If you’ve spent any amount of time on a treadmill, elliptical, or other boring piece of workout equipment, you’ve probably had plenty of time to study every button and light on the display.
Ever notice the one that says “Fat Burn”? It’s a pretty tempting one. Pushing it gives you a nice, steady, low-intensity workout. The button’s name comes from the fact that your body burns fat first while you’re in this low-intensity zone.
Sounds great, right? Relatively Easy Workout + Fat Burn = Success!
The only problem is, it’s not 100% true.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a typical 30-minute workout breaks down like this:
At Low Intensity (50% of maximum): 200 Calories Burned, 120 of them from Fat (60%)
At High Intensity (75% of maximum): 400 Calories Burned, 140 of them from Fat (35%)
As you can see, the low-intensity workout does burn a higher percentage of fat, but you actually burn more calories from fat overall working at a higher intensity.
It’s also important to remember that while burning fat sounds great, burning calories is the key to weight loss. You lose weight when you burn more calories than you consume.
All of that said, low-intensity workouts aren’t useless. Experts from ACE tell U.S. News and World Report that many people who are overweight are more comfortable doing low-intensity workouts. If you’re not up to the high-intensity stuff, go with what’s comfortable and plan to add some high-intensity bursts as you get stronger. Just keep in mind you’ll need to work out longer to burn the calories.
It’s also important to remember adding variety to your workouts (some low-impact, some high, some resistance training, some stretching, etc.) is a great way to keep yourself from getting overly bored with your routine and keep your muscles from getting accustomed to one particular activity.
Want to see more from ACE on successfully burning fat during your workout? Check out their Fat Burning: Fat vs. Fiction video on YouTube: