Facts About The Fat Burning Zones

There has been a lot of heated discussions over the years among experts particularly fitness experts concerning the weight loss concept known as "Fat Burning Zone" with each offering divergent opinions as to which is the best fat burning zone to be in so as to get the most effective weight loss benefits.

The fat burning zone as a phenomenon can be regarded as a function of the intensity level of your exercise routines which is generally directly proportional to how much energy is being expended while performing any type of physical activity geared towards achieving some degree of weight loss.

When discussing the fat burning zone, one major factor that has to be taken into consideration is the source of the energy fuel that is being made use of. Muscles basically have three options for energy fuel which include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats with the latter two being its major sources.

These energy fuels can be found in either the bloodstream or the muscles. Carbohydrates in the bloodstream exist as glucose while they are in the form of glycogen (a mixture of glucose and water) in the muscles.

Conversely, fats are generally stored in the body tissues as triglycerides and are made available in the bloodstream through the process of lipolysis. The decision on which type of energy fuel to draw from, often depends on certain variables chief amongst which is the workout intensity.

Exercise is generally categorized as a stressor to the body which forces it to go into a "fight or flight" mode - a state the body goes into whenever it senses a threat or is under stress. Usually, the intensity of the exercise determines the most appropriate source of energy fuel the muscles will decide to get its energy supply from in order to effectively meet the demand at hand.

The different intensity levels which can be experienced during an exercise session are usually determined through a rating system referred to as the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). This is a personalized rating system which is based on an individual's current fitness level and overall perception of exercise.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the minimum level of exertion and 10 being the most intense, the RPE intensity scale would be as follows: (a) Low Intensity (1 - 4); (b) Moderate Intensity (5 - 7); and (c) High Intensity (8 - 10).

At low intensity such as walking, fat is usually the primary source of energy due to the abundance of oxygen. At this stage, the muscles naturally prefer to use more of the fat from the bloodstream because it is more in abundance than the stored fat in fat cells and then supplements it with glucose. This is achieved through a process called lipolysis - the burning of body fat stores and release of same into the bloodstream.

This is what is usually referred to as the "fat burning zone". However, recent researches have come to show that this process does not burn significant amount of body fat to bring about considerable weight loss in any reasonable amount of time.

You reach moderate intensity levels when you start working out harder, let says running moderately at about 6 out of 10 on the RPE scale. In an effort for the body to keep up with the increased pace, the muscles need more oxygen and energy fuel to burn which makes the heart to beat faster in order to get more oxygen-containing blood to the muscles quicker.

The muscles at this point also produce more heat which needs to be released from the body and the blood also attempts to carry this heat to the skin for perspiration in order to regulate the body's temperature. This increased dual demand on the circulatory system makes the body unable to effectively continue the lipolysis process.

Although lipolysis soon tapers off, the rate of fat burning in the muscles continues to increase and makes the muscles to turn to its own fat stores in the form of triglycerides in order to meet this increased energy demand. This stage is arguably the most optimal fat burning zone and which is recommended for most adults.

However, the best weight loss effect is actually achieved on reaching the last three stagds of the RPE scale i.e. 8, 9, and 10 which are the high intensity levels. On entering stage 8 out 10, the muscles practically turn to carbohydrates due to the lack of sufficient oxygen to metabolize its own store of triglycerides. With any further increase in intensity, the muscles will completely turn to its stored glycogen (a mixture of glucose and water) as its primary source of energy.

Stepping over into stage 9 of 10 or probably further into stage 10 forces the body to go into an anaerobic state (exercising without oxygen) and soon the muscles begin to fail. This muscle failure is due to the increased production of lactic acid which is now building at a rate faster than it is being cleared out of the muscles.

At high-intensity, the body can be said to have virtually stopped making use of fats and completely turned to burning of carbohydrates in the form of glycogen instead. Recent studies indicate that there are more benefits derivable from doing high intensity workouts due to an observed increased fat burning experienced after such workouts.

Physical activities where an anaerobic state can be reached include sports like football, rugby, soccer, basketball, and hockey. An Anaerobic state is also reached during workouts through weight lifting and interval training.

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