How To Become A Fat Burning Machine!

My uncle gave me the above book by Jeff Galloway called Marathon – You Can Do It! that I must share with you as it has some VERY informative information inside that I know you will want to know!

Especially, the section titled “Fat Burning As A Way Of Life” that explains how running is one of the very best ways to burn fat and how long runs turn you into a “fat burning” machine!

Here are some of the things that I learned that I took straight from the book:

Fat Burning

The human organism is lazy!  With a primary mission of survival, each of us is programmed to slowly build up extra fat storage.  For millions of years, this has been a proven “insurance policy,” which allowed our ancient ancestors to survive through periods of starvation and sickness.  The mechanisms of fat storage support a well-established principle called “set point.”  This powerful regulatory mechanism increases your appetite for weeks or months, after periods of fat loss due to reduced calorie intake, illness, and even psychological deprivation.  Unfortunately, it does its job too well, leaving you fatter than you were before the fat loss.  Understanding how the set point works as your hedge against starvation is the most important step in learning how to adjust it downward, or at least manage it, for the rest of your life.

What Is Fat?

When you eat a pat of butter, you might as well inject it onto your thigh or stomach.  While dietary fat is directly deposited, protein and carbohydrates (even sugar) will be converted into fat only when you’ve consumed too many calories from those sources throughout the day.  If you’re trying to reduce the fat blanket, it helps to eat complex carbohydrates (baked potatoes, rice, whole grains, and vegetables) and lean protein sources (legumes, turkey breast, nonfat dairy products, etc.) at the same time.

An Unlimited Supply of the Fat Is the Best Fuel for Running

Only body fat is used as fuel, not the fat in your dietIt is an excellent energy source, leaving a small amount of waste product, which is easily removed through the increased blood flow of exercise.  While stored sugar is limited, you can’t run far enough to use up your fat storage.  Even a 140-pound person with the unusually low level of two percent body fat has hundreds of miles of fuel on board.

Differences Between Men & Women

Men tend to store fat on the surface of the body, often on the outside of the stomach area.  Most females store fat internally at firstThousands of areas between muscle cells are filled up first.  Many young women feel that some dramatic change has occurred around the age of 30 when they suddenly start showing fat accumulation on the outside of their bodies, while maintaining the same diet and level of exercise.  They’ve actually been storing fat inside for many years.  Once the inner areas are filled, women notice a dramatic change on the outside of their thighs or stomachs, often in less than a year.

Diets Don’t Work!

By depriving yourself of food, you can reduce your body fat temporarily as you reduce your metabolism rate and your motivation to exercise.  But, as soon as the diet is over, your set-point mechanism unleashes a starvation reflex that keeps you eating until the fat levels are slightly higher than they were before the dietAt the same time, your metabolism rate stays low to help you store fat more quickly.  No matter how mentally focused you are, you’ll find yourself with more fat on your frame when you mess with that very powerful survival mechanism.

The Starvation Reflex

Over millions of years, our ancestors withstood regular famines, establishing complex and quick reactions to prepare themselves for the possibility of food reduction.  If you’re getting enough food – often enough – your system doesn’t feel the need to store fat.  But the reflex starts into action when you’ve waited too long between snacks or meals on any day.  The longer you wait to eat, the more you stimulate the fat-depositing enzymes.  When you next eat, more of the food will be processed into fat.  But that’s not all of the bad news.  A longer wait between meals increases your appetite, which leads to overeating – during the next meal or over the next few hours.  Even if you’ve eaten 3 to 5 times a day but have eaten too few calories for that day’s activities, you’ll experience an increased appetite during the next 12 to 36 hours.

Psychological Starvation

Depriving yourself of food that you dearly love will start a psychological time bomb!  You can tell yourself that you’ll never eat another doughnut, hamburger, fries and so on.  You may even be able to abstain for an extended period of time.  But at some point in the future, when the food is around and no one else is, your starvation reflex will gain the upper hand and you’ll binge.  Over time, binges will lead you to consume more of that fatty food than you had deprived yourself of during the period of prohibition, and you’ll experience a net gain.  Moderation is the key!

Burning It Off – Regular Exercise Improves Disease Resistance

One of the very best and proven ways of readjusting the set point that regulates your appetite to maintain fat accumulation at a certain level is by doing regular endurance exercise.  We’re not just talking about increased fat burning during exercise.  The increased health benefits of regular exercise (enhanced resistance to disease, stronger heart, more efficient cardiovascular system, etc.) give intuitive signals to the body that the risk of long-term health problems has been lowered and there is less need for increased fat levels.  A fit 70-year-old man, for example, can often fight off disease better and quicker than can an average, no very fit, 30-year-old.  Your set point mechanism seems to have a sensor that intuitively monitors long-term trends in your body.  In most cases, the set point is adjusted higher in those in poor health.

