How to Burn Fat Faster

October 30, 2009

What’s the best way to burn fat?

Contrary to popular opinion, doing a long, slow workout is not the Holy Grail. Anaerobic and interval training are effective, but for different fitness levels. And then there’s the benefit of building lean body mass with weights.

For starters, it helps to understand how a combination of exercise, fitness levels, oxygen intake, and diet all affect our capacity to burn fat.

How fat gets burned

Fat is fueled by oxygen, which means that the more oxygen you take in, the more fat you burn. And the more conditioned your body is, the more oxygen it uses. (Think of how much easier you catch your breath when you’re in shape.) So, the more fit you are, the more fat you’ll burn when you exercise.

We asked Sue Matyas, M.S., the Fitness & Group Exercise Director at the Bellevue Club in Bellevue, Washington, to shed some light on how to burn fat most efficiently at different fitness levels.

If you’re someone who’s deconditioned, or getting back in shape—for example, you are doing 30 minutes of walking at 3.8 miles per hour—you have to start out on the long-slow side because it’s probably all you can tolerate.

“You need to take six weeks to get in shape before you can really work out hard,” Matyas says. She suggests a fitness plan of three days a week, doing 20 to 30 minutes of exercise that includes walking, doing the elliptical, or pedaling on a recumbent bike. “You want to get the joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles in shape so they can eventually work harder.” And then you build up by 10 percent a week in intensity or time.

If you’re in good shape, for example, running 30 minutes at around seven miles per hour, you’re going to be able to sustain activity at an anaerobic level and do some interval training.

A conditioned person can lose more body fat by doing the same 10 percent increase a week and throwing in some interval work, like a 1:1 ratio of a 30-second hard run and a 30-second recovery. “Start to challenge your cardiovascular system so you can use oxygen at higher heart rates,” Matyas says. At this point you’re a bit like a car: the faster you go, the more fuel (fat) you’ll burn.

 Strength training—the money bite

Weight training builds lean body mass. And lean body mass is one of the key components to burning fat. “Women especially need to do strength training to build lean mass because it’s more fat-burning,” Matyas says.

 If you’re new to the weight room, meet with a trainer to learn how to use the machines. Matyas starts her clients on the machines, then moves them to free weights, and eventually mixes in apparatuses like balance boards and balls.

And don’t forget to mix things up. “Every three to six months, you need to change your program because your body becomes complacent,” she explains.

Diet and fat burning

If you’re eating our Chef by Request meals, you’ll be glad to know the 40-30-30 composition of the meals burns excess fat. Also, it’s good news that the CrossFit community has adopted the zone method as its diet of choice. The other fat-burning advantage with the zone program is the number of meals you get throughout the day. “If you’re not eating every couple of hours, your blood sugar drops and your body thinks it’s in a famine state,” Matyas says. “Once blood sugar drops too low, the body will store anything you eat thereafter as fat.” With the zone program, you eat three meals and two snacks a day.

Which means: The more often you eat, the more fat you burn.

Fat versus calories

Just for the record: You’re always burning a ratio of calories to fat. When you’re burning calories, you’re burning through carbohydrates, not fat. When you’re burning fat, you’re using oxygen. When you come to the end of your carb stores, that’s when you bonk, or hit the wall; burning fat stores is what helps you exercise longer.

Still, the more fit you are and the more lean body mass you have, the more of everything you’ll burn, both calories and fat—and the more efficiently you’re pull from your fat stores when exercising.

Don’t forget to have fun

An endless variety of activities will help you burn fat: swimming, biking, basketball, hiking, cross-country skiing, anything cardiovascular—and of course, strength training. Just moving is a start. Take the time to get in shape and see what you like to do.

“Do whatever your passion is,” Matyas stresses. “This is a journey, after all.”


Learn more about how the Chef by Request zone-inspired meals help burn fat.
Learn more about Chef by Request’s affiliation with the local CrossFit community.
Learn more about our Performance Paleo meals for athletes.


One Response to “How to Burn Fat Faster”

  1. […] Move! Exercise burns fat and contributes to weight loss—and has been known to boost mood and suppress appetite. Find […]

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