FIT for LIFE Knowledge Base

Optimization of fat metabolism

The ideal fat burning pace doesn’t mean the pace when you burn the most fat. Myth and facts about fat burning.

Do you want to burn the maximum number of calories while running? Or train your fat metabolism? Or lose weight in the long term with running? These are fundamentally different things, and time and again the “ideal” running pace causes confusion.

But it’s simpler than you think: slow workouts train the economy of the fat metabolism, but intense and fast sessions burn the most calories and therefore the most fat in absolute terms. Two different types of training with two different objectives.

Output Greater than Input

Let’s look at weight loss first. If you want to lose fat, you have to work on your energy balance. What you put into your body must also come out again, otherwise the deposits of fat will spill out of your pants. This is because calories that are not consumed are stored by the body as fat. To lose weight, the energy balance is therefore the decisive criterion. Only when input (calories consumed in the diet) minus output (calories burned) is negative, i.e. energy consumption is greater than energy intake, only then do we lose weight.

The output can be increased with more exercise, the input can be decreased with a smartly dosed diet. When it comes to using exercise to help lose weight, there are two approaches. Either one tries to burn as many calories as possible per time unit with intensive training. The motto here is: if you want to burn the maximum number of calories, you also have to exert yourself to the maximum.

Alternatively, you can increase the duration of the exercise and keep going for as long as possible. This is possible with a medium intensity, in which carbohydrates are not predominantly needed to provide energy, but fat is also utilized by means of oxygen.

Fat Metabolism for More Economy

In percentage terms, things look a little different. Proportionally, the less intense the physical exertion, the more fat is burned. This is why this intensity level is often referred to as the “fat burning zone”. However, this only applies in percentage terms, because due to the low total energy turnover, the absolute amount of fat burned in the fat burning zone is lower than when you are training intensively.

However, the training mode in the low “fat burning zone” has another, special meaning in endurance sports. Carbohydrate burning (= glycogen burning, sugar burning) provides about twice as much energy per time as fat burning, but fats burn much longer and are practically unlimited in the body. The glycogen reserves are only sufficient for an exertion of about 90 minutes.

Regular training in the moderate fat metabolism range therefore forms the crucial foundation on which the other workouts can be built. In addition, less intense workouts require less recovery time and can be repeated more often.

By accessing the fat metabolism, our body improves the more economical of the two main metabolisms in endurance sports. This allows us to conserve glycogen reserves, which are only available in limited quantities. With the fat metabolism you can run for hours to days – with the glycogen metabolism in the best case one to two hours without replenishing carbohydrates.

The better trained the fat metabolism is, the more it helps to spare carbohydrates from the beginning and to keep up the desired pace longer at the end. And the less likely you are to fall into a sudden hunger crash from one moment to the next. For endurance athletes, training fat metabolism is of great importance.

Important for All Endurance Athletes

Training the fat metabolism makes sense not only for (marathon) runners, but for all endurance athletes who perform long loads. Cyclists and triathletes also explicitly train their fat metabolism in preparation for the season. The longer the competition load, the more its importance increases.

Fat metabolism training improves long-term endurance. The organism produces more blood to transport oxygen more efficiently, the number of energy power plants in the muscles (mitochondria) increases so that the cells can produce energy even better. Due to the adaptation of the organism, the body can process training loads faster. And last but not least, in addition to the muscles and blood, the cartilage surfaces, tendons and ligaments develop, so that one can better cope with the training and is better protected from overloads.

Year-round Training Makes Sense

Also important: If you want to be successful, you should invest in fat metabolism training year-round. On the plus side, these workouts are not very intense and are only challenging because they are long. To break the monotony somewhat, it is advisable to do the long round with training colleagues or to complete a new round every now and then.

Training in the ideal fat-burning range does not mean burning the maximum number of calories (more calories are burned during intense training than during relaxed training), but rather using low intensities to improve the economy of the fat metabolism so that it can also participate in the production of energy during more intense workouts.

Text from FITforLIFE– This blog post was provided to us by the Swiss magazine FIT for LIFE. If you want to read regularly informative knowledge articles in the field of running and endurance sports, click here.