Is Aerobic Training the Only Way to Burn Fat?

“I have read in popular magazines that aerobic training is the only way to burn fat. Is this true? If not are there other ways to burn fat, if so what are some?”

Perhaps I do not read these popular fitness magazines that solely claim aerobic training is the only way to burn fat because when I tried to find examples of a magazine claiming this, I fell short which was a pleasant surprise. However, I have seen this misconception first hand while working with friends and family. We live in a faced paced culture where every problem ideally has a single and simple solution. For example, if you are hungry you can grab a quick meal at one of the dozens of restaurants that are in your town, or if you need to talk to someone you send them a text 10 seconds later. Instant gratification and simple single solutions rule our everyday lives, so it makes sense that some people believe there is a single method to reducing body fat. So why cling on to aerobics as the way to do it? My theory is we are more likely to attempt to add a new habit to our lives than change an old one. Old habits include the food we eat and the drinks we drink, so we are likely to turn toward exercise, a habitual addition, to burn fat. From there I believe we turn toward exercises that we can easily measure or perceive the outcome of. For aerobics it is easy to measure the amount of calories burned, thus we get some instant gratification after seeing our calorie count after a workout. We of course know that what we gravitate toward isn’t always true.

Fortunately ‘Top 10’ lists have become very common in the fitness world and seem to be the common format for fat loss articles. These lists eliminate the concept of there being a single way to lose fat. Nevertheless, the common theme in many of these lists are the websites and magazines choose content over proven research, and some suggestions are loosely scientifically backed or simply opinions. Sometimes recipes make it into the list stating that a certain food or meal will burn fat. It’s good that the fitness community is no longer pinpointing one way to lose fat, but there is still a long way to go before insignificant or false methods are fully eliminated from these lists.

Although green tea and apple cider vinegar were discussed more often than eating a balanced diet, thankfully most lists include at least [sometimes loosely] one tip about each of the following: aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, and nutrition. Anaerobic exercise is a great way to accelerate fat loss but it is often misunderstood. A relatively common belief is by doing an anaerobic exercise for a particular muscle group you can spot reduce fat in that area. The fitness magazines are doing a better job not spreading this myth, yet it still shows up in some blog articles. Since fat loss is a metabolic process, we can use aerobic exercise to increase our metabolism by increasing muscle mass. The more lean mass we have, the higher our resting metabolic rate is, meaning we require additional calories to sustain ourselves. This extra calorie requirement paired with a static diet can decrease body fat. Nutrition is another common way to reduce body fat, and is often underestimated. When people aim for calories burned with conducting an aerobic workout, they often fail to recognize that perhaps the largest gains can be made by changing their eating habits rather than changing their exercise habits.

I have not recently seen any magazines claiming aerobics are the only way to burn fat, but that doesn’t mean the misconception isn’t out there. Like the new ‘top 10’ lists are showing us, there are many ways someone can lose fat with anaerobic exercise and good nutrition being two of the top ways besides aerobic exercise.

Advertisements

The Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise and Why it Matters

I’m sure you hear the terms aerobic and anaerobic all the time. The term aerobic has often been used synonymously with the term cardio and is sometimes confused with a type of fitness class from the 1970s. What exactly are aerobic and anaerobic exercises, and why does it matter?

It turns out that these are directly related to your metabolism and the way your body uses energy. The amount of energy your muscles keep stored at any given time only allows for about a second of maximum exertion and after that, your body needs to begin making more energy for itself. For the first couple minutes of a hard workout, your body will use carbohydrates in the form of blood sugar or glycogen (sugar stored in your muscles) to generate additional energy. These first couple minutes do not require additional oxygen to create the new energy, so it is called an anaerobic (no oxygen) process.

If you exercise extends longer than a couple minutes without a long enough break to allow your muscles to restore their energy, then your body begins to run out of glycogen and blood sugar to safely use and must find a new way to produce energy. Your body decides to start breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and even proteins to use as energy. If your workout lasts long enough, your body will even go as far as breaking down your muscles for energy! These metabolic processes require oxygen, which is why they are referred to as aerobic processes.

How you train determines what type of energy pathway you are using. If you are lifting weights, throwing a ball, or running a sprint, then you are using anaerobic processes to provide your body with energy. This type of exercise forces your body adapt to become better suited for short, explosive movements. Your muscles will start to store more energy and they will begin to grow larger. If you decide to go jogging, swimming, or dancing, you are using aerobic processes to fuel your body. The more you do these kinds of workouts, the more your body will adapt to utilizing and mobilizing fat, which could lead to a lower body fat percentage. Also, your ability to store and transport oxygen in your muscles will increase and your aerobic capacity will rise.

A good mix of aerobic and anaerobic activities are required to stay healthy and fit, but depending on your fitness goals you may want to choose to train one more often than the other. To lose weight, aerobic activities should be favored, while to gain muscle size and mass, anaerobic exercises should be your go to exercise type.