Does Burning Calories Mean Burning Fat?

Does Burning Calories Mean Burning Fat?

So you want to lose some weight to get back into that dress for the big date, or the wedding, or high school reunion, or for whatever reason,(maybe it’s just to try to be healthier), and you are hoping to drop ten unsightly pounds of fat before then?

You are hoping that riding that exercise bike or running around the block a few hundred times will get the sweat pouring and the metabolism going, burn those calories and burn that fat off, right?

Measuring weightWrong. The truth is that just because you are burning calories that doesn’t mean you are burning fat as well. When you are exercising, the first calories that your body uses are from the carbohydrates in your system rather than the calories in your stored fat.

In order for your body to burn stored fat there are a few factors involved. The first thing you must keep in mind is that in order to get at those fat reserves you need O2 (oxygen), and in order to get that O2 you will need to keep your heart rate in your target zone. The target heart rate is different for everyone but is achieved the same way, through aerobic exercise (aka cardio). The very word aerobic means “with air” air being oxygen of course.

Keep in mind that if your body does not get the oxygen it requires then your body will not burn the stored fat and you will only lose water weight. This is a negative result because this can cause your metabolism to slow; this will actually cause you to gain weight.

To really get at that fat you have to find the perfect heart rate “zone” where you are working out hard enough to need/want more oxygen, but not so hard that it isn’t getting enough, in which case it will resort to burning the carbohydrates in your system again. The idea is to reach that level where your body needs more oxygen than normal but is getting it supplied by your increased heart rate and maintain it, and then you will start burning those fat stores.

Confusing right? How do you know if you are in the “zone” and burning fat you ask? That’s a good question; here is how to figure that out.  (or just go to our target heart rate calculator and let us give you the numbers)

[pel_getmldata healthy=’yes’ numrec=3]

Upon awakening, before getting out of bed, calculate your heart rate (HR).

Subtract your age in years from 220 to get you standard maximal HR.

Subtract your morning HR from your standard maximal HR.

Multiply the result of step 3 by 0.60.

Multiply the result of step 3 by 0.70.

Add your morning HR to the result of step 4.

Add your morning HR to the result of step 5.

Your target HR training zone is between the two results of steps 6 and 7.

After your aerobic workout you should move on to anaerobic exercise (weight training) to continue to get into that stored fat. Anaerobic exercise helps to increase your metabolism and so will help your body continue to burn stored fat even while at rest.

These are the basics but to really have an effective exercise routine to lose weight it is best if you have a trainer, join a gym, or even use workout videos because there really is a science to it and rather than trying to understand it all yourself spend your time working out under the supervision of someone that already knows. And remember to always talk to your doctor first to make sure you are healthy enough to exercise.


HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators. The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.


  1. Linda Jones Reply

    If you can lose some weight you will be happy with your health. Also, you will be in the safe zone from various kind of diseases. Alec, thank you so much for this writing. I will save the link in my “Important Links excel sheet” for further assistance.

  2. Samuel Amoakoh Reply

    I normally have chest pain and I have been doing exercise regularly but the pains still persist.

    I consulted my doctor and he did a text he said my heart beat is OK.

    Please what should I do.

  3. Abdessamad Reply

    Hi.i’m Abdessamad i want to lose 10 kg in my body my current weight is 80 kg and i just start lifting so i need a manner to lose fat (10kg) in addition i run for some long miles so does those tips will help me losing this amount of weight furthermore i need to know how many calories should i get in body per the day to lose the 10 kg and what sort of foods i have to avoid .

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