5 Components that Make an Exercise Great at Burning Fat


While, there are plenty of benefits to daily exercise such as increased agility, cardiovascular health and disease prevention, fat burn is also high on the list. 

This is good, since not only can excess fat rob you of the lean, toned look you seek through exercise, it can also increase your risk for chronic diseases such as heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes. 

Plus, the reason you have body fat in the first place is as a source of energy, so you may as well use it--once you deplete stores of your body's primary fuel--glycogen--which it gets from carbohydrates, that is. In fact, think of fat stores as being like the gas in a hybrid car, and glycogen like the electricity which is used first before switching to gas. 

And, just as driving faster uses up electricity faster in a hybrid car, the same can be said about you and your glycogen stores.  

However, not all types of exercise use calories at the same rate or as readily, and how you work out and the muscles used can also make a difference. 

To better help you understand how to turn your workouts into fat burning sessions, here are 5 components that make an exercise burn fat: 

  1. Approaching your workouts more like a muscle car than an economy car--While piddling along in the slow lane in a Kia Soul is comfortable and will burn fuel, burning rubber in a Shelby Mustang lights up far more. In fact, there is no secret formula which enables you to burn fat without effort, and just as a large, powerful V-8 engine is less energy fuel-efficient, so is high-intensity exercises. Plus, even though low-intensity exercise is comfortable and will burn fat...eventually, you may not have the time in your busy schedule or even the attention span for hour-after-boring-hour of plodding along. This is because it takes your body around 30-40 minutes at moderate-intensity, and up to twice that long at low-intensity to go through its glycogen stores and switch to fat. This makes the average low-intensity workout great for burning off an afternoon snack, though not much more. And, 30 minutes is just the estimated time to start burning fat and you probably need to continue for much longer than this for any serious progress. Instead, you need to hit the gas and burn rubber (or better yet, fat), with high-intensity workouts such as weight training, sprinting or fast agility drills. 
  2. Working out long enough--A high-intensity fat-burn exercise doesn't need to take long, although no matter the workout, you need to do it long enough to get through your body's supply of glycogen. Think of it this way: long before there were supermarkets and convenience stores, there were things growing out of the ground and proteins-on-the-hoof roaming the tundras for your ancestors to harvest and eat. Unfortunately, animals weren't willing to conveniently fall on spears and there were times when other food sources were scarce, which meant long periods physically chasing prey while being hungry. Fueling these lean periods is why  your body stores excess calories as fat when it can and uses carbohydrates as its primary fuel in the meantime. This means that unless you follow an eating program such as keto or paleo which limits carbohydrates, you have blood sugars to light up first before tapping into your fat reserves, which takes at least 15 minutes of medium to high-intensity exercise to achieve. Remember too that while your ancestors needed to pace themselves and preserve enough energy to trot after game for hours or even days at a time, strolling through the local Safeway hardly requires the same effort. So, be sure to up the intensity, put in the time, and leave it all on the gym floor when you're through (though not on the weight benches and machines--that's just gross for others!). 
  3. Employing fast twitch muscles fibers--Okay, so you may already know this, but you have two types of muscle fibers: fast twitch, or anaerobic power fibers, and slow twitch, or aerobic endurance fibers. The difference between them is how each uses energy from oxygen, which is that fast twitch fibers use too much oxygen to be sustainable for long periods, while slow twitch aerobic fibers run more efficiently. Can you guess which is best at burning fat? Good for you, you're paying attention!  The fact that fast twitch muscle fibers are less efficient means more fuel is burned in a shorter period than if you stick to a slow twitch workout. Naturally, this translates to burning more FAT burn in less time. So, while the treadmill may have a place during warm ups and cool downs, skipping it for weight lifting, body weight workouts and other exercise which require LOTS of unsustainable effort which induces "the burn" is the way to go. 
  4. It involves high-intensity interval training (HIIT)--Remember how we said that low-intensity exercise does burn fat, just that it takes a very long time to do so? Well, there's a way to use light aerobic exercise to speed up the fat burn process--with the help of your power muscles, that is. What we are referring to are intervals, which--just in case you are unfamiliar with them--involve short, powerful, anaerobic bursts followed by a brief cool down in the aerobic zone. This is repeated throughout the duration of the workout so that you essentially never stop moving. The beauty of this type of exercise is that it doesn't really gives you time to fully rest, and instead keeps burning fat even during the "recovery" parts, which can be light jogging or other exercise which keeps you going. For instance, during the anaerobic effort which may be sprinting, intense agility drills, swimming, cycling or you-name-it, you are going at a pace of up to 95% of your maximum heart rate which absolutely SCORCHES calories. This lasts anywhere from a few seconds to 5 minutes, and is followed by about twice that amount of time "recovering" at about 55-65% of maximum effort before repeating the entire process. This not only maximizes your calories burned, but unlike steady-state aerobic exercise, HIIT workouts are far from boring. Plus, you can add more fun and intensity by mixing it up with hill-repeats, stairs, or by challenging a partner to agility races. And, just in case you're not sold yet, here's the part you're REALLY going to love: your body continues to burn fat for long after you complete an HIIT workout, such as later when you have your feet up enjoying a post-workout endorphin buzz and recovery meal.
  5. Circuit training which uses more than one muscle group--Much like HIIT, circuit training virtually never lets you stop moving, which adds greatly to fat burn. However, it takes it a step further in that it utilizes strength training along with medium-to-high-intensity cardio to see what you're made of. Since it is usually performed using a series of functional exercises, it also mixes up the muscle groups being worked to not only burn even more calories, but improve your agility, coordination and overall muscle strength. However, due to the nature of circuit training, those new to it should start slowly even if you consider yourself in shape (yes, it's that intense!). 

