Cardio Is Not the Best Way to Burn Calories-Part 2

Question of the Week: What does your pride keep you from accomplishing?

Nugget of the Day:  Cardio is not the best way to burn calories- Part 2- Anaerobic exercise burns a higher total amount of fat calories and carbohydrate calories combined.

In my previous post on this topic, I told you that for lower intensity, longer duration activities, fat is the predominant energy source.  Proportionately more fats are burned versus carbohydrates while participating in exercise that keeps the heart rate at a lower level (50% of maximal effort or below).  It is this fact that led to the “aerobics” craze of the 80’s, and it has still been a driving force in the minds of exercisers when choosing an activity to help them reach their weight-loss goals.  Hence the seemingly endless rows of cardio machines at the gym.  And this all sounds good.  Why not?  I want to burn body fat, so naturally I should choose this style of activity, right

Here is where that logic falls short.  I’ll go back to my dinner plate analogy.  If you looked at the energy burned in an aerobic-style activity like a dinner plate, a typical cardio workout “plate” might hold 3 Twinkies, and 1 granola bar, with the Twinkies representing fat and the granola bar representing carbohydrates.  This 3 to 1 ratio of fats to carbohydrates is the most effective way for the body to provide the energy it needs to complete the task.  (Understand that protein is also used as an energy source, but for the sake of clarity I have left it out for now).  As the intensity of exercise goes up, the proportions present on the plate changes.  In a highly anaerobic (“without oxygen”) workout, it may be 3 granola bars and 1 Twinkies instead.  Carbohydrates do not require the presence of oxygen to be used as energy.

So why can a higher intensity, anaerobic exercise be more effective for body fat loss than aerobic exercise?  The important thing to understand is that while the proportions may have changed at a higher intensity, the anaerobic workout requires more overall plates.  You may have to have 3 plates worth of food to provide the energy necessary for a higher intensity workout.  9 granola bars and 3 Twinkies at the higher intensity workout, and only 1 granola bar and 3 Twinkies at the lower intensity workout.  You can see from this analogy that the same amount of fat is burned at both workout intensities.  However, with the increase carbohydrate usage comes increased calorie burning altogether.  The result?  Assuming the nutrition is dialed in, and without going into too much detail about the biochemistry of it all, the body uses fat stores post workout to replenish the energy lost during the workout and the overall body fat loss is higher than with the aerobic workout.  Understand that time plays a factor here.  5 minutes of high-intensity exercise is not going to necessarily negate an hour of low-intensity exercise.  But minute for minute, the bang for your buck is much higher.  The game you are trying to play is calories in versus calories out.  And any time you can maximize the calories out, like with a high intensity workout, the more effective body fat loss you will achieve.


(Note: Always consult your physician before engaging in a high-intensity exercise program)

What do you think?