Most of us approach cardio exercise in one of two ways. We are either moving so slowly that we don’t elevate our heart rate much at all or we go at all out intensity and work too hard, moving our heart rate out of the maximum fat burning range. There are 3 types of fuel that we can burn when exercising; carbohydrates, fat or lean mass. Most of us prefer to burn fat. After all, one of the main reasons that most people work out is to lose weight and/or reduce body fat.
By working smarter, not harder, you can increase the amount of calories from fat that you burn during a workout. The more intense the exercise the more overall calories you are going to burn. You will also burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. But the kicker is that the higher the intensity, the less number of calories that are coming from fat. The trick is to find a happy medium where you are working hard enough to elevate your heart rate and burn fat while keeping the intensity low enough that you continue to burn fat and not begin to use your lean mass as fuel.
You also want to make sure that you are working hard enough to build a cardiovascular base and increase your fitness level.
One way to make sure you are working in the proper zone is by obtaining a measurement of your VO2 max. This is the amount of oxygen that you are able to consume per minute per kilogram of body weight.
The more oxygen you can consume the heavier workload you are able to perform. This test will provide you with the proper training heart rate zones for your age, weight, height and sex.
Another good idea is to wear a heart rate monitor during cardio exercise. This lets you see precisely what your heart rate is during exercise. If you have a VO2 max test, then you will know what your appropriate heart rate zone is for achieving maximum fat burn while still working to increase your overall fitness level. Many heart rate monitors allow you to program your training zones so that you are easily able to stay in your zones while working out.
Many people are surprised at the low intensity that is required for maximum fat burning. If you are only interested in overall calorie burn then higher intensity exercise is great. It is also good, no matter what your goal, to crank up the intensity at least once a week to maintain your fitness level and possibly even improve it.
Cardio exercise is a key component to a well rounded fitness program and it will only enhance the results that you will see from consistent weight training. If you can get all pieces of the program firing at once, you will reach your goals in what seems like no time at all and you’ll do it by working smarter, not harder! That is music to my ears!
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