It’s Very Possible To Become a Better Fat Burner…
Even at your age.
Even with hormones trying to help you hold onto fat.
Once you know what the rules to the game are you can develop a strategy.
So here’s a small science lesson in plain English. Before I go too far into how fat gets from A to B to C to gone…. you need to realize that none of the legs of that little vacation; none of the flights or layovers happen… if you get stuck with too much sugar and too much insulin then STOPPING any travel. It won’t even drag you through the delay, delay…. it will go right to “cancelled.”
Your everyday rest-of-your life diet first has to help you. Eliminate simple sugars where you see them and where you don’t. Reduce your overall glycemic LOAD… (not simply index) and you’ll set yourself up for helping this happen.
Most of your fat and mine is stored in our adipose tissue – most in subcutaneous fat (under the skin) – whether that’s in the belly or on the upper arms. We didn’t know we had that in common or that we both wanted to be in that club but there it is. We’ve bonded.
If it’s released it’s in the blood. During times of demand it might just be in the blood. When we’ve just eaten a meal though there’s plenty and it probably goes to storage if we already have plenty on hand. It’s times several hours after a meal when more of it might be released into blood.
Fat has to cross a couple barriers…go through security… before it gets into the muscle. It’s not a simple and quick process. So you’re likely not working real hard when this is happening. You may be at rest or just doing normal activities.
Once there, though it has one of two fates:
a. It gets oxidized for energy right away.
b. It gets stored there in the muscle for later.
For years there was the myth of the “fat burning zone.” It’s been hard to put down because at least in part it’s true. You burn more (as in a higher percent) of fat at exercise intensities of 25-60%. That’s really just daily activities of living like going up and down stairs, walking the dog, and maybe a brisk walk. You are not out of breath by any means. Right at about 60% most of the fat used comes from fat stores.
If you’re familiar with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – as we’ve been talking about in the past four Tuesdays blogs you know that you are definitely breathless. The intensity level is more like an 8 or 9 on a 1-10 scale of intensity. Total fat use falls far below what’s used at moderate intensities.
What? You’re thinking …I should be walking slow then, always slow.
Not so fast. What also gets to be important is the total amount of calories burned. And it becomes a math problem. If at low levels of exercise you burn 50% or more of fat and you burn 300 calories for a given bout of exercise you’d burn 150 calories of fat.
If you work at a much higher intensity you will only burn 40% of your calories from fat. But let’s say you do interval training and you burn 450 calories during the same time.That 40% of 450 is 180 calories of fat.
Do you see how yes, you burn more fat at slow intensities (a higher percentage of fat per minute) and you burn more fat (overall) at high intensities?
You can spend less time exercising and get the same results – which is one of the reasons HIIT is so popular. But the story doesn’t end there.
There are three other things to consider for a Boomer Babe:
- Injury risk – goes up with high intensity exercise when you fatigue and form gets poor, or there is too much jumping or rapid movement to be done well.
- Hormones – cortisol levels can respond negatively without adequate recovery between intense sessions. If you’re stressed, not sleeping, there’s a good chance your cortisol levels are already high so some is good, but more is not better.
- EPOC- and that is the real story. HIIT has a benefit of also burning more fat and costing more in energy from the recovery period that happens after exercise. Your heart rate, circulation, muscle damage… what scientists call “disturbation” from exercise takes longer to recovery from after high intensity exercise.
At this point you might be confused about whether I’m pointing you toward High Intensity or toward low intensity. Yes. Yes, I am.
You actually need both. Your body can become a better fat burner in two ways. Your body first has to be delivering the fatty acids to your muscles. Then your muscles has to be able to use them. The following is a quote from another colleague’s article:
.“..trained people are better able to burn fat because of differences in the muscle’s ability to take up and use fatty acids, not because of the adipocytes ability to release fatty acids.”
The most fun part of that of course… is trained people are better! The best way to be more trained – more trained than where you are right now is to include both endurance training and higher intensity interval training in your program. The two together allow you the variety to help your system adapt at every intensity to getting better. You can do so without getting injured and without losing interest like you might with a same old program all the time.
Your turn: share you thoughts on what level of activity seems to be a “sweet spot” for you. We all have one intensity that we’re more drawn to, and yet the other one may be one that pushes our fitness level to new heights!