On a cardio machine, it's one of the training options. On our bodies, it's the part some hate the most. Fat. We want to burn it and find every trick on the internet to figure out how to. Unfortunately there's a myth to fat burning and I'm about to debunk it.
On the treadmill or elliptical machine there's a manual program option, interval training or a fat burn program option, depending on the make and model of the equipment. The fat burning option chooses a low pace, high level program, which means going super slow but pushing really hard for a long time. That's not how burning fat works.
If you've heard that doing a lot of cardio burns fat, that's true, but in conjunction with strength training and a balanced diet. People turn away from cardio because it's tedious and boring, but believe that slow and steady aerobic exercise works, which isn't the case. In order to work your muscles, which burns fat, you need extra oxygen and ample fuel.
The respiratory quotient (RQ) is the amount of carbon dioxide expired, divided by the amount of oxygen consumed, measured during a resting or steady state, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. In order to exert energy, you need fuel, which is what I talked about a few columns back. A majority of fuel comes from fat and carbohydrates (avocado and bread, for example). In order to burn fat on your body, you need a semi-equal about of energy coming from fat and carbohydrates.
If you walk at a low intensity for 20 minutes at three miles per hour (my warmup), it may result in an RQ of .80, which means 67 percent of energy is coming from fats and 33 percent is coming from carbs. This also means you're burning 4.8 calories per minute for a total of 96 calories for the entire walking session. If you double your speed to six miles per hour, you'll need more energy because of the higher intensity. With the estimated RQ at .86, 54 percent comes from carbohydrates and 46 percent comes from fat, fairly equal. This is an increase of 9.72 calories being burned per minute and a total of 194 calories for the entire session. That's almost a 100 percent increase in calories burned in the same amount of time.
Because building and working muscle burns fat, and aerobic exercises, such as walking or running, doesn't activate muscles as easily, it's harder to burn fat quickly. The plus side of aerobic exercises is that it raises your metabolism, even at rest, which is why there are suggestions to eat within an hour after exercise because your metabolism is still high.
A side note to this is that for people who carb load the night before a big race, they're doing it to maintain longer, not to run better.
My suggestion: run and walk on some days, lift weights or strength train on alternative days or do high intensity interval training every other day and incorporate bursts of intense cardio and muscle building exercises.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.