Healthy Beginnings

Maximizing Fat Loss

Are you exercising too hard?

Haven’t lost those extra pounds you lovingly packed on during the Holidays? Is your New Year’s Resolution starting to seem like a distant memory? You’re not alone, about 9 out of 10 will not lose as much as they had hoped and probably won’t maintain what they did lose. Why? Curiously, one of the biggest reasons for this is that they are exercising too hard to efficiently burn bodyfat. Exercising too hard? Do I have your attention yet? Let’s take a closer look at the specifics.

Bodyfat is a powerful and dense fuel source for the body. The energy released from one gram of fat is approximately 9 kcal/g, compared with only 4 kcal/g for proteins and carbohydrates. Gram for gram fat has more than twice the energy of other fuels. If the human body relied on carbohydrates to store energy then a person would need to carry 68 lbs. of glycogen to have the equivalent energy of 10 lbs. of fat. Remember, 1 pound of fat provides the body with 3,500 calories. Sugar is an instant high-intensity fuel. Fat is a constant low-intensity fuel. Often when attempting to lose the weight people push their bodies too hard using methods of exercise that are too intense to mobilize the fat as fuel.

Burning fat requires oxygen. And two important words to remember here are “aerobic” and “anaerobic”. Aerobic means “with oxygen”. Anaerobic means “without oxygen”. Inside most human cells are tiny organelles called “Mitochondria”. It is the mitochondria that burn fat for energy and they need oxygen to do so. Fat metabolism is an aerobic system. Mitochondrial function is one of the most important aspects of health, aging, and disease. Due to age, lifestyle, and other factors we experience a condition known as Early Onset Mitochondrial Dysfunction (EOMD). EOMD leads to an increase in free radical production and decreased anti-oxidant buffering capacity and is the primary cause of mitochondrial decay, degenerative disease and aging. The good news is that EOMD is reversible and it occurs long before actual mitochondrial decay. EOMD also directly manifests itself as decreased metabolism and weight gain.

If you want to lose fat this year you will need to focus on aerobic exercises and reversing EOMD. But don’t exercise too intensely. To explain what I mean, let’s take an example of Mary. Mary was 47 years old and overweight. She hired a personal trainer to help her lose weight. Her trainer calculated her fat burning heart rate (FBR) to be 114 BPM and her anaerobic threshold heart rate (ATR) to be 150 BPM. When she was tested with Bio-Energy Testing, a method used to measure our body’s capacity to utilize oxygen, it was discovered that her actual FBR was only 95, and her ATR was only 110. That is a huge difference from what her trainer calculated using generic equations. Her trainer was unknowingly teaching her to exercise too hard. With the program from her trainer Mary was disappointed because she was not losing much fat. However, she was losing muscle because the body needed to make more glucose (sugar) to get through the workouts. The body can create glucose when needed by a process called “Gluconeogenesis” and it uses protein to accomplish it. This means that the body burns existing muscle tissue to generate energy for your workouts. You may lose weight, but much of that weight will be muscle and that is very unhealthy. Most people only burn fat after they are done exercising and the heart rate has slowed down allowing fat to again be burned.

As you can see from the chart Mary is generating about 55% of her energy from fat while at rest. She eventually tops out at 100% fat utilization around 95 BPM and then steeply drops her ability to utilize fat until she reaches 110 BPM. At a heart rate of only 110 BPM she is no longer able to burn any fat for energy. Keep in mind that these heart rates will be completely different for every individual and they will continually change as progress is made.

Sustained exercise above the anaerobic threshold produces such a high amount of free radicals that the antioxidants and free radical buffering systems become depleted. This results in an increased rate of aging, risk of disease and increased oxidant stress. It also increases mesenchymal acid levels, which is known to dramatically contribute to acute and chronic disease, increased rates of tissue and organ degeneration and an increased rate in the aging process. Keep in mind that being healthy and being able to metabolize fat go hand in hand.

In a paper published in the Townsend Letter for Doctors, Dr. Frank Shallenberger M.D., H.M.D. studied twenty men and women of various ages. All twenty had been exercising according to guidelines they had read about in different fitness books and magazines.

Using Bio-Energy Testing he determined their optimum fitness zones. The result? Not one person was exercising correctly. 9 out of ten were exercising too hard while the others were not exercising hard enough.

Continually losing weight is a delicate balancing act you must pay close attention to. Too much effort or too little effort and you won’t maximize fat loss. Keep the intensity just high enough and watch the fat keep melting away.

Lastly, here are some suggestions for making this a successful year to lose weight and keep it off:

1. Decide what you want and what you are actually willing to work for. You won’t look like a magazine cover model if you only exercise 15 minutes a day for 3 days a week.

2. Get tested. At least get a test for your basal metabolic rate. The generic equations used to determine heart rates, fat burning zones, and metabolism are usually quite incorrect. I recommend, Bio-Energy Testing, as it may be the most comprehensive and accurate method to do so. Find a testing center near you, at

3. Buy a heart rate monitor. Most discount stores have them and they are very affordable.

4. Find a fitness professional with a strong medical understanding or background. Such professionals may be doctor referred and will probably charge more than other trainers, but the difference is worth it.

5. Keep your carbs to a minimum. Remember, the body won’t burn fat if it can use sugar and whenever you eat any carbohydrates it slows down and impairs fat metabolism.

6. Calories DO matter. If you want to lose 2 pounds of fat per week then you need to create a caloric deficit of 7,000 calories a week or a daily calorie deficit of 1,000 calories.

7. Consider adding some supplementation. Be cautious when considering stimulants but definitely look into L-Carnitine, Ornithine, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Coenzyme Q10, and Pyruvate. These all help with fat metabolism and increase mitochondrial function.

8. Every few months take a week or two off from losing weight, change up your routines and exercises, have some fun and celebrate your hard work and great results.

John Schroeder is President of the Health Fitness & Development Institute.

He can be reached at (866) 875-6616