The Burning Question Is…

Burn Baby Burn

I’ll be honest with you. I get confused when it comes to calories, fat burning, metabolism etc.

Since I started on this journey a few short months a go, I have been a proponent (nice word) of the philosophy that says, if you work at your THR (Target Heart Rate) for a sustained period of time, you will be in your Fat Burning Zone and will in fact, burn more fat.

Don’t ask me why, but, that has always kinda made sense to me. An analogy I have for how I understand it, goes like this (don’t laugh). I imagine my body is a car with a dual fuel engine. When I want to go around town for a good hour or so it burns diesel (fat), when I want to put my foot down to jump the lights (come on you know you do it :-)) it switches to petrol (carbs). I’ve adopted that philosophy and worked in the gym, with that view and focus – Simples!

Also, during say, a one hour cardio at THR on the treadmill, I sweat like a pig, this makes me feel great and I am convinced that I’ve been burning fat for that hour. I’m getting good results and these results, in a way, validate how I feel.

Compare that, to other stuff I’ve been reading of late, which says, THR and ‘zones’ are a myth and basically it’s all about calories in verses calories out, period. Whether you burn fat or carbs is of no consequence, all that matters is that you burn calories.

For example. My one hour cardio session at THR burns anywhere between 950-1050 calories. I could burn the same number of calories with a 40 minute session at a higher intensity and get exactly the same results.

The thinking goes like this. Your body burns fat and carbs at varying degrees and percentages depending upon your level of activity and intensity. During high intensity workouts, you will burn a higher percentage of carbs, at a lower intensity, a higher percentage of fat. However, even if you have burned more carbs (high intensity) your body will still delve into your fat stores to replace the carbs it has lost, therefore, the net loss is the same. At first, this fits my analogy, but the focus is on energy (calories) not ‘types’ of energy. Do you get my point? I hope this isn’t too confusing, I don’t quite get it myself and I’ve not even mentioned metabolism yet 🙂

Do I really need to be bothered about all this? The fact of the matter is this, I’m loving going the gym, I’m loving doing my cardio and I’m loving getting my sweat on, so why bother stressing over it? Well, I think I do need to be bothered about it.

Firstly, I want to understand it and secondly, once I get a job (stop laughing I will soon) I’m not going to be able to spend the same amount of time at the gym. However, this alternative methodology (another nice word), suggests I could maintain my results with less time spent, although at a higher intensity. Not that weight loss is my ‘focus’ of course 🙂 Read here for details.

What do you think? Answers on a postcard, I mean, leave me comment with your thoughts 🙂

Nighty night peeps. I’m up in five hours as I’m doing a car boot sale with Jan (the phenomenally much better other half). Sell, sell, sell!!!

Adios amigos,

Paul (Kracker)

“I Can Do It…!”


About paulbentley

My name is Paul Bentley and I started my blog in May 2011. I live in Liverpool in the North West of England, UK – I have always had ‘issues’ with my weight! When I got to 27st 13lbs (177kgs or 391lbs) I finally decided that ‘enough is enough’ and I need to make changes. As part of the process I decided I need to make myself accountable, so I’ve decided to be accountable to you. Thanks for offering ;-)
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8 Responses to The Burning Question Is…

  1. Shonnie says:


    How about I confuse you some more! haha! Well, I hope that I won’t REALLY confuse you but help you figure out what you want to do with your new information. I am by no means an expert, I just have been studying this for many years searching for answers for myself.

    Something that I have learned recently is that interval training causes you to grow by leaps in your ability to go further, harder, and longer. This is something that I am interested in because I want to ride centuries (bike for a hundred miles), I want to race with my hubby in Tri/Adventure races. So, I want to gain strength and stamina.

