How to burn fat: the myth of the “fat-burning zone”

You’ve probably seen cardio machines that show your “maximum fat burn” is about 50% - 60% of your max heart rate, implying that anything higher results in less fat burn. Sounds awesome, right? You can burn more fat by working less! Does this pass the sniff test to you? Probably not. If it does, congratulations! You’ve just fallen victim to clever marketing.

How to burn fat fast

Everyone is looking for the magic, easy way to lose weight and burn fat. The reality is, the fastest way to burn fat is a combination of a healthy diet and exercise. Fat-loss is basic arithmetic. If you want to lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Calories come in everything we eat and power your body. Everything we do burns calories. Whether you are napping, playing Xbox or doing a P90 workout, you are burning calories. The harder your body works, the more calories you will burn.

The simple truth is you need to burn more calories than you eat in order to burn fat. Some activities are better for burning calories, such as compound exercises, strength training and aerobic conditioning. If you train at 85% of your maximum heart rate, you will burn more fat than if you do the same amount of exercise at 60% of your max heart rate. Ramp up the intensity and you will burn more calories, quicker.

Eat right to burn fat

Have you ever heard the phrase, “abs are made in the kitchen?” It’s true. While exercise will help you burn more calories, you cannot out-exercise a poor diet. The good news? You don’t need a perfect diet to lose fat. I am doing Focus T25 and following a pretty solid nutrition plan and lost 20 pounds in one month. I also have a cheat meal a couple of times per week. 

Start by reducing the foods with no nutritional value. Sugary drinks and high calorie snacks will kill your fat burning progress, no matter how hard you exercise. Instead, replace them with water. Proper hydration helps your body feel better and feel less hungry.

How to burn fat without exercise

Burning fat without exercise is much more difficult. The challenge is to reduce your caloric intake without shorting yourself on essential nutrients. Starvation and crash diets give short term results, but are often followed by a binge period where you gain back everything you lost, and then some. If you want to burn fat without exercise, you need a very strict diet while still consuming the proper amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Meal replacement shakes can help reduce calories while adding protein, vitamins and minerals. I replaced one meal per day with Shakeology, which has helped me lose weight and have more energy. It is important, however, to make sure you consume enough calories so you do not lose muscle. Aim to eat about 500 calories less than you burn, and you will achieve steady, sustainable weight loss. 

Get moving

The key to burning the maximum amount of fat is to eat a balanced diet and crank up the workout intensity. Nobody wants to hear it, but you simply burn more calories by working harder. Be wary of things that sound too good to be true, "just wrap this around your waist and the pounds fall off!" Follow a program, eat right and you will see results. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is hard, but you never hear anyone say it isn't worth it.

Dustin Gustafson is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach.