Unfortunately in the fitness industry, there are different myths going round that over time, just become fact. In some cases, they can be harmful or damaging but people follow them anyway in an attempt to get fit. Often, they simply don’t know any better but I can guarantee you’ve heard a few of them yourself.
Myth: Women who lift weights look like bodybuilders
Truth: This isn’t true unless of course they actually train with the goal of becoming a bodybuilder, eat in a calorie surplus and in some cases, take performance-enhancing drugs.
Myth: Your weight gain is because you’re lifting weights and muscle weighs more than fat
Truth: A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat which weighs the same as a pound of feathers which weighs the same as a pound of iron, which in case you didn’t catch it, weighs a pound.
Myth: Eating after 6 pm can cause you to gain weight.
Truth: Give me a break. Like somehow if you eat a snack at 5:59 pm everything will be fine but heaven forbid you wait another few minutes because it will instantly turn to fat.
Now some of these you may have heard and some you may believe but the only thing you need to know is that they simply aren’t true and in some cases, could be causing you much more harm than you realize.
But lets’ take a look at a bigger, more common fitness myth that most people have heard of, the fat-burning zone.
In this article, we will address the fat-burning zone and also look at why it could be ruining your fat loss efforts.
Is the Fat Burning Zone Real?
One of the biggest misconceptions in fitness is that you need to stay in the ‘Fat burning zone’ to successfully burn fat and lose weight.
First, let’s address the fat-burning zone, it is actually true, working at a lower intensity provides an optimal heart rate zone in which your body will burn more calories, approximately 60%, from fat.
Compare that to working at higher intensities and doing harder workouts, where your body will burn 35% of calories from fat and it sounds like a no-brainer.
Sounds awesome right? You get to work at a lower intensity and burn more fat!
But here’s the thing, the math doesn’t add up.
What’s the Math?
To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit and if you burn 3500 of them you will lose 1 pound of fat.
If those calories come from fat or not it doesn’t actually matter, the total number of calories that are burned is what’s important; but still, let’s look at the fat burning zone in action and see how it works.
30 minutes working at a lower intensity in the fat-burning zone will burn approximately 180 calories and with 60% of your calories coming from fat, you’ll burn 108 calories of fat, good job.
However, the trouble with that is when you work at a higher intensity you burn many more calories as a whole.
30 minutes of high-intensity exercise, for the same period of time, would burn approximately 350 calories total, which would mean 122 calories from fat.
You see you’d burn a few more fat calories from a higher intensity workout, but that’s not the big news here. The main point is that as a whole you would burn 170 calories extra by working at a higher intensity.
When it comes to losing weight the calories burned are the most important thing.
Think of it this way, to lose 1lb of fat, you need to burn 3500 calories.
If you worked at the lower intensity it would take you just over 19 days to burn off 1lb from exercise alone, or 10 days if you worked at a higher intensity.
Unfortunately, people don’t understand this.
Where Most People Go Wrong and How it Causes Them to Gain Weight
You’ve probably seen it and possibly done it yourself.
Take a walk into any gym and you’ll see rows and rows of people going through a slow and steady cardio workout often not breaking a sweat and never changing pace. To go with it most people compound their mistake by not modifying their behavior outside of the gym and changing their eating habits, somehow believing that as they are burning fat, they don’t have to focus as much on their nutrition.
If you were to exercise and stick solely to the rule of working in the Fat Burning Zone you would lose weight at a much slower rate than if you were to focus on a calorie deficit. However, if you didn’t modify your eating habits you would soon find your weight loss efforts stall, or that you were actually starting to gain weight.
Unfortunately, this is a bad combination and people that follow this format take far longer to actually burn the required calories to lose a pound of fat and eventually get fed up, disheartened and quit.
But there it doesn’t have to be that way.
What You Should Do Instead
If you’ve looked over the math you’ll already know that slow and steady does not win this race. If fat loss is your goal then being in a calorie deficit should be your main priority, not burning fat.
As shown above when looking at the numbers, the harder you work, the more calories you will burn and as a result, the faster you will lose weight.
This doesn’t have to be an overly intense HIIT workout, especially if you’re not currently fit enough to be able to do that, but it does mean you must be able to work at a higher intensity.
A favorite workout of mine uses the principles of HIIT but can be modified to each and every individual and is simple to adapt.
Example of a Treadmill Workout
0-2 minutes – Jog at a steady pace, raising your heart rate and getting your body ready to work.
1 Minute – Work at a much faster tempo, jogging or running if you can for 30 seconds at approximately 70-80% of your maximum.
1 Minute – Reduce your tempo back to a walk, working at approximately 40-50% of your maximum, bringing your heart rate back down.
Repeat step 2, working at a much faster tempo.
From here on out, continue in this fashion, working hard at a 70-80% rate before reducing your intensity back down to 40-50%.
The benefit of this type of workout is the time will pass extremely quickly, which is often a complaint of normal boring cardio sessions, but the main benefit is you will be challenging yourself adequately and pushing yourself much harder than normal, burning more calories (and more fat) often, in a shorter amount of time.
Outside of the Gym
As we mentioned above, most people that work in the Fat Burning Zone make the same mistakes over and over again whilst also eating in a way that doesn’t help their goals.
Once you’ve improved your workouts and started to incorporate a higher intensity workout into your routine it’s important to also focus on your nutrition and ensure you’re eating correctly.
Whatever diet you prefer, paying attention to your nutrition and focusing on a diet that includes lean proteins, veggies, and complex carbohydrates will help you on your way. Whilst doing this we would also recommend you track all of your nutrition into a calorie counting app, like MyFitnessPal.
By combining this, with a smarter exercise routine, you will start to see results for your weight loss goals much faster than usual.
From reading the content above you should have a good idea of the truth about the Fat Burning Zone and why it could actually cause you to gain weight, instead of losing it.
There can be a place for a long, slow and steady cardio session in your weekly workouts but more often than not, sessions like this are better placed as recovery sessions following a particularly hard workout previously.
You should also have a better idea of what you should be doing when going to the gym and trying to lose weight.
By paying closer attention to the foods you’re eating and increasing the intensity of your gym workouts, you’ll find yourself burning calories, burning fat and losing weight faster than ever.