Fat Gaining Myth 3

It is easy to fall for catchy phrases and perceived social norms surrounding how we should act to receive desired health results. A commonly sought after health result is low body fat, and boy does it have some taboos!

Last month we explored the fat gaining myth “If you eat fat you will get fat”. Today’s myth in question is…

“The longer you spend exercising in the “fat burning” zone the more fat you will burn” 

Intuitively this makes sense, why else would they call it the “fat burning zone”? After all, nothing in health and wellness is every misleading. Sarcasm aside, it is all about the framing. 


You DO primarily burn fat as fuel when you are in an aerobic state, meaning you are able to breath in enough oxygen to support efficient energy output. This is happening the majority of your day, including most leisure activity, likely while you read this, and also while you sleep. To go into an anaerobic state, where you are mostly burning carbohydrate as fuel and not fat, takes significant effort on your part. It does not just happen on its own. Your heart rate must get up high enough and you must be breathing hard enough to where you cannot supply enough oxygen to your muscles or organs to continue at that high work capacity for very long. This means a sprint, this means max effort, this means uncomfortable high intensity activity.

The “fat burning zone” such as you might see on an exercise chart or a cardio machine at the gym, is referring to a heart rate zone that keeps you out of this high-intensity, low-oxygen, mostly-carbohydrate-as-energy zone (aerobic verse anaerobic). Yes, you are burning fat for fuel, but it does NOT mean you are going to shed more pounds of fat by staying under this threshold. In fact, long durations of moderate to light activity has not been shown to be efficient at making body composition changes, nor is it the most effective means for improving fitness. 

Being active and staying moving at a low to moderate level has its benefits- such as improved blood flow, digestion, nerve stimulation, decrease in joint stiffness, skeletal muscle activation and mental clarity- but shedding fat is not one of them.

How can you use exercise to be a better fat burners?

By getting out of the fat burning zone and pushing your intensity into that uncomfortable anaerobic state of lung-burning and heart-pounding. Only when you push your body’s systems to a high capacity will they respond and adapt. What this means is you will be able to go longer at an intensity you previous could not because your body has increased its ability to burn fat as fuel. You will be more efficient at burning fat throughout your day, and night, as your fitness improved from bouts of higher intensity work.

Application: Next time you exercise or go out to get active, no matter what the type of movement it is, increase how hard you are doing it. It doesn’t have to be for very long; your current fitness level will dictate how long and how hard you can go. See how you feel and how your body responds. Repeat as you feel able. Add this practice into your movement routine(s) regularly to reap the benefits of improved fat burning. 


Note: If you are an individual with heart, lung, or other health concerns or complications make sure you consult a doctor or fitness professional before engaging in high intensity activity that is not already part of your regular routine. 


2 thoughts on “Fat Gaining Myth 3

  1. This is a great article!! So well written and understandable. HUMMMMMM I got to get out of my comfort zone don’t I!!! I don’t think I can get ready before this weekend though. DOUG…. what a great picture. I love it. and miss him. Love you

  2. nice article and nice memory of Doug. love you, dad

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