Tuesday Tip: Fat burning ≠ Fat loss 🚫
It’s quite common to see things described as fat burning. Sometimes it’s in reference to specific diets, modes of eating or certain types of exercise. Low carb diets are often promoted as fat burning on the premise that because there are fewer carbs to burn for energy, fat burning will increase. The same rationale is used by those promoting working out before eating (rather than after) or fasting for periods of time.
You’ll find certain types of workout described as fat burning or you may find your activity monitor describes your workout in terms of the percentage of time in the ‘fat burning’ zone. The argument is that the body burns a greater percentage of fat with lower-intensity exercises than higher intensities because the body doesn’t require ‘fast energy’ from glycogen. As such, this theory promotes longer and lower-intensity workouts that maintain your heart rate within the ‘fat burning zone’. However, while the body does burn fat during low-intensity workouts, the rate remains low and you have to exercise longer to burn the same amount of calories you would at higher intensities.
The main issue is that burning fat is often confused with losing body fat. Fat burning or oxidation refers to the use of fat as a fuel source by the body. This doesn’t equal body fat loss. Eating low carb (and therefore high fat) does mean you’ll burn more fat as fuel because there is more of that available to use. But if you need 1800 cals a day and are eating 2000 cals then you have an additional 200 cals of fat. This won’t increase your fat burning. In a calorie surplus more fat is available in the bloodstream due to a higher intake, so the rate of fat storage is also greater. Research shows that whilst low-carb diets increase fat oxidation, they don’t actually result in
superior fat loss in comparison to higher-carb diets when calories are matched.
This same concept applies to ‘fat burning workouts’ or fasted cardio vs fed cardio. Yes fasted cardio BURNS more fat in the session (because fewer carbs/glycogen are available) but if total calorie intake for the day is in surplus to your needs then you won’t lose body fat.
“Fat burning’ and “fat loss” are not
interchangeable concepts.The biggest priority for fat loss is a calorie deficit. If eating fewer carbs, or eating after your workout etc help you to maintain a calorie deficit and therefore make weight loss easier then fab! But going low carb / fasted workouts / fat burning workouts will not inherently be better for fat loss when calories are matched. The overall goal is to find a sustainable way for you to consistently achieve a calorie deficit.
Happy Tuesday 🤗