Fat Burning Zone Myth Busted

Myth #1: You have to be in the Fat Burning Zone to Lose The Stubborn Mommy Belly

 You’ve read it, heard it and even seen it on the elliptical machine at the gym: Fat Burning Zone. What does it mean anyway?  This just indicates that your heart rate should be within a special “zone”, or range, while exercising so that most of the calories being burned come specifically from fat!  That sounds awesome, doesn’t it?You think to yourself “ I want to lose fat from my belly and thighs so I am going to get my heart rate up and keep it in this ‘zone’ ” Unfortunately, this is slightly flawed and you will actually help your body store more fat than burn it!

While it’s true that the proportion of fat being used while exercising in the magical fat burning heart rate zone is greater than at higher intensities, it doesn’t give you the greatest benefit when your goal is to lose overall body fat.  Your goal should be to burn more calories, overall, which means during the exercise session itself and over the next 36 hours.  Here’s a chart to show you the difference between calories burned in a sample 30-minute exercise session. 

Low Intensity*

High Intensity**

200 Calories Burned

120 calories burned from fat

= 60% calories from fat

400 Calories Burned

140 calories burned from fat

=35% calories from fat

*=50% of max HR

**=75% of max HR

Chart from American Council on Exercise

 As you can see by the chart, just because you burned a greater percentage of calories from fat, it doesn’t mean you’ve burned the greatest amount of calories possible.  This example only considers the current exercise session without even mentioning the increased caloric burn over the next 36 hours or so when your body is revved up and trying to replenish energy stores.  That’s a topic for another day. 

So, if you’ve been on a never-ending treadmill run or elliptical route, than consider putting some blasts into your workout.  After an adequate warm up, try bursting for 20 seconds and then recovering, then burst for another 20 seconds and continue.   Make sure to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing the intensity.