To fire up the calorie furnace, fat-burning activity has to be sustainable for a reasonable period. Interval training, in which you mix hard efforts with bouts of recovery, is one of the best ways of maximising calorie expenditure, improving aerobic fitness and making use of limited time. Activities that are weight bearing, such as walking and running, use more calories than those in which your weight is supported (such as swimming or cycling), simply because you have to shift your own burning fat exercises weight against gravity.
One of the best things about exercise is that the fat-burning benefits continue long after you’ve got out the shower.
If you want to keep seeing results in your fat-burning programme, you must keep increasing the intensity. You're determined to shed a little weight and have committed to exercising regularly to reach your goal. I'd like to suggest that the best form of exercise for burning calories or burning fat is the type of exercise that you really enjoy doing.
That's why I say it's so important that you find a form of exercise that you really enjoy doing, and why that's actually the best form for burning fat or burning calories. If we look back to the question in totality, what form of exercise actually burns the most calories, Jagdeep, you were right. Your "10 in 4" TakeawayThe takeaway today is if you're looking for the most effective form of exercise for burning weight, choose the form of exercise that you enjoy doing. But the cumulative factor of walking seven days per week for just 30 minutes far outweighs the calories that are being burned exercising four times a week in a gym routine. Share Tweet Pin PrintQuite apart from the aesthetics of a slim toned body, for most sportsmen and women, lower levels of body fat equate to better performance.
Although increased fat burning has bene?cial implications for sport performance, many people who exercise regularly do so for general ?tness, health and aesthetic reasons rather than to increase fat burning per se. Any exercise programme that promotes increased fat burning therefore can help you to reach and maintain your target body weight more easily, bringing you all the associated health and kudos bene?ts sooner rather than later. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of maximising fat burning, it’s important to understand that the fundamental laws of chemistry and physics still apply (see box 1) and there’s absolutely no way of circumventing them. There’s an unlimited supply in the air around you and even a lean body contains a very large amount of stored chemical energy in the form of body fat. Unlike carbohydrate (the other main fuel for the body), fat needs an abundant supply of oxygen in order to be converted to energy.
Very high-intensity exercise like sprinting or lifting weights (resistance training) uses different metabolic pathways to produce energy, most of which comes from carbohydrate burning. One of the most powerful ways to manipulate the proportion of fat used to produce energy is to adjust the intensity of your exercise. You might think that exercising exactly at your Fatmax intensity is the best way to lose body fat but this may not necessarily be the case.
Larger total calorie burn – suppose you exercise at 60% of your maximum heart rate (MHR) for an hour, burn 500 calories and 50% of those come from fat then you’ll have burnt 250 fat calories. Increased resting metabolic rate – as mentioned earlier, some resistance training can be a very useful adjunct to an aerobic training programme for fat loss.
Although several studies have looked at the relationship between exercise intensity and fat oxidation at a particular intensity, it was only recently that this relationship has been studied over a wide range of exercise intensities (2). It’s often claimed that you have to exercise at low intensities to burn fat, but you can see from the graph this is not necessarily true. In a series of studies conducted by Professor Jeukendrup and his team of researchers at the University of Birmingham, it was found that for trained subjects, exercising at a moderate intensity (62-63% of VO2max or 70-75% of maximum heart rate [also known as HRmax]) was the optimal intensity for fat oxidation. In reality, the exact intensity at which fat oxidation peaks is less important because within 5-10% of this intensity (or 10-15 beats per minute), fat oxidation will be similarly high (ie in the Fatzone), and only when the intensity becomes dramatically higher will fat oxidation will drop rapidly. Taken as a whole, the evidence suggests that for maximum fat burning during exercise itself, you should exercise aerobically at the higher end of your Fatzone, which depending on your ?tness will be around 60-80% of your maximum heart rate (NB your maximum heart rate is roughly given as: 220 minus your age in years). However, there is evidence to suggest that fewer but longer sessions (?tness permitting) may be advantageous  to burn fat because we know that fat oxidation becomes an increasingly important fuel as the duration of exercise increases (4).
Another caveat worth adding is that the type of aerobic exercise undertaken may impact the amount of fat burning even when the exercise intensity is identical. Finally, and as previously mentioned, any fat burning programme should ideally include some resistance training for all the reasons given earlier.
When building up your total weekly volume, you need to ensure you do so only gradually to avoid the risk of injury or burnout. For many people, lifestyle factors such as work and family dictate what time of day they will train!
