Burning Fat vs. Burning Calories

Burning Fat vs. Burning Calories

To lose weight and get in shape you must have a good diet and exercise regularly to burn fat. The first thing you must understand about exercise is that just because you are burning calories does not mean you are burning fat. Your main focus when you exercise should be losing body fat, and you can”t lose body fat just from burning calories.


When we exercise, our bodies will start burning calories, but the calories that are burned are the calories from carbohydrates in our system. In order to burn calories from your stored fat, your body requires the presence of oxygen. There is a certain amount of oxygen that your body needs in order to start burning fat and the only way for you to measure the amount needed for your own body is to keep up with your target heart rate during exercise. Please understand that if you continue to only burn calories from carbohydrates, you will lose mostly “water weight” which leads to a decrease in your metabolism. Also, think of the calories that are burned from carbohydrates as your energy calories. If you burn too many carbohydrates than your muscles will not receive enough energy to increase your metabolism which indirectly burn fat. Therefore you must increase your calorie intake when you are on an exercise program to replace your burned energy calories.

Burning Fat Calories during Exercise

During aerobic exercise, your body goes through several stages before it reaches the point where you are burning fat. You will hear people say that you are only burning sugar (carbohydrates) not fat during the first 10 minutes of exercise. This is true to a certain extent. I say this because you will continue to burn sugar past the 10 minute mark if you are not working out hard enough for your body to want more oxygen; or you are working out too hard and you can”t supply your body with enough oxygen for fat burning. When you exercise you must move at a steady pace (not too fast, not too slow) so your body will utilize your stored fat (not carbohydrates or sugar) as its energy source. Also remember that just because you reached the fat burning stage does not mean you will stay there. Staying at the fat burning stage once again depends on if you are moving at a pace that is right for your body. Make sure that you are within your target heart rate range.

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Burning Fat Calories at Rest

The way for you to continue to burn fat calories hours after you have finished working out is through the anaerobic exercise of weight training. Weight training is the key to burning fat at rest. Weight training is an anaerobic activity that will cause you to burn more calories than aerobic exercise. The calories that you are burning during weight training exercises are mostly calories from carbohydrates (meaning you must eat even more calories per day for energy); but the calories you burn at rest are mostly calories from fat. The reason you are burning fat at rest is because weight training increases your metabolism which uses your stored fat as energy.  If you can boost your metabolism at rest, which is very tricky, you will burn fat calories.  Check out information on cooling vest technology and these other ways to burn more calories.

To make your body the ultimate fat burning machine you must do aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (weight training) exercises.

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HealthStatus Team

HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our blood alcohol, 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.

Our team of health professionals, and researchers use peer reviewed studies as source elements in our articles.

Our high quality content has been featured in a number of leading websites, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Live Strong, GQ, and many more.
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HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our blood alcohol, 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. Our team of health professionals, and researchers use peer reviewed studies as source elements in our articles. Our high quality content has been featured in a number of leading websites, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Live Strong, GQ, and many more.

4 Comments

  1. islam Reply

    you have made it very simple and understandable.
    The article needs more information about: aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

  2. Judy Reply

    Thank you for this. Very informative. Very clear. This is what my orthorexia self was missing…now if only I had an exercise choreographer to put together a plan taylored to my 56 year young 114 lb want to build muscle lose belly physique! …:)

  3. james harrison Reply

    This is not quite true. Your body burns both sugar and fat related energy stores all the time. It doesnt solely switch from one to another. Fat is more energy dense than sugar but it requires more energy to release it. Your body will prefer sugar derived energy, but it is always burning fat at the same time. As your sugar based energy drops, so your body starts to increase its use of fat based energy. The longer you exercise the more fat is burned. The fitter you get, the more efficient your body gets so you need to work harder or even longer for the same results.

    1. Phil McGuire

      Thanks James, that was a good add on. Your body wants to keep its fat stores, especially if you’re fat loss process is well underway, so you have to work at it, in a way to fool you body into burning fat. Had about 600 calories (80g protein) going into my workout today was two hours full body weight training, good and hard and then I jumped on the bike at least 80% of max heart rate (age 64) for an hour. Sipped on more branch chains and protein as I was becoming drawn out from weight training a few minutes before start of bike, but got burst of energy about twenty minutes into the ride and did the full hour when I usually shut it down by 40 minutes. I could almost feel my body releasing fat stores as my energy surged. Two hours later with a light supper, I feel great.

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