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The Skinny on Fat Burning

The Skinny on Fat Burning

November 29, 2019

If you were given the option of a high-intensity workout or a fat-burning workout, which one would you choose?


If you’re like most people, it’s a no-brainer. A high-intensity workout sounds grueling and unrelenting; a fat-burning workout conjures up images of the sculpted, svelte results we long to achieve.


Of course we want to work out in our fat-burning zone!


The problem?


The fat-burning zone is as legit as the Twilight Zone.


And yet, there persists a nagging misconception that slow, steady-state aerobics leads to fat loss. This myth has spread far and wide in the exercise world. Some cardio equipment even features fat-burning settings, essentially encouraging us to ratchet down our pace with the empty promise that doing so will melt fat from our frame.


The truth is that you don’t burn a greater amount of fat exercising at a lower intensity.

You burn a greater percentage of fat exercising at a lower intensity. Fun fact…you actually burn the greatest percentage of your calories from fat during sleep.


However, with the more challenging workout, you’re burning far more total calories — and more fat calories overall.


And with the HR Zone 3 (70% - 80%) workout?  It does have an important place in building overall fitness, but in the context of "fat-burning" it has been mislabeled.  


The takeaway: Forget you ever heard the term “fat-burning zone.” Banish it from your vocabulary.


To maximize your fat loss, have a couple of your weekly workouts fall in the category of high intensity.  Then support those all out workouts with smartly timed active recovery and base building days. You’ll become stronger and more capable. You’ll sleep better, feel less stressed, have a lower resting heart rate and a higher energy level.


When you focus on improving your performance, everything else falls into place—and, ultimately, off your waist.


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The Skinny on Fat Burning



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Protect Your Heart, Part 1: Understanding Heart Rate Zones

February 12, 2019

Tis the season: hearts are everywhere. Chocolates and love notes aside, let’s use February to talk about how to protect your heart: and no, we don’t mean swiping left or sliding into DMs. Your heart is one of the most essential parts of your body, and the first step is understanding exactly how heart rate zones work.

Knowing your heart rate zones is a great first step in understand how hard you are working, and how your body is responding to your workout.  Your heart rate might be much different from the person next to you depending on age, gender, fitness level, and individual variations,and that’s ok.  A good start is to find YOUR Maximum Heart Rate, using this simple formula: 220 minus your age.  Once you have that figured out,every workout will fall into one of the 5 zones.

Zone 1 is you just existing. As you start the class and gradually warm up, you’ll find that your heart rate rises gradually as you get warmer and warmer, moving you into Zone 2.  Think about using Zone 2 during your warm up before the real work begins.  When doing a steady workout, you might have aimed for Zone 3 and stayed there for the duration if your time on the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike. HIIT workouts are going to demand frequent bursts into  Zone 4 and sometimes short ventures into Zone 5 before coming back down for a rest.  Hit that interval hard, take abreather as your heart rate comes down, then get ready for more intervals working back into these high zones.

As you get into the workout and work your way into these high zones, pay attention to your breathing, the pounding of your heart,the searing in your muscles.  Listen to what your body is telling you, and push yourself into that zone that is just gets you uncomfortable.  

The great news is that HIIT workouts are great for your heart and body!  Like revving the engine on a car, these ensure that your body gets to experience the whole range of intensity levels that steady endurance alone can’t offer.  And as you get fitter, the same intensity workout will start to feel that little bit easier and you can push yourself harder!

Stay tuned for the next of our Protect Your Heart series: the best foods for heart health.


Catalyst Fitness member James Thompson is a 4-time National Championship- winning rower who competed for the Canisius High School, West Side Rowing Club, and Cornell University teams. He currently competes as an elite level cyclist with the Shickluna Bikes/Catalyst Fitness cycling team.

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