If I exercise at a lower intensity, will I burn more fat?

woman running

Anyone who has been in a gym within the past 25 years has seen it. You know, that little easy-to-read chart on every piece of cardio equipment with the perfectly linear trend line showing the progression of heart rate to your exercise, “stage”.

Many of these visual aids like to display that when your heart rate reaches 120-150 beats/minute that you are in the, “maximum fat burning zone”.

Although it’s true that you’re predominantly burning more fat over other fuel sources like carbohydrates or protein at this lower intensity, it is not the peak of your fat burning potential.

You will actually burn more fat calories at a higher intensity. However, in terms of ratios, more calories will be burnt from carbohydrates rather than fat at a higher level of exercise.

As you increase your exercise intensity, the percentage of energy provided by fat goes down, but you burn more calories per minute.

For example, when exercising at lower intensities (walking), you may be getting 70 percent of your energy from fat, but you may only be burning 5 calories per minute. When you increase to a jog, you may be only getting 50% of your energy from fat, but you may be burning 10 calories per minute. If you only have 20 minutes to get your cardio in, and you want to shed off those arm sails, step it up a notch! The only way you’re going to burn more fat calories in a set time parameter is by increasing intensity and burning more total calories overall.