morning: this has been found to be effective in switching metabolism towards fat burning in athletes, hence sparing some extra glycogen for endurance exercise. Therefore the exercise on empty stomach DOES help to burn more fat but this is of no real value to general public trying to lose weight. - 5/4/2014 4:48:41 AM
  • Love the way this article is written! It makes so much sense in writing....now, to apply the principles in day to day life..... THAT, my friend, is the challenge! - 10/10/2013 10:26:52 AM
  • Thanks for sharing - 9/26/2013 7:06:30 AM
  • PEACENCARROTS
    Glad I know fact from fiction now. - 9/19/2013 10:56:19 AM
  • I have questions and just noticed the comment just above. I want to save this article and share it. I am going to the message boards to ask how. Maybe someone else already has asked. Thank you for this article. - 5/12/2013 9:43:12 AM
  • Balance. It always comes back to that. - 5/12/2013 7:48:39 AM
  • Dean, thanks for this great article. I have had an idea about a few, but as you put it all in perspective it makes so much more sense. I really enjoyed learning more about this. - 4/22/2013 10:22:20 AM
  • PIPSYPOP
    Thank you for clarifying all these points. I appreciate the thoroughness. You have answered many of questions about my fitness routine. - 4/9/2013 11:09:44 PM
  • Really good article. Thank you! - 4/9/2013 9:56:48 PM
  • YOOVIE
    LMAO - 4/9/2013 4:48:20 PM
  • I love this article! It's so helpful. With all the information out there now, it can be difficult to decide which parts to digest and which parts to spit out.
    Thank You!
    ps...I would love to get my hands on that combination stepper/elliptica
    l tthat is pictured!
    Any suggestions? - 4/9/2013 3:54:30 PM
  • JGMARIE80
    Thanks for all the tips you have shared. Great info. - 3/27/2013 5:19:57 PM
  • I "liked" the article @ Facebook, but how do we share it? - any share button there? - 1/26/2013 8:02:11 PM
  • Great article! - 1/9/2013 1:06:56 AM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Treadmill: 8.5 mph (7 minutes per mile)  |  Treadmill: 10 mph (6 minutes per mile)  |  Treadmill: 5% Incline, 5 mph (12 minutes per mile)