Myth: Train in your "Fat Burning Heart Rate Zone" to Lose Weight.
How many well-meaning friends and family have advised you to go running, walking, or hiking to lose weight? No matter what we fitness professionals do or say, the idea that going from the couch to a 5k is the best way to lose weight has a stronghold.
With the increased use of wearable technology like Whoop, FitBits, etc., many folks are spending time in low intensity pursuits in order to maximize their fat burning zone. The truth is there is no target heart rate for weight loss.
There is a fat burning zone, and it doesn't do what most people think. Yes, you burn more calories from fat than carbohydrates in this zone, but you don't burn MORE calories and burning more calories is an important component of weight loss.
However, we can't out exercise our diets, so to lose weight you have to consume LESS calories than you burn. But, I digress, let's get back to the fat burning zone.
Here's a handy dandy chart from the smart folks at Whoop.
When we exercise we burn both carbohydrates and fat as fuel sources. At lower intensities like when we walk, run or hike we are at a lower heart rate and our bodies prioritize fat as a fuel source, aka "fat burning zone." When exercise intensity increases like when we sprint, lift weights, pull a heavy sled, or do CrossFit our bodies burn more carbohydrates because they're easier to break down. When you're working hard at high intensity your body doesn't want to mess around with burning fat. It's denser and harder to break down into fuel.
However, according to the Whoop folks, "the percentage of fat you’re burning relative to carbohydrates is not what determines weight loss." What determines weight loss is the TOTAL amount of calories you burn. If you exercise at high intensity, like you do with CrossFit, your body burns MORE calories. Combine that with eating fewer calories than you burn and you've created an energy deficit and you will lose weight.
So why spend any time in the low intensity fat burning zone? I strongly believe that time spent in that heart rate zone has a positive impact on our mental health, much more so than it does on our physical health. Think of how good you feel after a long walk, run, bike ride or hike. How many time have you solved or forgotten all of your problems while you're out on a long slow distance jaunt?
If you really want to lose weight you have to create healthy habits like eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, prioritizing protein, getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of water, and improving your mindset. These healthy habits set a solid foundation of a bulletproof lifestyle. Once all those things are second nature, and NOT a struggle, then the real struggle on controlling your food is not so hard.
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