You’ve probably seen the “fat burning” or “weight loss” settings on the cardio machines at the gym. Have you ever tried it? I have. And I was surprised at how the setting yielded a very low intensity workout.
The concept is based on the idea that when your output is lower, your body uses more fat as fuel for metabolism. On the surface, the concept makes sense but here’s where the idea of a fat burning workout is flawed.
Let’s consider a few different scenarios for a 10 minute workout on an elliptical trainer.
Workout 1: Individual completes 10 minutes on an elliptical using the “fat burning” workout setting. The individual burns 105 calories.
Workout 2: Individual completes 10 minutes on an elliptical trainer using the “interval” workout setting. The individual burns 130 calories.
In the second workout, the increased intensity of the workout means that you are tapping into carbohydrates as a fuel source in addition to fats. While you are not using fat as a primary fuel source unlike in workout 1, you are working at a higher intensity which results in a higher energy expenditure, i.e., calorie burn. You will burn energy from both carbohydrate and fat stores. Given the increased intensity of workout 2, you may burn more fat calories than using the fat burning workout.
I firmly believe that everyone selects workout types for a reason. But if you are using the “fat burning” or “weight loss” programs on cardio machines in an effort to burn calories and/or lose weight, think twice. You might be better off using a more intense program to get the results you want. If you are looking for more ways to enhance your cardio workout, check out my post on ways to increase the intensity.