    Also, I have been reading a book The Paleo Diet for Athletes. It is written by a doc and a trainer/pro athlete. He advocates both styles of workouts. Your THR (or whatever it is), and interval. Obviously he is working with people who want to swim 2 to 4 miles, bike for 113 to 126 miles, and run a full marathon. I am not this serious of an athlete, I would LOVE to do at least one Triathlon. It is a dream of mine. I will have to get to goal before I push running that far, because I have a bad knee.

    I would say check this book out, because he works with people to help them train their bodies to burn fat more easily for fuel. 🙂 Something we butt kicker’s all want to do.

    Also, keep doing what is working until it stops. Everyone’s body is different.


  2. J. says:

    you’ve basically got it paul. ‘fat burning zone’ is for people who mostly in shape and are just looking to specifically move a few pounds around. To lose lots of weight you just need to burn as much calories as you can regardless of initial source. If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer than go for it.

    But…you’ve mostly hit the nail on the head. Don’t burn out. If you are enjoying yourself and going you are doing better than burning out and not going. But don’t stress about being in the fat zone either. There are days where I feel OOOONNNN and I go go go. There are other days where it’s a triumph to get to the gym. I cut myself a little slack those days.

    Shonnie above is also right about the benefits of HIT training for increasing cardio power and endurance. It’s the basic idea behind the couch-2-5k program where you alternate walking and running. But I’m not sure if it’s a better calorie burner or not or if it is more about improving cardio system.

    • paulbentley says:

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure now, that my current approach is what’s best, right now. I’m doing some Interval Training as well, I just wondered whether shorter, higher intensity cardio would be better as well. I’m good the way I am, I’m still in the conditioning stage of my fitness overhaul and once I’m fitter, faster and stronger, maybe shorter more intense sessions will work too.

  3. mark78130 says:

    Less time, higher intensity.

    This is the thinking behind the Max Capacity Training program I use, 3 workouts a week, 16 minutes each. Google it and you can see. This also follows Occam’s Protocol, talked about in detail in The 4 Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss. In the book, Ferriss talks about the Minimum Effective Dose or MED which is less time, higher intensity. He also talks about how types of calories does matter, they’re not all the same. The 4 HB is the template I have been using to lose weight. Check it out, lots of good stuff in there.

    Best wishes,

  4. Metabolism – a two way process including catabolism (the breaking down of organism) and anabolism (the building of organism).

    THR – This can be any percentage of a given heart rate or otherwise, e.g. 60% of your max heart rate or your heart rate reserve.

    There are 9 calories in 1g of fat. These 9 calories take a long time to break down (aka low turnover rate) due to hydrogen content.

    There are 4 calories in 1g of carbohydrate. These 4 cals break down fast due to the lack of hydrogen bonds. They are actually on a scale, hence the GI scale.

    When energy demand is low and you are working at a relatively low intensity, fat content is PREDOMINANTLY being used as it has time to be broken down and used to resynthesise ATP.

    When you get to a certain threshold called your lactate threshold (was once called your aerobic threshold) energy demand becomes greater. You are now requiring energy supply at a faster rate, therefore available carbs (glycogen) is used due to it’s faster breakdown rate.

    People who just say “oh do interval training, because I read something” normally in men’s health or some other shitty magazine, don’t realise that there is a lot more to it. For example this “quick intro” to metabolism would never grace their pages, it’s far too long and they have adverts to put in!

    Basically, you need to condition or train the body to use fats (I can put a gun to your head and demand 50 push ups, doesn’t mean u can do them). So by training predominantly more aerobically first you have a good, well-trained cardiovascular system, which is now better equipped for lypolysis – breaking down fats. Then, you would start picking up intensity and cranking up the burpees, or other exercises.

    I hope this has been a good lesson. Not bad despite doing it on the iPhone 🙂 Any more questions, contact me via the website. Ciao peeps.

    • paulbentley says:

      Thanks Chris. It can all be very confusing to the ‘non professional’ like myself. I’m totally down with the ‘need to condition or train the body’. That makes perfect sense to me and that’s why I think I’m best carrying on the way I am.

      See you in the gym tomorrow 🙂

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