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.

Why I skip breakfast

Opinions vary widely on this topic and it’s generated quite a bit of controversy. It is widely accepted that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So, what’s this article about? Do I really skip breakfast?

The answer is…sometimes, sort of, and never.

Let me explain how your body uses energy. When you ingest carbohydrate, your body converts that to glucose to use it for energy. Glucose that is not needed for immediate energy is converted to glycogen, some of which circulates through your body and some is stored for later use. Your body uses the circulating glucose for immediate energy and once that’s depleted it goes to the glycogen stores. When you’re sleeping, your body is still using energy and since you’re not taking in any food, your body uses those glycogen stores. If you wake up and do your morning low to moderate intensity exercise without eating, your body goes to the next preferred source of energy which is body fat.

Should you eat breakfast?
Should you eat breakfast?

However, this process can work if the exercise is at a low to moderate intensity. During high intensity exercise your body doesn’t process oxygen and instead prefers to use stored or circulating carbohydrate. In absence of that source and without oxygen, your body isn’t as efficient at burning fat as fuel and instead turns to attacking muscle. High intensity exercise is fantastic and should also be a part of your workouts regularly, but you also need to make sure you’ve got enough fuel to keep yourself going during that workout. Losing muscle is bad news.

I started this article saying I sometimes skip breakfast and I’d like to clarify what this is really about. Sometimes I skip breakfast before my workout, but I always eat breakfast either before or after my workout. Fasted state workouts are a solid strategy for those on a weight loss journey, but one that should be used sparingly. Once or twice weekly is enough. Make sure you eat a real quality breakfast very soon after your exercise sessions to refuel yourself. That means real food with a mix of protein, carbohydrate, and dietary fat. Not a donut or a cup of coffee. That’s not breakfast. On your other exercise days, eat a small meal 45 to 60 minutes prior to your workout to allow time for gastric emptying while giving you energy for the upcoming session. Follow it up with another meal to help your body rebuild effectively. Ultimately, the answer is never skip breakfast.

Give it a try and get ready for the results.

Can you deduct your weight loss expenses?

I came across this little tidbit recently and thought, “I wonder how many people are eligible for this and don’t even know it”. 

According to IRS Publication 502:

“You can include in medical expenses amounts you pay to lose weight if it is a treatment for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician (such as obesity, hypertension, or heart disease). This includes fees you pay for membership in a weight reduction group as well as fees for attendance at periodic meetings. You cannot include membership dues in a gym, health club, or spa as medical expenses, but you can include separate fees charged there for weight loss activities.”

The rules specifically exclude gym membership fees, but they do include additional fees for weight loss activities.  To me, that says if you sign up for a specific program at your gym to assist in your medically-required weight loss program, such as personal training, classes, etc, you can include those expenses.

I am not a tax advisor and am not providing tax advice.  If you think you may qualify for this deduction, contact a qualified tax professional for advice.

Check it out.  What do you have to lose?

This might make you 41% more likely to become obese

Cold water
Cold water
Food is fuel. What we get out of our bodies is directly related to what we put in our bodies. Garbage in = garbage out.

Eat that sugary snack cake that you picked up in the checkout line at the gas station and you will have wasted 500 calories. There’s nothing in there that will do you any good. No muscle building proteins. No complex carbs to keep you fueled. No healthy fats keep testosterone levels up. Just simple sugars that will spike your insulin levels and shut off the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel.

The same holds true for what we drink. One huge source of empty calories that many people have a hard time giving up is soda. Most people who think they’ve given up soda do so by switching to the “healthier” diet soda. As if a diet soda has fewer chemicals.

I ran across a University of Texas study recently about diet soda’s impact on weight loss. The study followed 1,177 diet soda drinkers who were either normal or just overweight, but not obese. “On average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese,” said Sharon Fowler, M.P.H., faculty associate in the division of clinical epidemiology in the Health Science Center’s department of medicine.

Those aren’t very good odds, as far as I’m concerned.

If that’s not enough, the study goes on to present an additional finding. The more diet soda that a participant drank, the higher their incidence of weight gain. Those who drank the most soda gained the most weight. A direct correlation between drinking soda and gaining weight.

There are many theories on why this is the case. A couple of the most common include:

  • By drinking diet soda you’re tricking yourself into believing that this is a healthier option and that you deserve to eat more of other foods to balance things out. How many times have you heard or seen someone order a salad and drown it in dressing? When you’ve loaded it down with high-octane creamy dressing, it ceases to be a healthy choice. That one calorie diet drink suddenly turned into a few hundred wasted calories. Good job!
  • The diet soda tricks the mind into thinking it’s getting the sugar it desires and you create a negative hormone response. The body becomes confused and shuts off the fat burning mechanisms and increases cravings for sweets.

So, what should you do instead?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again, and again. WATER.

Not flavored water.
Not sports drink.
Not coffee (after all it’s water based, right? Sorry, it doesn’t count)

Plain old cold water. That’s right, its boring. But would you rather be a little boring or a lot heavier?

What’s wrong with your exercise program and how to fix it!

Every day I see people come the the fitness center and exercise with great intentions but they’re not seeing results.  Day after day they work out, many of them dreading every moment because they’re frustrated at the lack of success.

Results can happen.  They just need to know how to do it and I can help.

Get the report now below.  The answer might surprise you.