The Importance of Exercise

The truth about calories and body fat

Image by Jason Cormier

Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand with one another, but their relationship is far more complicating than calorie intake vs calorie output. This principle is based upon using more energy than you consume, resulting in a loss of excess weight; however, not all energy usage is the same, and not all food provide us with energy in the same way. Understanding how your body processes and uses energy will help you better plan a diet and fitness routine that suits your needs.

Why does the body store fat?
Robert Oberst

In simple terms: The body stores excess energy as fat for later use, just in case food becomes scarce. It is a natural adaptation for survival, much like the way squirrels hoard nuts for the winter. Fat is accumulated by in-taking large amounts of calories that are not need at the time. To stop the process of storing fat, we need to regulate our diet with our exercise patterns. Eating large amounts of calories before going to bed or sitting for long periods of time (tv, video games, office work, etc.), will likely increase fat production; however, eating large amounts of food during times of high exertion (exhaustive workouts, manual labor, sports, etc.) will help prevent the body from storing fat. Just look at Robert Oberst, a professional Strongman competitor who eats in excess of 20,000 calories per day!

What am I doing wrong? I have tried eating less calories and working out but the fat won’t go away!

Working out does not always burn fat. To understand this you have to recognize the difference in being in shape and looking fit. They are not the same. Being in shape means that you are healthy and physically capable of handling your body weight. Unless affected by injury or disability, you should be capable of basic body weight exercises without feeling the need to visit a hospital. If you are unsure about your level of fitness, Darebee provides a free online assessment. Regular physical activity and exercise can help you get in better shape, regardless of your size.

Burning away fat is tricky. It is much easier to prevent your body from storing fat by timing your meals according to your daily activities, or eating healthy food alternatives; but if you want to target the fat you already have, here are three strategies that work.

  • Do not eat carbohydrates prior to your workout.
Eating carbs within two hours of a workout reduces fat consumption, as carbs are better at fueling your body. This means that your body will chose to use the carbs available rather than using your fat reserves.
  • Perform low to medium intensity workouts with a long duration (more than 20 minutes).
Your body burns fat as its primary source from around 25% to 65% max intensity. Endurance exercises such as running, biking, swimming, and even fast walking can put you in the prime position to burn fat during exercise.
  • Conduct high intensity exercises with a short duration.
High intensity exercises greater than 70% max do not burn as much fat during the workout, but they use energy stores in the muscles for more immediate energy. After the workout, your body uses your fat reserves to replenish the lost energy in your muscles giving you residual fat burning for nearly an hour.
So what exactly should I do?

Every person’s body processes diet and exercise differently so you will have to find the plan that works best for you. If you want a place to start, here is a good plan of action:

  • Low to medium intensity, endurance training in the mornings soon after you wake up (before eating breakfast).
  • Eat your biggest meal after your morning workouts.
  • High intensity exercise at night, two or more hours after your last meal.
  • Rest is essential to a healthy body, so skip your workouts two days a week and get adequate sleep at night.

Cardio in the morning, weights at night. If you want to learn more about how the fat burning process works during exercise, you can read Dr. Upender Kumar’s study, Aerobic Exercise: Fat Cremation and Heart Rejuvenation.

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