Burning the right calories can slim you down.
We call devices that measure heart rate “heart-rate monitors,” but you could also call them “fat-burning monitors” since monitoring your pulse rate during exercise is the best way to promote fat-burning both during and after your workout.
But some people use heart-rate monitors improperly — to push themselves even harder, which can actually cause fat storage. And others are still focused on a “calories-in, calories-out” approach, which has proven ineffective as reflected in the high rates of people who are overweight, which really means they are overfat.
Our weight-conscious society has taught us to focus on the wrong problem: what the scale says. Most people really don’t want to lose weight — they want to reduce body fat because too much makes us bigger and less healthy.
There was a time you could almost tell by looking at a person’s slim appearance that they exercised regularly. That’s all changed. We are now in the midst of an overfat epidemic that used to affect only sedentary people. Now it’s hitting even those who regularly work out. The result has been increased fat in the bodies of runners, walkers, triathletes and those spending untold hours in the gym or working outdoors. The problem has become so common that some are even calling it normal. It’s not.
This story is common. Despite burning a lot of calories during a hard workout, many still can’t get rid of their excess body fat. While too much stored fat takes up more space, increasing waist and other clothing sizes, it also adds weight. In addition, increased body fat, especially around the belly, is associated with chronic inflammation. This may be an early manifestation of various diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, not to mention tendinitis, fasciitis, and other “itis” injuries. Burning off excess body fat goes beyond being slim — it’s a priority for optimal health and improved fitness, even helping competitive athletes get faster.
The dilemma faced by millions who burn a lot of exercise calories but still have too much body fat is simple: people are burning the wrong calories. We don’t want to just burn calories. We want to burn fat calories. This requires training the metabolism to burn more fat and less sugar all day and night.
The human body has duel fuel sources — we burn both fat and sugar (glucose) for energy. The big question is how much of each do we use? This depends on each individual’s metabolism. Some people burn high amounts of fat, rely less on sugar, and are slim. Today, more people have impaired fat-burning, resulting in lower energy and higher body fat.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that harder, high-heart-rate workouts lead to a metabolism that burns more fat calories. This approach can burn more sugar and less fat calories. Instead, you want to train your metabolism to burn more fat 24 hours a day.
Causes of Reduced Fat-Burning
Fat-burning metabolism is influenced by key lifestyle factors — exercise, food and stress.
Lower-intensity exercise can improve metabolism to burn more fat, increase energy and reduce fat storage. High-intensity exercise, however, can reduce fat-burning. A heart-rate monitor can help you find the optimal training intensity as discussed below.
Refined carbohydrates, including sugar, impair fat-burning. Healthy fats, founds in avocados, eggs, butter, coconut and olive oils, and meats, can promote fat-burning. If you really want to burn off more body fat, eliminating sugar and other refined carbohydrates and eating healthy fats is important.
Excess stress can also impair fat-burning. In addition to high-intensity training, other forms of stress, such as chemical (diet) and mental (and emotional) can reduce fat-burning too. Managing stress levels, including your exercise program, is another key to fat-burning.
Just by reducing their workout intensity and dietary stress, most people can be burning more body fat in just a few hours.
How Heart Monitors Help
A heart-rate monitor is a basic biofeedback device. With correct use, it can help regulate physical stress during workouts to maintain an intensity that encourages more fat-burning. This can improve metabolism during the workout and for the next 24 hours or more, even during sleep.
A heart monitor informs you when your workout intensity gets too high so you can slow down. You can monitor walking, running, cycling, group workouts or any exercise (except for strength training, which is usually high-intensity).
What heart rate is best for you? It varies with the individual’s level of both health and fitness. The 180-Formula can help determine your best fat-burning level. I developed this formula using scientific data to calculate the actual percentages of fat-burning during various intensity levels of exercise.
A heart monitor can also help evaluate whether you are indeed on the right track. Why wait weeks or months only to find body fat has not changed much? A simple test can tell us. As we burn more body fat, aerobic muscle function improves and you will be able to walk, run, bike or otherwise go faster at the same heart rate. This is especially important for competitive athletes. I call this developing Maximum Aerobic Function, or MAF. The MAF Test helps take the guesswork out of training.