The Mythical Fat Burning Zone

burning flameCardio exercise machines can be misleading. 

Those control panels on the machines give you all sorts of information.  They’ll tell you your speed, distance, elapsed time, incline, and more.    They’ll also tell you the number of calories you’ve burned.   They’ve also got pre-designed programs with names like Cardio Blast, Interval, and a perennial fan favorite, Fat Burning.  Hmmm.

Ever wonder how the machine can determine how many calories you burn?   The rate at which each person burns calories is more complex that entering in your height, weight, and age and having the machine come back with a burn rate.  You have to factor in how hard you’re working, your metabolism, your heart rate, body temperature, and more.  Many machines don’t even ask you your height, weight, and age.  How could they possibly be accurate?   

So, what should you do?

1. Stop worrying about being “in the zone”.  If fat loss is your goal, burn more calories than you take in and make sure you’re taking in the right kind of calories.  The more calories you burn, the better.  More activity = more calories used. 

2. A good rule of thumb to gauge your intensity for your steady state cardio work is the Talk Test.  Imagine yourself doing your preferred exercise. Can you still hold a conversation with someone or are you huffing and puffing too hard.  Bring yourself to just below that point where it starts to get difficult to hold a conversation and stay there for the duration of the exercise.  As your fitness develops, you can experiment with other more intense cardio options.

Got questions?  Leave me a comment below.

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