Nicki Anderson

To Burn Or Not To Burn….Fat or Fiction?

By Nicki On May 25, 2010 Under Exercise, fast and easy weight loss, Fox News Chicago Weight Loss Challenge, Motivation, Nutrition, obesity, weight loss
Go the distance for fat loss.

Go the distance for fat loss.

At least once a week I’m asked, “Is it better to exercise at a lower intensity to burn fat?” A-hem, uh not exactly. First I’m going to give you the science perspective, then my perspective. Shake ’em together at the end, and see what you come up with.

First, the science. The idea of low-intensity exercises being the secret to burning more fat is in fact not so. However, it is true that when you’re exercising at a lower intensity, fat is the primary source of fuel (which started the “fat-burning zone confusion). But if we’re talking overall fat loss (which I’m assuming most are), it’s all about calories in vs. calories out.  When you’re exercising at a higher intensity level, the total number of calories expended are much greater than they when exercising at a lower intensity, hence the total amount of calories and fat used is increased. At the end of the day it’s really about the number of calories you expend.  Hence, higher intensity, more calories burned, more fat loss.

O.K. now the reality. I tell my clients all the time, “There is a direct correlation between how hard you’re willing to work and the goals that you set for yourself.”  In other words, many of us may want to look like the latest model on the front of Sports Illustrated, but the work that goes in to that body, (and genetics) along with some airbrushing makes it a little bit unrealistic.

I have had so many discussions with people that tell me they walk every day and they have seen no change in their weight. So I ask the obvious questions, “How long have you been walking that same distance? Do you ever offer variety in to your exercise program? How hard do you think you’re working on a scale of 1-10? How is your nutrition?” And finally I ask, “What are you really willing to do long term?” Ultimately that will help them to clearly understand what they can expect with their current level of exercise. Look, if you’re not willing to really kick up your walking program and add some variety to it and your nutrition is so-so, please don’t expect miracles. Just because you exercise doesn’t mean you’re going to transform your body, especially if you don’t have the right collection of change, i.e. higher intensity, intervals (Burns more calories in a shorter period of time) and increase the time you spend exercising. Are you willing to do that? If so, you will notice change. If you’re not willing to step things up, then be content with that and stop comparing to those with completely different lifestyles.

The other piece to remember is that many would quit exercise after awhile if they’re not really committed to high intensity, interval training. So for many, keeping it low intensity, but increasing mileage may be more appropriate,  as well as sustainable. Again, we’ve been so bombarded with how to achieve “the perfect body” we’ve forgotten that for many people the real goal is simply preserving good health.

We all want the answers to how we can achieve the “perfect” body. In truth, most of us (self-included) have no desire to workout 6 hours a day to achieve perfection. I do what keeps me happy, healthy and consistent. I’m hoping that whatever your goal is, you approach it with realistic expectations so that it’s achievable and sustainable!

Here’s to your health!


If you’re here in Chicago, be sure to watch Fox Chicago News on Thursday, May 27th at 9:00 p.m. Catch our Dr. Oz segment as we discuss plateaus and I share some simple cardio kicks and convenient strength training!

One comment - add yours

May 25, 2010

Boy this hit the point. If I notice that I seem to be “plateauing” on some of the things I look at on my way to fitness and health, I know it is time to switch things up a bit! My treadmill has many different programs to choose from: weight loss, hill intervals, speed intervals. I try not to use the same sitting twice in a row. I have two different Pilates videos I can use on my NetFlix instant watch account. One is considered a weight loss one but is really a total body workout. The other is an “abs butt thighs” mat work one. Both have modifications for different levels. I also try to get out on my bike 3 times a week and have a variety of different trails nearby I can use – one is pretty hilly. I do find that by varying things up, changing the types of exercise I do, I get less bored and also get better results. It’s as if my body just can’t get too comfortable with any one thing so it’s always working!