An example of what a typical intermediate circuit workout may look like is.

  • 10 one-legged squats on each side. Or, if this is too difficult, 15 regular squats using enough weight that maximum effort is needed to complete the final rep
  • 20 body weight squats
  • 20 walking lunges (10 on each leg) using enough weight to make the effort hard
  • 20 jump step-ups
  • Pull ups or inverted body weight rows (10 is recommended, though determine how many based on your fitness level)
  • 10 dips, or as many as fitness allows
  • About 10 push ups
  • Plank for 30 seconds, depending on your fitness

Considering the lack of rest between each exercise (as in, NONE), circuit training can be the ultimate fat burning exercise component. It is also a versatile approach to working out, and in addition to the many individual exercises performed and muscle groups worked, you can use kettle bells, agility equipment or other training tools so long as the workout is intense. Remember, the harder you work, the more fat you burn while at the same time improving your muscle strength, cardiovascular health, coordination and agility. 

What Else can I do to Burn Fat?

In addition to the exercises you perform and how you perform them, your diet has an effect on your body's ability to burn fat. For instance, when you limit carbohydrates and increase your protein and fat intake, your body has no choice but to use the fuel which is most available--fat. This means that rather than taking  time to work through glycogen stores, it taps straight into your love handles for the energy it needs. 

This puts your body into a state called "ketosis," or its fat burn stage, which means even when you're not working out, your body is burning fat. Think of it as being like your mom making you eat your vegetables whether you wanted to or not.

And no, this isn't to say you should skip workouts and rely only on diet to burn fat, or even that you shouldn't eat your vegetables just because your mom isn't standing over you. In fact, there are benefits to both which make each important parts your daily routine. Remember that green, leafy vegetables in particular are very low in carbohydrates and provide fiber along with many other nutritional benefits, and regular exercise improves your heart health, lowers your risk for many chronic diseases and helps you maintain agility, balance and coordination. 

Speaking of Agility...

Burning fat may be an important aspect of exercise, although an equally important benefit is improving your agility. This is where Zoid Fitness comes in, since adding Zoid's unique agility training system to your HIIT and circuit training routines will not only improve your coordination, strength and balance, but help you perform your best on the athletic field while preventing injuries due to falls and other accidents. 

Plus, by training ALL your muscles and tendons including the smaller ones meant to support ankles, knees and other areas of high mobility, agility training drills helps prevent injury to them now and in the future. 

So, by tailoring your workouts to include plenty of fast twitch intensity such as from HIIT or circuit training while adhering to a diet low in carbohydrates, you can turn yourself into a fat-burning machine. Adding Zoid's fitness and sport-specific drills to your workouts can also amp-up the fun, fat burn and injury-prevention factor while increasing your balance, coordination and strength.

So hit the field, light it up and feel the burn! 

You know you love it.