Burn a Myth to Burn More Calories

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Kymberly and Alexandra

Q: What is the appropriate heart rate for a 50 year old woman who wants to burn fat?  Last summer I won a free membership to a gym and was surprised when my personal trainer informed me that I needed to slow down on the treadmill because my heart rate was too high.  I always thought that walking faster would be better for losing weight.


Diane, Santa Maria, CA

Burn a Myth

A: The appropriate heart rate for a 50 year old woman is to have one! Yup, now that you’re officially in the “second half,” how much does it matter if your heart is beating like a rabbit? Mine goes shooting sky high when I see actor Clive Owen, and you don’t see me slowing down as I stalk him in Hollywood!

K: How shall I put this diplomatically and professionally?? Umm, get a new trainer. This one fell for a long time myth and does not understand the diff between burning calories to lose fat and using fat vs carbos as the energy source for activity. Do you hear me tearing out my low fat hair?

A: Ah, I thought that sound was you burning some fat. On the stove. In a frying pan. With an empty bacon wrapper on the counter. When you’re done setting off the smoke alarms, Kymberly, please tell Diane the difference between burning fat calories and using energetic fat!

K: Alexandra is jealous of my cooking abilities and my superior fitness knowledge. So sad, so obvious.  Here’s the deal. To reduce body fat you need to burn more calories than you take in. You can do that by working out longer (but who the heck has time? You are too busy finding a qualified trainer and walking faster. Believe me). Or you can work out more intensely. Or you can do both. The key is to use up calories faster than a Hummer uses gas. Or faster than Alexandra runs when the near naked scene with Clive Owen in the James Bond movie comes on screen. Whether those calories you burn up are fueled by stored fat or stored carbohydrates, the bottom line is to get to caloric deficit.

A: As a true professional (“professional what?” you may ask) I want to add this little caveat. Do you take any meds that would cause your (shall we call him or her “former”?) trainer to worry about your heart rate? If so, you had better talk to a real doctor instead of we two fitness weenies about your walking pace. Otherwise, here is the deal. If you walk faster, you lose weight faster. How soon is your next high school reunion? If it’s really soon, you had better walk so fast that it comes to resemble a heavy, panting trot. And will someone please let Kymberly know that my close personal friend Clive was not in a James Bond movie.

K: Hey running rabbit sis, slow down! But Diane – speed up your heart rate. Last time Alexandra panted as hard as her advice suggests, Clive Owen was…..  Oh never mind. As I was saying, get to caloric deficit. The myth your trainer got caught in is that low intensity activity relies on stored body fat to fuel the casual stroll. High intensity activity uses mostly carbohydrates as fuel, also known as “energy,” also known as “calories.” And while low intensity exercise might use a higher relative percentage of fat instead of carbos, you need not care about relative percentages in this case. You care about total, absolute number of burned cals.  To lose one pound of weight you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in, ie, caloric deficit.  Therefore, do what it takes to burn as many calories as you can, need, or want. You can either go longer, go with more intensity, or go more often if you have a weight loss goal. As for the heart rate you should aim for, time for A to check in.  I’m exhausted thinking about all that panting and trotting and heavy walking.

A: Can’t I just lie in the bath and kick my legs to make the bath salts melt? You now know what to do, right, Diane? And between you and me, I think the trainer just wanted you to slow down as a way to make it easier to admire your little working-out self.

K: Before you check out on us, check out this video link ACE Fitness put together on this same topic. We love this short clip because it totally backs up the fact that we give hot, sizzling hot, current advice.  Oh, and Diane, we dropped the name of the specific gym you mentioned in your original question so that all gyms and trainers would be paranoid and wonder if you were referring to them. Kind of spurs an upswing in standards, eh? Fear- the final frontier….


Readers: Which famous person would you most want to exercise with? Why and what kind of workout would you do?

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