Is the fat-burning zone really just a myth?

A Answers (6)

  • A , Internal Medicine, answered

    No and Yes (primarily yes, it is a myth). Technically, the charts you see at the gym and on exercise machines are correct: With a low heart rate, your body likes to fuel activity by using fat. When you work harder and your heart rate climbs, your body prefers the quicker energy hit of any sugar lying around in your system.

    But that doesn't mean that keeping your heart rate low for 30 minutes will make you slimmer than if you had pumped things up for 30. Quite the opposite! You incinerate more calories per minute -- that's what melts pounds -- when your heart rate is high.  So, up the intensity and keep that heart rate high for at least 30 minutes and if you can (and your doctor gives you the A-OK) go as fast as you can for at least a minute every 10 minutes during your work out.
    17 people found this helpful.
  • A Fitness, answered on behalf of
    Yes and no. There is a fat-burning zone; however, it is not what most people think it is. We do have an energy zone where the body uses mostly fat for fuel, however this zone requires a very low activity level, therefore it usually only occurs when you are sleeping. This “zone” burns very little overall calories – so even though you might be using more fat for fuel, you are not burning many calories. The “myth” behind the fat burning zone is that low level activity, such as light walking, uses more fuel from fat than carbohydrates in your body. However, this is not the case. Even with light exercise, your body uses a fairly equal combination of fat and carbohydrate to fuel the exercise. However, you are not burning many calories during this light activity and therefore, you may not reach your daily caloric deficit needed to lose fat. Zone training is an excellent method of cardiovascular training to burn calories and reach your fitness and performance goals, however, in order to burn fat – you need to burn more calories each day than you eat. Talk with a fitness professional about different cardio training zones and what zones you should be training in to reach your fat loss goals. 
    3 people found this helpful.
  • A , Fitness, answered
    No. However, the concept of the fat-burning zone being the place where you will burn the most fat is misleading. You will either use a higher percentage of fat for fuel or a lower percent of fat for fuel.

    At a low level of intensity, you're burning almost all fat for fuel. If that were working very well, we would all be lean. At low levels of exercise, as the fat-burning zone suggests, you still burn 60% of your fat for fuel. The problem is you burn so little fuel (calories) that a large percent of not much doesn't add up very fast. 

    On the other hand if you exercise at higher intensity levels you burn lower percent of fat for fuel. For example, you exercise moderate to vigorously and burn 40% fat for fuel. Overall, your caloric burn would be much higher. 
    So you can burn more total fat per minute or a higher percent of fat per minute. You can see in this illustration from You Still Got It, GIrl! The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women that more fat was burned in the higher intensity exercise. 

    Remember that there are other factors at play in fat burning too. Hormones are important. The best way to optimize fat burning and keep hormones in balance is do a variety of higher and lower intensity exercise regularly. Mix it up and keep it fun. 
  • Yes and no. The idea of the fat-burning zone was developed based on the fact that during certain intensities, the body utilizes more fuel from fat than it does from carbohydrates. Unfortunately, this is the case at LOWER levels of intensity. We could even say that we are burning a higher percentage of fat (than carbohydrates) when we are resting. However, the ultimate goal is to burn more calories, so crank up the intensity as high as you can tolerate!
    3 people found this helpful.
  • The myth of the fat burning zone stems from the fact that we are burning a higher percentage of calories from fat when we exercise at a low to moderate level, as opposed to more vigorous exercise. In fact, we are burning the highest percentage of calories from fat when we are at complete rest. However, with low to moderate exercise we are burning fewer total calories than with higher intensity work. Think of it this way: Would you rather have 100% of my salary, or 10% of Bill Gates salary?  It's the total number of calories that's important and not the percentage. To lose weight we must burn more total calories than we take in on a regular basis. The harder you are willing to work, the more total calories you'll burn and the faster you'll lose weight.
    8 people found this helpful.
  • There is such a thing as a fat-burning zone, however it is not what most people think it is. The fat-burning zone myth suggests that slower, or less intense activity, will burn more fat because the body would burn fat as fuel as opposed to other energy sources stored within our muscles. However, the truth is that less intense activity will burn less overall calories and result in less weight loss. Weight loss comes down to calories. Therefore, the more calories you can burn in the time you have to exercise, the better. So don't get stuck in the myth that less intense exercise or activity burns more fat, because it really doesn't. You will burn more calories doing higher intensity activity - and as a result burn more overall fat.
    11 people found this helpful.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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