Burn More Fat Using This Strategy

Apologies if that title reads like clickbait, but there exists some hard data on this topic that all of us should be aware of. Another common question I hear, along with the one I addressed onTuesday, is how to burn fat in the most efficient way possible. My answer to that question is simple, and one that always raises eyebrows: Low- to moderate-intensity cardio for 45 to 60 minutes at a time, at least once a day. The immediate response is always somewhere along the lines of “How do you not get bored?/How do you find the time?/That sounds ridiculous!”, so on and so on. All of those questions/comments will be addressed in future posts, but for today let’s focus on the data that supports my response.

I understand that you, my readers, are an intelligent bunch, so we’re going to get a bit technical in order to prove this strategy to be correct. In a 1993 study of fat and carbohydrate oxidation during exercise, it was discovered that fat oxidation is highest (after 30 minutes of exercise) at 65% of our VO2 max. VO2 max stands for the maximum Volume (V) of Oxygen (O2) that you consume during incrementally-challenging exercise. Check out the diagram below (from the study), which will make this a bit clearer:

Ignore the hatched bars and focus only on the solid white bars. In graph A, the solid bars represent whole body fatty acid oxidation at varying exercise intensities (25%, 65%, 85% of VO2 max). In graph B, the solid bars represent whole body carbohydrate oxidation at these same exercise intensities. As we can see, fat oxidation is highest at 65% of VO2 max, while carbohydrate oxidation is highest at the most intense exercise level (85% of VO2 max). What this means is that more intense cardio such as running or intense biking will utilize carbohydrates as the primary energy source, while lower intensity cardio such as walking/hiking or using a stairmaster/elliptical will utilize fat as the primary energy source. Simply put, lower intensity cardio for long periods of time burns more fat than higher intensity cardio.

Now, to simplify this ideal fat-burning level of %VO2 max for our training purposes, this maps to an exercise intensity just at the point where holding a conversation during exercise begins to be challenging. Or, if you’re doing your cardio alone on a piece of cardio equipment that measures calories burned, this equates to an intensity that burns approximately 360–420 calories per hour, or six to seven calories per minute. Lastly, if you’re walking on a treadmill at a slight incline (my preferred cardio activity), this is a pace of about 3.5 miles per hour.

Spread the word about this optimal fat-burning method and the data that supports it, and utilize it to achieve your own fat-burning goals!

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