Diet techniques, great food, and exercise are all part of the "Every Day Fit Gourmet" balanced appraoch, so today I want to focus on one part of the exercise component: Cardio Fat Burning......
In a recent blog on the "Power of Protein
" I talked about how regular protein throughout the day turns your metabolism "on" and is beneficial to burning fat (and taken to an extreme it's the background behind those unhealthy super-high protein diets that force the body into burning fat via a starvation mechanism). In the last few years so much has been written about how "low intensity cardio and the fat burning zone" are wrong and you need to go with high intensity cardio. It amazes me some of the misinformation being spread by the so-called experts. What is being shared is true but it's only half of the truth. Many of these people are trying to sell you on a "new technique". But good old fashioned works for a reason - it's proven. But we people are like like lemmings and we all run in the same diretion repeating the latest craze - whether its diet, exercise, the stock market, and so on. ......................
So let's focus on cardio fat burning and lay out some guidelines in easily digetstible bites. Since this is a cooking fitness blog, your recipe is below. But first here is the short answer for those you want just the highlight: The reality backed up by all the experts and studies over many years is neither low intensity carido nor hi intensity carido is better for you. They both burn fat. Use what works for you personally, but ideally you want them BOTH in your workout regime every week to best burn fat. Mix up your cardio just as you mix up your cooking!
So here is the science summarized and a recipe to follow...
Low Intensity Cardio - under 70%
- "Low intensity cardio" is cardio under 70% of your maxium heart rate. Your primary fuel source in this zone is fat and hence that's where the term "fat burning zone" you see on treadmills or fitness studies comes from. You do burn a greater percentage of fat this way. It's a fact. Low intensity is why I do 2-3 runs each week below 70% of maximum - super slow runs. It's my low gear. Whether it's a walk, an easy hike, a short run or an occassional 14+ mile weekend run. Low intensity cardio is all good as your body develops specific engery systems in this zone (your aerobic energy system also know as your Aerobic Threshhold or AT zone for those into the science). I won't bore you with more science but just as using different muscles develops different strengths, using different energy systems builds greater overall fitness.
Hi Intensity Cardio Santa Barabara Half Marathon just under 90% max
- "Hi intensity cardio" (and in particular Hi Intensity Interval Training" or HIIT) is all the rage now and with good reason. I love it and it get's my endorphins going almost as much as a great meal does! You burn less fat percentage but overall caloric and fat burn in a given amount of time is higher so you can burn more fat calories. This is the single reason some experts say this is better for burning fat. This develops your anaerobic energy system also know as your Lactate Threshhold or LT zone for those into the science. It's why most Tuesdays super-early, I run with a racing club doing sprints on the high school track or do a jump-training plyometrics P90X workout. So the bottom line is low intensity burns a greater % of calories from fat but in a given amount of time hi intensity cardio can help you burn more calories and more fat calories too.
- Get a heart rate montior if you are a serious workout person. I use a Garmin heart rate monitor that on a low cardio workout day I have it set to beep at me if I go above 70% - to tell me to slow down. It also has a GPS and its amazing as it can tell you your pace. It's indispensible to me to train for the few half marathons I do each year. Also now that I'm an old guy nearing 50 it's probably good for safety...
- Do what works for you but do "mix it up"! Use both low and high intensity cardio every week if you can.
- Cardio is best done in the morning before breakfast as your body has had no food for many hours and your gylocen stores are low. Cardio in the morning means your body goes more naturally to fat. One reason many body builders for years have always done their cardio in the morning to shed body fat to show off the muscles.
- Above all else make sure you have cardio in your life whether its a walk, a hike with your wife... and preferably a combination of low and high intensity; just as we should strive for variety in our food, we should strive for it in our cardio.
- Keep it Fun! Whatever you do, it's got to be fun to keep doing it. Everyone needs to find thier own recipe to cardio workouts. Find the one that tastes best to you and keeps you coming back.
- Cardio is part of the balance and the equation that let's you eat great gourmet food so get some cardio into your life. Don't get hung up on your weight, just think "healthy". As you burn fat your weight might stay the same. For me personally, a couple years back I cut my body fat by 25% but my weight ended the same; muscle weighs more than fat. Don't obsess over weight but strive just to live healthy and the healthy weight will follow.
To summarize? Diet and exercise techinques are part of the Every Day Fit Gourmet approach and you must have all elements of the formula to stay fit and healthy while still eating great food. A combination of low and hi intensity cardio is a recipe you should follow each week if you can. But above all else, live life to feel great and healthy and find the recipe that works for you.