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Jake's Health Corner

By Jake Boly, Staff Writer

Burning fat. There are so many different theories behind burning fat: the magic fat-burning zone, targeted fat loss, rapid fat loss, etc. With the amount of information that is circulating, it is difficult for people to find the truth to losing fat.

It is important to note that fat loss and weight loss, while often used synonymously, are actually quite different. Fat loss is oriented towards doing an exercise aimed at, of course, burning fat. Weight loss is the aim of losing weight without a particular plan for losing fat. This article will be my attempt to clear up any misconceptions you might've heard.

First of all, that magic fat-burning zone myth that has been hyped up for many years needs to be put to rest. This is the popular belief that doing a low- or moderate-intensity cardio workout will put you in a supreme fat burning zone. This idea all started when research found that fat oxidation was higher in low intensity activity, even though people don't focus on the decline of said fat-burning zone over a long period of exercise. Yes, the fat oxidation drops off over time. Then, of course, people jumped on the bandwagon and made the bold assumption that low- and moderate-intensity cardio is more beneficial than high-intensity in terms of fat loss.

On the other hand, the number of people that are turning to the alternative method, high-intensity cardio, is increasing. Why is this? Through high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, as most know it, fat oxidation is much higher afterward, unlike fat oxidation after a low-intensity workout. Furthermore, high-intensity increases lean body mass while improving cardiovascular health. Now that the low intensity fat burning zone is cleared up, let's move on to targeted fat loss.

This topic always seems to come up when someone doesn't like where fat is stored on his or her body, see a difference on one side, or are chasing someone else's body they see as ideal. Targeting fat loss is perhaps one of the biggest controversies in the fitness world.

We can't help where our body stores fat and where we lose fat. I store fat just above my obliques (just above my hips); that's just how my body is, and I'm aware I can't get rid of it by doing more oblique exercises or extra movement in that region. By doing extra activity in the desired fat loss region, fat is not necessarily being burned, but the muscle that lies beneath is being strengthened. Fat is lost through proper lifting and most importantly, an accurate diet.

Think about this critically for a moment: if you have extra belly fat, do you really think doing hours of crunches and ab work will shed that fat? No, it will strengthen the muscle underneath which will be better in the long run. A proper diet will lead to exposing the area you desire, depending on your body's rate of fat loss.

The last point I want to cover is the misconception of fat loss and weight loss. When losing weight is the main goal, it is often just to watch a number on the scale decrease. Often times, weight loss clinics advise against exercise for an obvious reason; they want you to lose the most amount of weight, whether it is fat or muscle. They don't care which it is. 

Muscle is more dense than fat; meaning that a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. Proper exercise often slows weight loss because you're increasing your lean body mass, which leads to more muscle and more weight. This, in the long run, will lead to a better and healthier body composition and a more favorable physique.

Also, a good way to tell if you're losing fat is by weight and body composition, comparing pictures is a great method. If you're trying to lose fat remember that your weight might stall or even increase, even though you're losing fat, so don't fret. Trust the system.

When trying to lose fat, keep in mind that diet is essential along with a proper lifting program. Fat doesn't disappear quickly, so remember that consistency and accuracy are vital in this process. Take it slowly and enjoy the journey whether your goal is weight loss or fat loss.

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