It’s important to stress however that this approach becomes less appropriate for longer duration sessions (over one hour) where ‘training on empty’ could result in excessive fatigue as a result of low blood sugar and stored muscle carbohydrate (glycogen). A ?nal recommendation that follows from the studies above is that where fat burning is the number one goal (rather than performance), consuming a carbohydrate drink before or during training is not recommended because it reduces the proportion of energy derived from fat during subsequent exercise (8). Or, maybe you haven’t even started yet because you’re not quite sure how it will all go? So while skipping is great exercise, it's not much use if you can only do it for three minutes. To get the most out of an interval session, ensure that you work outside the comfort zone on the efforts and ease right off during the recoveries. It is true that the body has to rely on fat stores if you don't break the overnight fast, but then again, the lack of a ready energy supply may mean that you don't work out for as long, or as hard, as you may have otherwise done. This 'afterburn' (increased calorie expenditure) is far greater following exercise at 75% of maximum heart rate. This isn’t the same as increasing your effort, because as you get fitter, your body will be able to cope with increasing demands.


Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found that leaner people tend to stand and move more than overweight people in normal daily life. Because if you like doing it, there's a lower barrier for you to do it on a daily basis, and the likelihood of you complying or doing that regularly goes through the roof.
Whenever I hear something like that, right away I want to know what did you do, how did you get so successful. She said she did incorporate some new things into her diet and definitely cleaned up her eating habits, but in terms of exercise, her only change was buying a dog and walking every single day.
The chance that you're going to comply or stick with that form of exercise is much higher if you actually enjoy doing it.
In fact, walking seven days per week burns 20% more calories than getting in the gym four times per week. He knows how to get fat-loss results and was even chosen as Canada's Top Fitness Professional for his dedication to his clients' success. So if you wander into almost any gym and ask people why they train or what spurred them to begin training, it’s hardly surprising that weight loss comes right at the top of the list!
Together, these facts explain why there’s such an interest in fat burning and how to maximise it during exercise. If you want to lose weight, you have to create a ‘negative energy balance’ in your body – ie expend more calories than you consume. Provided your exercise intensity isn’t too severe (ie you have enough oxygen ?owing around your body), you can derive a large proportion of energy throughout this aerobic exercise from fat.
This is why it’s not an effective way to burn fat, although some resistance training can enhance a weight loss programme by helping to sustain or increase muscle mass (see later). Each pound of body fat contains approximately 3500kcals of energy, so to lose a pound of body fat over any given time period, you have to burn 3500kcals more energy than is contained in the food and drink you consume. The question that follows therefore is how hard should your aerobic training be to maximise fat burning? You can see that that as the exercise intensity (in watts) increases, the rate of fat burning increases, reaching a maximum of around 35 grams per hour at 180 watts.
But now suppose you exercise at 75% MHR for an hour and burn 700 calories (because you’re working harder). Even more importantly, by increasing your oxygen processing capacity, your muscle cells will become more ef?cient at using fat for energy, even at higher intensities. This is because very high intensity exercise such as resistance training increases muscle mass, which is a very desirable thing. In general terms, what happens is that carbohydrate oxidation increases proportionally with exercise intensity, whereas the rate of fat oxidation initially increases but decreases again at higher exercise intensities (see ?gure 2). Moreover, this intensity is usually identi?able because at this point, many people will perceive a signi?cant step up in their rate of exertion. As for duration and frequency of exercise sessions, the most important factor is your total energy expenditure over any given time period. So for example, in the example above, three sessions of 60 minutes may be preferable to six sessions of 30 minutes. Unless you’re already an experienced trainer, it’s strongly recommended that you seek advice from a ?tness professional before putting together any programme. However, if you have a choice, some evidence suggests that the longer the period between your last meal and your exercise session, the greater the proportion of energy that will be derived from fat (6). More generally, your nutrition before, during and after exercise will play a powerful part in determining how much fat you’ll burn but that’s a whole different topic and one we’ll consider in part II of this series! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 20-60 minutes per session, three to five times per week.
Jagdeep says: "I actually like exercising and I try to do something active at least three times per week. There's been a lot of research done about compliance, and specifically people's compliance to doctors' orders.
When a doctor says this is going to make you healthier and all you need to do is take this one pill every single day, people still find it difficult. If you've found a form of exercise that you enjoy doing, regardless of how many calories that exercise actually burns, do it. A year ago I was sitting on a plane and the woman sitting beside me, we got chatting and she asked me what I do for a living.
Now most people think that okay, walking, that doesn't really burn that many calories, but in 30 minutes you can burn about 200 calories just walking at a normal pace. In about 30 minutes, if someone goes out and runs at a very quick pace, they're burning about 600 calories. If I were to prescribe you with the most effective workout routine for burning fat or losing weight, if you hated doing it, what's the chance you're actually going to follow through? However, by enhancing fat burning, you increase the proportion of your expended calories that will come from stored body fat. As we’ve hinted above, lower intensities favour fat burning but as the intensity increases, carbohydrate becomes more and more important until at very high intensities, almost all of the energy to fuel exercise comes from carbohydrate burning and none from fat-burning.
