The Basics of Burning Fat

February 14, 2011

Many of us women wonder how it is that when we consume more calories than we need, the excess seems to find its way directly to our thighs. Does the fat have some kind of built-in directional system or is there a fat-magnet lurking in our flesh? While we may get a small smile from this thought, the fact is that our genetics predispose us to where fat will lodge in our bodies. Genetics will also play a big part in how and from which area we are most likely to burn fat. Unfortunately, fat is easier to store than it is to get rid of and the challenge lies in how best to burn those unwanted fat cells.

How Does My Body Burn Fat?

In order to find the best way to burn fat, we need to know a bit about how our bodies work. This information will help us become better at fat burning and healthier in the long run.

By now most of us know that our bodies need calories in order to function. Calories are fuel for our bodies and they are derived from the foods we eat - fat, protein and carbohydrates. Our bodies use both fat and carbohydrates primarily for fuel when we exercise. Protein is used in a very small proportion and is reserved mainly for muscle repair after we work out. Depending upon the activity we're engaged in, the ratio of fuels shifts. If, for instance, the activity is sprinting or a high intensity exercise of that nature, than the body relies more on carbohydrates for fuel than fat. The reason for this is that the metabolic pathways that are best suited for breaking carbs down for energy are more efficient than those for fat breakdown.

Slow and Steady May Do the Trick...

When the mode of exercise is slower and longer, then fat is used as a fuel source. Fat is a slow burning fuel that requires oxygen in order to burn effectively. Light and easy activities deliver oxygen to muscle cells in sufficient quantities to enable the cells to burn fat for energy. However, since weight loss occurs through the burning of total calories, slow and easy means fewer calories are burned, so weight loss is slower.

...Or It May Not

By increasing the intensity of a workout more calories are burned, however, the calories are more likely to come from carbohydrates than from fat. That's because oxygen cannot always be delivered to the hard working muscles in sufficient quantity during a strenuous workout, so the cells take what they need by burning carbs rather than fat, which needs oxygen to burn.

Even though the idea of burning fat is tightly linked to our weight loss concepts, the fact is that using more fat as energy doesn't necessarily mean we're burning more calories.

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