Burn fat – but how?

18. April 2018

It is simpler than you think: slow training units train the economy of the lipid metabolism, whereas in absolute terms, intensive and fast units burn the most calories and thus also the most fat. Two different forms of training with two different objectives.

No weight loss without a negative energy Balance

Let’s concentrate on weight loss first. If you want to break down fat, you need to work on your energy balance. What you put into your body, must also come out, otherwise pads of fat will bulge out of your trousers. The body stores unused calories as fat. Therefore, the energy balance plays a crucial role in weight loss. Only when the input (calories consumed with food) minus the output (calories burned) is negative, i.e. the energy consumption is greater than the energy supply, will you lose weight.

You can increase the output by exercising more and reduce the input with a cleverly portioned diet. If the aim is to reduce weight through sports, there are two starting points. You can either try to burn as many calories as possible within a short period of time. This motto applies here: if you want to burn the maximum number of calories, then you also need to put in the maximum amount of effort. Or you can increase the duration of your sports activities and try to keep going for as long as possible – which is only achievable at a medium intensity. In doing so, carbohydrates are no longer the primary source of energy as fat is also burned with the help of oxygen.

In percentage terms, the less intensive the physical exertion, the more fat you burn. That is why this intensity level is often referred to as the “fat burning zone”. However, this is only valid in percentage terms because due to the low overall energy metabolism, the absolute amount of fat burned in the fat burning zone is still less than if you were exercising intensively.


Lipid metabolism for more economy

Training in a low "fat burning zone" mode has yet another special meaning in endurance sports. Burning carbohydrates (= burning glycogen and sugar) provides almost twice as much energy each time as burning fat, however, fats burn for considerably longer and their supply is virtually unlimited in the body. There are only enough glycogen reserves for a training unit of around 90 minutes.

Training regularly in a moderate lipid metabolic zone therefore forms the ultimate foundation upon which the other training units can be built. What’s more, less intensive training units require a shorter period of regeneration and can be repeated quite often.

By accessing the lipid metabolism, our body improves the more economical of the two main metabolisms in endurance sports. The glycogen reserves, which are only available to a limited extent, are thereby preserved. Your lipid metabolism enables you to run for hours or days, whereas your glycogen metabolism only enables you to run for two hours at best before you need to top up on carbohydrates. The better the lipid metabolism is trained, the more it will help you to preserve carbohydrates from the outset and maintain the desired tempo for longer at the end. And you will be less likely to suffer a hunger knock from one moment to the next.

How beneficial is metabolic Training?

Lipid metabolic training not only makes sense for (marathon) runners, but also for all endurance athletes who train for long periods of time. Cyclists and triathletes also explicitly train their lipid metabolism when they prepare for the upcoming season. The longer the competitive pressure, the greater its significance becomes. Lipid metabolic training improves long-term endurance. The body makes more blood in order to transport the oxygen more efficiently and the number of powerhouses (mitochondria) in the muscles increase, enabling the cells to get even better energy. As the body adapts, it is able to process the training loads faster. And last but not least, it not only develops the muscles and blood, but also cartilage, tendons and ligaments, so you can better cope with the training and are thus less likely to suffer from overloading.

When does metabolic training start?

The lipid metabolism kicks in at almost all intensities. But only when the duration of the exertion is long, and the intensity low can it be termed classic lipid metabolic training. Long running units ranging from 60 to 180 minutes (depending on your objectives) should be done once per week. You can build the necessary foundation by combining them with other extensive continuous runs. The extensive units can be supplemented by intensive training units in the ratio 1:3. Every third extensive training unit should be followed by an intensive one.

If you want to be successful, you should invest in lipid metabolic training all year round. The positive thing about it: these training units are not very intensive and are purely challenging due to their long duration. To break up the monotony somewhat, it is advisable to do the long training unit with colleagues or choose a new route every now and again.

Percentage of energy-supplying processes under different loads

Lipid metabolism: our body’s “diesel engine”

The two metabolic systems, lipid metabolism and carbohydrate metabolism, are constantly engaged during endurance training but not to the same extent. During intensive training units, the carbohydrate metabolism is used first and foremost, but when the training duration increases and the pulse frequency sinks, the lipid metabolism provides the most energy. In the ideal fat burning zone, training doesn’t mean burning the maximum number of calories (intensive training burns more calories in total than relaxed training), instead it means improving the economy of the lipid metabolism at low intensities, so it can also contribute to the energy supply during more intensive loads.