Above 180 watts, the amount of fat burned drops off rapidly so that by 300 watts, it’s contributing virtually nothing. The point at which fat burning reaches its peak is known as ‘Fatmax’ and the range of exercise intensities close to Fatmax is sometimes referred to as the ‘Fatzone’. Another important point to emphasise is that your ?tness level will have a big impact on the exercise intensity at which you reach Fatmax.


This is not surprising really as we know that regular aerobic training ‘teaches’ the body to burn fat more ef?ciently.
So for example, six aerobic training sessions per week of 30 minutes’ duration at say, 70% MHR would be equivalent to three sessions of 60 minutes at the same % MHR (180 minutes in total).
Another bene?t of structuring sessions this way is that it allows longer periods of recovery in between each bout of exercise. For the same workload therefore, these ?bres have to contract more intensely and as we have seen, at high muscular intensities, carbohydrate burning becomes much more dominant. The most obvious way to take advantage of this effect is to train ?rst thing in the morning before breakfast and indeed, research has shown that the total fat oxidised during exercise (and for two hours after exercise) is greatest when morning exercise is performed in the fasted state (ie before breakfast) (7).
So don't just sit there, wiggle your toes, shake a leg, get up regularly and move your body! I'm going to assume for the purpose of this podcast that we're talking about burning the most calories or burning the most fat. As soon as I mentioned being a weight-loss coach or being a fitness instructor, right away people want to tell me their story. For this woman, and for anyone else who's looking to start incorporating exercise into their routine for the purpose of weight loss, think about how quickly that adds up. Circuit training, so doing a circuit of resistance training exercises at the gym or at home, that burns about 300 calories, again just in 30 minutes.
Contrast that with a scenario where four days per week you went to the gym and you lifted weights for 30 minutes. Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy doing and don't worry about how many calories it burns in just one session. A second important fact that needs to be born in mind is that all of us, all of the time, are burning all three types of food calories (fat, carbohydrate and protein) to produce energy. Carbohydrate burning increases steadily too but at around 180 watts (just as fat burning drops off) it jumps dramatically so that by 300 watts, it’s contributing 100% of the energy for exercise. This means that you’ll have an extra 200 calories to play with in terms of food intake and still stay the right side of the thermodynamic equation for the day (remember, you have to create a negative energy balance). For example, a ?t runner who can sustain 16kmh (10mph) can easily burn 1000kcals in an hour. Increasing your muscle mass with the addition of some resistance training means that the rate at which you burn up energy even while resting can be boosted signi?cantly, helping you to achieve your negative energy balance more easily.
The goal is to increase your total volume so that you burn more fat calories (but see box ‘Safety ?rst!’).
What do you think people do when a doctor prescribes them a specific type of medication that's going to drastically improve their quality of their life or the quality of their health? She said that she didn't really like exercising but she had read somewhere that buying a dog that forces you to go out and walk every day so it's a great way to start incorporating exercise into your routine. Two hundred calories for 30 minutes of walking per day over seven days a week: that's 1400 calories every single week. Someone that goes out and really pushes the pace on a bicycle burns about 600 calories in 30 minutes. You want to be able to exercise on a daily basis and for the long term, so pick something that you enjoy doing. The contribution from protein is minimal except when vigorous exercise is performed in the absence of carbohydrate (a subject we’ll discuss in part II of this article) so in actual fact, most of your energy is derived from carbohydrate and fat. If they can do that while working at say 75% of MHR, they’ll probably derive something in the region of 400-500kcals from fat. The best way to maximise lean muscle mass is to add one or two sessions of resistance training into your weekly aerobic exercise program.
Maybe they're training for a specific sport or a specific event, but if we're looking at burning calories, then let's talk about what is the most effective form of exercise. There's all kinds of form of exercise that burn a lot of calories in a very short period of time. At first thought, it seems like wow, four times a week in the gym, that person, they're doing a lot of exercise.
It follows therefore that increasing the proportion of your expended energy from fat is associated with a reduced proportion from carbohydrate and vice-versa. Remember though, using walking as a baseline, walking burns about 200 calories in 30 minutes. This kind of intensity presents little challenge to the aerobic system, so there’ll be relatively little improvement in aerobic ?tness. Sessions comprising of 10-12 exercises designed to work all the major muscle groups (one to two sets of 10-15 repetitions per exercise with enough weight set so that the repetitions can only just be completed) will produce good results in those who are not experienced resistance trainers.
As the proportion of carbohydrate burning increases, fat burning decreases; as the proportion that you burn fat increases, the carbohydrate contribution decreases. With a total calorie burn of around 400-500 per hour and a maximum of around 50% from fat, it’s unlikely you would burn more than 200 fat calories in an hour.
That’s because during aerobic type exercise, energy is provided by combining carbohydrate, fat and (to a small extent) protein calories with oxygen.



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