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How Exercise Burns Fat (And How It Might Not)

May 4, 2023Exercise - Fitness0 comments

Everyone knows that exercise helps you lose weight. You just target your fatty parts and work them out. Your belly? Exercise your abs. Your arms? Do push-ups. But, do we really understand how exercise burns fat?

Fighting fat accumulation can be difficult. There’s the whole dynamic between good and bad fats. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is the first step.

Now, I’ve already covered fat-burning exercises. Yet, I didn’t really delve into how they work. That’s what I’m fixing today.

Understanding the energy systems of your body

The main energy unit in your body is ATP. ATP production occurs via three systems. However, not all systems burn fat. But, ATP is still what enables you to store and use energy. So, it’s the main molecule responsible for energy expenditure.

Additionally, your body uses different systems depending on exercise intensity and duration.

Firstly, we have the phosphagen system. It essentially produces ATP immediately and in the short term. The name comes from creatine phosphate. CP is the molecule used to create ATP. Our body creates CP from red meat, fish, and amino acids in the liver.

If the activity lasts longer than 10 seconds, we resort to the glycolytic system. This system uses carbs to make ATP. There’s also fast and slow glycolysis, depending on your exercise. Fast glycolysis is the first measure before slow glycolysis takes cover.

Finally, we have the oxidative system. This is the system that uses fat. We use it when we’re not working out or working out for longer than three minutes. It burns the three macronutrients: fat, carbs, and protein.

How exercise burns fat via energy expenditure

Now, we can focus on the oxidative system. But, let’s clarify something first: protein burning. Our bodies only burn protein during starvation or long workout sessions. That is over 90 minutes.

During rest, fat makes up 70% of ATP production. However, low- and moderate-intensity exercise switches the balance. Instead, it becomes virtually 100% carbs. That happens when glycolysis kicks in.

After 3 minutes of exercise, we resort back to fat. After 30 minutes or longer, we burn around 50% fat and carbs. But, that’s not where the story ends.

To burn fat considerably, you need longer workout sessions. 15 minutes or less result in mostly carb expenditure. So, your aim should be at least 30 minutes.

Plus, fat oxidation continues after long and intense workouts. After all, it’s the most efficient way to produce ATP. Therefore, it’s how your body replenishes its ATP stores after exercise. That’s where most benefits come in.

The problem with how exercise burns fat

All that sounds great, right? Now, you know how exercise burns fat. Well, it’s not that simple. As mentioned, fat’s energy contributions tend to vary depending on intensity. But, another theory challenges this belief.

According to the theory, carbon and nitrogen return to fat cells for recovery. However, skeletal muscle creates competition in this process. As you develop skeletal muscle, it’ll take away from fat recovery.

That’s why eating right after working out can help you lose weight. Your muscles become the priority for those nutrients. Thus, you essentially “starve” fat reserves. That, combined with using fat for energy, results in weight loss.

The holistic takeaway|

how exercise burns fat - woman doing free squats

Understanding how exercise burns fat can be complicated for many.

Some theories defend that your body uses fat to produce ATP. Therefore, long workouts (to trigger fat oxidation) are better. On the other hand, others state it’s because of how your body recovers. As such, building muscle redirects nutrients toward them—instead of fat stores.

Naturally, that’s as long as you’re eating properly. That takes me to today’s recommendation: The Fat Burning Kitchen. It’s my favorite diet program for shedding fat. Don’t worry about over-restrictive diets. This guide offers the knowledge you need to make your diet work.


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