January is a time when everyone is focused on losing the extra calories put on over the Christmas period, this seems to manifest itself as burning off those few extra pounds around your tummy.
There does seem to be a general perception that this means doing lots of extra cardio like running, cycling and swimming, funny as this was an idea brought about in the early eighties when we were all told: “you need to run to burn fat”. This though is not the complete truth, it may help if I give a fuller explanation of how you burn off fat.
Your body uses two sources of fuel one is fat and the other is glycogen which is stored in your muscles after processing carbohydrate into glucose. However, your body uses both sources for fuel for all your activities including exercise but it has a preference to which source is best depending on the intensity of your activity. In the case of a moderately intense activity that which makes you sweat, you will use predominantly glycogen and for activities which are much less intense, your body will use mainly fat.
It’s not straightforward, each depends on your fitness and how efficient your body is at metabolizing fat as an energy source so we are all different; there is no absolute rule for all.
It’s also important to understand that if you are at the gym and using weights as part of your programme to get stronger you will raise your metabolism to quite a high level. The result will be to push your body into fat utilization for a long period afterward, this recovery phase can last many hours longer than it would if you were out for a walk in the park. So resistance training here is helping you to burn fat!
The same can be said of any high intense exercise including sprinting, racing or HIIT classes, plus the fitter you are the more efficient your body will be at utilizing fat burning.
To summarise the harder and sweatier your activity, your body is using glucose in the short term but fat burning for recovery. So if your objective is to lose fat rolls you need to lift weights and push yourself hard enough to sweat.
Cautionary note: If you are not used to exercising always check that you are healthy enough by visiting a health professional first. For more advice like this, you can find it in my book “How to Live Healthier“