The Biggest Myth In Fitness

Before I get into today’s post, I want to give you a recipe.  Actually, I’m not going give you the recipe because I haven’t asked for permission from the author of the cookbook it’s from to publish it.  But Eric Cressey did, and you can get the recipe off of his blog here, about half way down the page.  The recipe is for chicken fingers.  I made them last night and was pleasantly surprised.  I realize that a breading made from Bran Buds and oatmeal sounds a bit strange, but they were really good.  And even better, they were super easy and quick to make.  Be sure to check it out.

There are a lot of myths in the fitness industry.  There are even many flat out lies.  The trouble is, it’s hard for people to know what is and what isn’t accurate.  One of these myths is the “fat burning zone”.  If you’ve stepped on a treadmill or hopped on a stationary bike anytime in the last several years, you have most likely seen a little chart depicting where your heart rate needs to be to be in the fat burning zone.  The magical place where fat drips off your body like fat drips off of bacon.

The concept behind the fat burning zone is this: when your heart rate is lower, you burn a greater percentage of calories from fat.  So, treadmills charts tell people that if they keep their heart rates around 60% of their max, they are in the magical zone and they are burning fat.  This statement is 100% TRUE.  No, that wasn’t a typo.  It’s a true statement.  When your heart rate is lower you burn a greater percentage of calories from fat.

So where’s the beef…I mean myth?

Let’s jump on the logic train and take a little trip, shall we?

If the lower your heart rate is, the higher percentage of fat calories you’re burning, then what does that say about things like walking, eating and emptying the dishwasher?  A very high percentage of calories burned during those activities come from fat.  The trouble is, you’re not burning very many overall calories during those activities.  In fact, you’re burning the highest percentage of calories from fat when you are flat on your back, asleep at night.  If that’s the case then sleeping must be the ULTIMATE FAT BURNING ZONE!  That’s it everybody, sleep your way thin!  In fact don’t get out of bed at all, and almost all of those calories your burning while doing the laborious job of lying down will come from fat.  Look out Thin Town, I’m sleeping my way to you!

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic.  If you didn’t pick up on that, you might want to hit yourself in the head with a hammer.  (I actually have video of a friend of mine hitting himself in the head with a hammer…multiple times.  I really want to put that video in here but, alas, I swore I would never share it.  Stupid promises.)  And obviously, there are some serious holes in the logic behind the fat burning zone.  Yes, you burn a greater percentage of calories from fat, but you don’t burn even close to as many overall calories. 

Maybe this is less of a myth and more of a tiny bit of truth that has been twisted into something much bigger then it really is.  Kind of like tracking down a leprechaun who is supposed to give you a pot of gold, but when you finally find him, all he really gives you is belly button lint.  The results are pretty disappointing, and your efforts didn’t pay off.

Your best bet is this-work as hard as you can, burn a ton of calories, and don’t be fooled into thinking that working at a moderate level all the time is going to strip fat off you.  Your heart and your body will thank you for it.


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