Lose fat and preserve muscles and energy

At some point you have probably read that to lose fat you must train below 50 % of your max heart rate in the so-called fat burning zone!? Several studies show that:

  • You lose fat at ANY training zone!

What ultimately determines whether you lose fat is the final balance of the total calories you've eaten and drunk, minus the calories you have burned. It's really that simple!

By training with low pulse which corresponds to Training Zone 2 your body almost entirely use fat and only few carbohydrates as energy source, therefore this zone is called the fat burning zone. By training with a very high heart rate your body uses many carbohydrates and only little fat as an energy source. Consequently, many authors and coaches have been recommended the Training Zone 2 as the training zone you need to use if you want to lose fat.

Detailed studies of energy consumption shows, that any coach and dietician should rather tell the athletes about proper nutrition before, during and after training and competition than recommend training with low intensity.

This example shows how much energy comes from fat and carbohydrates by training with low and high heart rate on a 30-minute workout:

65% of max heart rate = Energy consumption 50 % fat + 50 % carbohydrates (glycogen)
85% of max heart rate = Energy consumption 30 % fat + 70 % carbohydrates (glycogen)

When we look at the total number of calories burned by these two training examples, we are informed that you burn more calories on the half hour when training hard.

65% of max heart rate = Total consumption approx. 220 calories, 110 calories of fat, 110 calories carbohydrate
85% of max heart rate = Total consumption approx. 320 calories, 110 calories fat carbohydrate calories + 220

Although the percentage of energy coming from fat is less by training at high heart rate the calories that comes from fat is the same in the two examples because of a higher total consumption.

Training with low pulse is a more comfortable training zone and the easiest training to do so you simultaneously will lose fat. If you do not have much time for training you should aim for training at a high heart rate.

  • However both training zonesĀ  have a number of side effects you must be aware of.

Training with low pulse is easy to perform in practice and you can train for hours if you have a reasonable fitness level. Your muscles are not used as explosive and will over time be transformed as more slim. This fact will besides of the loss of fat also result in weight loss from muscles which are not always what you wish as a bike rider. The low intensity workout gives you only a medium burning of energy and your body will quickly be reloaded carbohydrates. When loaded all excess carbohydrates will be stored as fat. Many have great difficulty to stay away from sweets, desserts and other calories as red wine or soda. These carbohydrates are the ones who will be stored as fat, even if you otherwise get a lean diet.

The advantage of training with high pulse is that your metabolism increases quickly. Your needs of carbohydrates quickly rises and sweets and desserts are burned faster so they will not be stored as fat, as long as the total calorie intake does not exceed what you have consumed. Your burning of energy after training is high and you can eat constantly. The higher consumption will also result in an increased loss of fat if you provide your body with the correct dose of carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients from your diet. Most can easily manage a durable weight loss combined with training when they occasionally may eat some "forbidden" food and simultaneously get a lean protein diet.
The bottom line is that you have to adjust the intake of your calories to match the total daily burning of energy that comes from carbohydrates to ensure a loss of weight that only comes from fat.Ref Studies from Georgia State University and West Virginia University

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