Top Five Exercises to Burn Fat

By Dr. Brad Crump,
Health Services Manager

BradCrumpWhen we want to lose weight, the first things we think to do are eat less and burn more calories. We then embark on a rigorous and intense exercise program in addition to a highly restrictive dietary plan which most often results in little to no change on weight or more importantly, body fat percentage.

In order to develop a more successful and efficient fat loss program, it is important to understand some of the basics of metabolism.

Metabolism Basics
The metabolisms work of turning food into energy and then using that energy to operate the body and to bounce back from everyday wear and tear is a very specialized process. Through our choices of food and physical activities, we can make the process more efficient.

First we need to understand the process of basic metabolism. After we have eaten, the body uses oxygen to convert our food into energy. This conversion allows us to do work and to run all systems of our body. If the calories we consume our not burned for fuel, they will be stored in our body fat as a reserve. Here is how our bodies use the nutrients we consume as energy. What fuel you burn I s directly tied into your ability to deliver oxygen.

Carbohydrates are generally the body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars and stored in our muscles as glycogen. The body stores only a certain amount of carbohydrates. They have four calories per gram.

Proteins are used to build and maintain body tissues and are rarely if ever used as a source of energy. Like carbohydrates, only so much protein can be stored. They also have four calories per gram.

Fat is the most energy dense of these nutrients. Each gram of fat contains nine calories per gram making it the most efficient fuel source for the body. It acts as a long term fuel reserve that helps keep us from falling into a starvation mode. Given that fat is so efficient and valuable, why has it been given such a bad reputation? Given that fat has twice the amount of stored energy, it would stand to reason that it would be a valuable fuel to burn during exercise.

So how do we actually tap into fat when we exercise? Does burning as many calories as possible result in greater fat burning? To answer that, we need to remember that oxygen is required to breakdown these nutrients to use them as fuel.

When we exercise, we breathe in and deliver oxygen out o our working muscles. The oxygen is then used to convert mainly carbohydrates or fat or a mix of both into energy. The difference between burning fat versus burning carbohydrates is a function of much and how efficiently you delivered oxygen. Fat burning requires more oxygen that carbohydrates.

So, to make a long story short, in order to burn fat at higher levels, a person much be able to stay as aerobic (oxygen efficient) as possible for a sustained period of time regardless of what the activity is. It is suggested to find the activities you find most enjoyment in so that it can become a consistent activity. In order to truly find where you are most efficient, you will want to be tested using a metabolic cart system (see

Here are the top five activities that can be used to track heart rate and can be maintained over the required timeframe:

  • Active yoga: This type of yoga provides consistent movement to maintain appropriate heart rate and also acts as a great toning and core workout.
  • Hiking: This allows you to choose the terrain or area that you are hiking in and to regulate your heart rate. You will also see some great sites and get a lot of fresh air.
  • Circuit training: This type of weight training is sustained movement that is maintaining proper heart rate and is also providing strength training. This will allow for greater caloric burn while at rest.
  • Kick boxing: This is one that will get your heart rate up so you will want to control your pace to stay within your fat burning zone. Great strength training activity.
  • Swimming: This is a great all around exercise that will use many muscle groups you normally do not use which will result in great fat burning at the right heart rate.

Whether an activity is fat burning is tied into proper testing. Consider doing a metabolic test to determine you most efficient fat burning heart rate zones.

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