Food is one of the greatest pleasures- it is the centerpiece at social gatherings, it can be a cultural experience, it us used to soothe, nourish, comfort, and heal. But ultimately, food is fuel. Our bodies use the food we eat to power our workouts, to perform our daily activities, and for the overall smooth and efficient functioning of our amazing system. Even when we sleep, we need fuel or energy for our hearts to beat, our lungs to breathe, our blood to flow and for our vital organs to function.
The carbohydrates and fats in our food are used by our bodies as fuel. But our bodies burn carbohydrates and fat slightly differently for energy, especially during exercise.
– Lower intensity workouts burn more fat and fewer calories.
– Higher intensity workouts burn more carbs and more calories.
Most workouts will incorporate a combination of fat and carb burning. And our daily activities will too- for example, taking a nap burns fat and calories, but not many. Running up a flight of steps would burn carbs and more calories. If weight loss is a primary concern, it is the total calories you burn that matters most! When you need more calories or fuel than you get from your food, your fat cells start to break down, and as they do, they get smaller — so you’ll lose weight and look leaner.
In exercise circles there is a technique of interval training, with intermittent higher intensities (HIIT) that is all the rage. Rightfully so- science proves that HIIT burns more calories in less time than a steady approach. When done strategically, HIIT can also trigger “afterburn,” where your body burns fat and calories at an increased rate for up to 24 hours post-workout.
Now keep in mind, an “intense” workout may sound intimidating, but it is simply exercise that is a challenge for YOU to perform. For example, if you haven’t been exercising, five minutes of cycling would be considered an intense, and effective workout. If you regularly walk for exercise, you may want to intermittently pick up the pace until you can no longer carry on a conversation. And if you are an avid exerciser, monitoring your heart rate and being able to work in intervals above 80% of your max heart rate- that’s where it’s at!
Research indicates the hard work is well rewarded. And the more time that you spend at those higher intensities, the greater the effect. In fact, in addition to weight loss and gains in strength, “picking up the pace” has anti-aging effects. And it is never too late to start.
It is a New Year– we’d like to kick it off with our bodies performing optimally. Bottom Line– Eat well-balanced, healthful meals. Exercise regularly with bursts of intensity. You will be burning more calories, even at rest– it’s a disco inferno!
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