Don’t be fooled by the fat burning zone

The fat burning zone is one of the biggest myths in the fitness industry.  It is everywhere – in magazines, books, stickers and charts on gym walls and there is even a ‘fat burning zone’ fat-burner1button on most CV machines.

During exercise your body uses energy stored primarily in two places: your fat stores or your glycogen stores (your glycogen stores come from the carbohydrates you consume).

The fat burning zone gains its name because in this zone (approx. 60% – 70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR)) you are working at an intensity where the majority of your energy is coming from your fat stores rather than your glycogen stores. So in theory it sounds great however here is the full science bit!

Take a look below at the example calories being used in two 30 minute session on a treadmill.  In session 1 the person is exercising in the fat burning zone (60%-70% MHR).  In session 2 the same person is working at a higher intensity of 70%-80% MHR.

Session 1 – 60%-70% MHR Session 2 – 70% – 80% MHR

30 minutes

30 minutes

Total calories



Glycogen calories

56 (40%)

114 (60%)

Fat calories

84 (60%)

76 (40%)

Due to the increase in intensity in session 2 there is a larger amount of calories being used overall and even with the differing ratios of fat between both sessions the fat calorie figures are very close.  However the best is still to come………

The Afterburn Effect

Basically when you use your glycogen stores during activity the body has to restock them once the exercise has finished.  In order to replenish these stores your body uses an energy system called the Aerobic energy system.  The Aerobic energy system favours your fat stores as its main source of energy.  Therefore the more glycogen stores you use (as in session 2 above) the more of your fat stores are used to fuel the replenishment of them which is great for reducing fat!

Next time you read about the fat burning zone or use a CV machine and see the Fat Burning Zone button you now know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Take a look here to find out more on interval training and the afterburn effect

Why Women (and Men) Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Gaining Muscle

Here it comes I thought to myself. ‘I can’t do THAT, I don’t want to have big muscles and look like a man!’ my friend proclaimed.  She has been trying to lose weight for a few months and wanted a boost to her efforts and had asked me which exercises would help her.

My answer, well that was quite simply all she has to do is include some form of resistance I Love Weightsexercises to her workout.  Sadly, her response is very common from females when it comes to using weights.  They are terrified they will suddenly look like Arnie or see an image of themselves as a female body builder. The truth is it is physiologically impossible for women to gain muscle in the same way as a man because women don’t naturally have enough testosterone (studies have shown that women have 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men).

Yes, there are female body builders but those ladies train up to 2 times a day and 7 days a week.  Their diet is extremely prescriptive to building muscle and dropping nearly all of their body fat.  In some cases they may even take artificial testosterone in order to build muscle.

So, why should you include resistance exercises in your workout?

You’ll Have Less Body Fat – By using resistance, you will elevate a hormone called Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which helps burn fat in the body.  This hormone also helps build muscle and the more muscle mass someone you have the more energy you burn (mostly in the form of fat) even at rest.  For every 1lb of muscle mass you have you burn an additional 50 calories per day.

You’ll Look Amazing – Using resistance exercises can give women amazing curves…in all the ‘right’ places. Once you have started to lose ‘fat’ you will be able to see the muscles underneath which will give you a great looking bum, stomach, legs and arms.  Your posture will start to improve as a strong lower back and core will help you stand up tall and will help you develop better body awareness.

You Will Reduce Some Of The Effects of Aging – Building muscle mass helps strengthen connective tissues, which increases bone density.   By strengthening these areas, you are reducing your risk of injury, and your chance of developing osteoporosis later in life.  As you get older your muscles start to naturally ‘waste’ (known as Sarcopenia).  By using weights you will be able to reduce the effects of aging on your muscles by keeping the fibres stimulated.

Remember Muscle Won’t Turn to Fat – Resistance training will not “turn fat into muscle,” nor will muscle that has been built turn into fat. Find out more here on this.

Hopefully, you can now see the benefits of including resistance exercises into your program in order to build up muscle mass.  My friend (thankfully) saw the benefits and looks amazing as a result…..and no she doesn’t look a thing like Arnie!

Why Muscle Cannot Turn Into Fat?

Whilst out shopping last week I overheard 2 ladies talking about the exercises they do at the gym, in particular using weights.  One lady was telling the other that she did not want to start using weights as it would mean she would have to use them forever as her muscles would turn into fat once she stopped.  By the time I turned around the ladies had moved away and it took all of my willpower not to shout after them THAT’S NOT TRUE!!!  So I’ll just explain it to you!People Exercising at a Gymnasium

Fat cells and muscle cells are completely different things and one cannot turn into the other, it is simply impossible.

When someone’s exercise plan involves using weights or body weight exercises their muscle cells will start to increase in number and size (by how much depends on the type of training they are doing).  The more muscle cells we have the more energy we burn throughout the day therefore reducing the number of fat cells we have as the body will start to use these for some of that energy.

If someone stops using these types of exercises, over time their muscle cells will reduce in number and size. The effect of this is that the toned or muscley look they had will diminish.  This reduction also means the energy needed by the body to support those muscle’s cells will reduce therefore less fat cells are used for energy.  This can cause weight gain if the person does not adjust their eating or exercise accordingly.

In fact as we get older we lose muscle tissue naturally and as a result our fat cells will increase unless we are active enough to stimulate the growth of more muscle cells.  Some studies have shown that in people who are not active their muscle mass can start to diminish as young as 20 years old.

The rate we lose muscle mass increases with age, with it significantly reducing more after the age of 50 years old (hence the dreaded ‘middle-age spread’).

So you can see now why I wanted to tell those ladies muscle cannot turn into fat, it’s simply not true.  In fact what they (and you) should absolutely be doing is including some form of resistance work into their workouts whether by using weights or using their own body weight in order to stay healthy and stop those muscle cells disappearing………….. Oh, whilst we are talking about muscle it does not weigh more than fat and Ladies, using weights will NOT make you look like a body builder but we’ll talk about that more next time!