In my previous blog, I discussed the myth surrounding “fat burning” exercise techniques. Previous articles and discussions have debunked the other multitude of myths surrounding the “secret” to burning fat including fat burning pills, foods, exercise belts, drinks etc. Bottom line- they do not work! To truly understand how our body burns fat, we must look at the physiology of exercise, how our body uses fat as a fuel and when this will most likely occur.
First of all, fat is a primary source of “fuel” for the body. We use fat for energy thoughout the day. Sleeping, walking, driving, exercising, all use fat as fuel, but in various “amounts” depending on the intensity of the activity. Our bodies store excess calories,whether those calories are from fat, protein or carbohydrates, as fat, and deposit this excess in our fat stores throughout our body- usually in places we don’t like to see it, like under the skin, but also, internally- and this is bad news as this increases our risk for all kinds of diseases. And, to further infuriate us, we cannot CHOOSE where the fat is burned from. Performing biceps curls does not burn the fat over the biceps. Spot reducing is a myth!
In order to burn fat, the body needs an adequate supply of oxygen- so any activity where you are NOT significantly out of breath will burn fat. Of course, the total amount of fat burned sitting in a chair is obviously miniscule compared to the fat we would burn walking, so, exercise and effort are required!
Finally, how well we burn fat is affected by many different, complex factors including:
Our cardiovascular fitness level- the fitter you are, the easier you burn fat.
Our ratio of muscle to fat- the more muscle you have, the more energy you expend each day.
Our genetics- some bodytypes store fat easily, others do not. Some store fat in the legs and hips, others evenly throughout the body.
Our hormones- determine how, where and when we store fat. Some are under our control- others, such as the reproductive hormones, are not.
AND FINALLY, our nutrition- excess amounts of food are stored as fat. If we consume more calories than we expend, we will get fat storage. For some people, excess amounts of refined carbohydrates will be stored as fat very easily. This is called “syndrome x” and is currently being studied by medical researchers. In this population, excess amounts of carbohydrates cause pancreatic hormones to be released, encouraging fat storage and discouraging the release of fat from fat stores.
The bottom line is that good, intense exercise and healthy nutrition comprised of low levels of refined carbohydrates and bad fats (versus omega 3 fatty acids) and healthy amounts of lean proteins. The majority of clients who have difficulty accessing fat stores either under exercise, or over eat- so both of these issues need to be adressed at the SAME time to most effectively lose excess bodyfat.