Regular running and walking keeps fat off the body, burning off excess calories!  Most beginning runners experience some fat burn off, even when their weight stays the same, particularly when their diet is not dramatically increased.  If you’ve consumed more calories than you’ve burned during a given day, you can literally burn them off with an after-dinner walk or jog.  This is particularly helpful if the excess calories on a given day have come from carbohydrates.

Sugar-Burning Produces Waste Buildup – - – So Slow Down!

Fat is the main fuel, but the body also uses another type.  Glycogen is the form of sugar that is stored in the muscles for quick energy.  Not only is this the fuel that gets us started, but also it sustains us for the first half hour of exercise.  Unfortunately, when this form of sugar is used for exercise it leaves behind a lot of waste product, lactic acid, which causes discomfort.  Running even a little too fast at the beginning depletes valuable glycogen quicker as it fills up the muscles and slows them down.  This is why many runners don’t feel great during the first few miles of a run.  The faster the starting pace, the more uncomfortable we feel.  Most of this discomfort can be eliminated with a slow start and more frequent or longer early walk breaks – in short, a better warm-up.  But more waste is still produced from using up glycogen than is produced when we are burning fat.

The supply of glycogen is very limited, and it is necessary for brain function.  A small amount of this fuel is burned every mile, even after you’ve shifted primarily into fat burning.  So it’s important on long runs to conserve this resource by keeping the pace slow from the beginning.  When supplies run low, your body will hold back enough to keep the brain, your most crucial organ, functioning and, for the rest of your energy needs, force a breakdown of fat and protein – a very uncomfortable process.  You can avoid this by gradually increasing your distance, by putting in more walking breaks from the beginning, and by running at least three days a week; being regular is important!

Running Slower = More Fat Burn

While you will hear a lot of opinions on how to burn fat, all of the significant research on fat metabolism seen shows that you must be exercising in the “aerobic zone” at a very easy pace, for you to burn fat!  The higher the level of exertion, the less likely there will be enough oxygen available to the muscle, which is necessary for fat-burning.  Even when the pace is a little bit too fast, the muscles start to shift burning glycogen as fuel (stored carbohydrate) which results in more huffing and puffing and worn-out muscles.  Not only do you not burn as much fat during exercise, you can’t go as far, so you cannot burn as many total calories.  Slower running, with more frequent walk breaks will shift you into to the fat-burning zone more effectively.

After Running 45 Minutes, You’ll Be Burning Mostly Fat

By starting at a slow pace and taking walking breaks as need, you can lower your exertion level enough to stay in the fat-burning zone for an extended time!  This conserves glycogen for later use as your burn off the extra blanket a/k/a FAT around your stomach or thighs.  From 15-45 minutes, your muscles gradually shift into fat-burning mode.

Your body does not believe that you’re really going out on a distance run until you keep moving forward for more than a quarter mile.  At this point, you begin to break down fat for fuel (dietary fat is converted directly into body fat and is not burned for energy).  It takes some work to break down the “excess baggage” on your body into free fatty acids and triglycerides that can keep you running mile after mile.  If you continue exercising longer than about 15 minutes at a pace that is within your capacity, you start shifting into fat-burning.  As your exercise continues past the quarter-hour mark, you start a transition into fat-burning as long as you continue to exercise at a level of exertion that is within your capacity.

Training Your Muscles To Burn Fat

Those who are not in shape for endurance activity must train their muscles to burn fat.  Beginning exercisers may have to limit their exercise to walking until they can work up to an hour or more of continuous activity.  Instead of walking breaks, some completely out-of-shape beginners may need to take 1-to-2 minute “sit down” breaks every 5 to 8 minutes to stay in the fat-burning zone.  After a few weeks, however, most of those novices can accomplish continuous 45-to-60 minute walks at a steady pace.  At that point, they may increase the walking distance or hold the distance steady and add jogging breaks.  Some people take longer to progress, so be patient!

The adaptation to fat burning is more difficult for those who’ve done little or no exercise before.  If you’re in this category, do more walking and stick with it. The fat-burning process works for you the same as it does for world-class athletes.  You may not notice it for a while because of changes are going on inside the muscle cells.  Keep telling yourself “I’m becoming a fat-burning furnace” because you are! 

Aerobic Exercise

Fast anaerobic exercise burns sugar; slow aerobic exercise burns fat!  Fat in the muscle cells can be burned only when there’s an adequate supply of oxygen.  This is aerobic exercise: exertion that is done at an easy enough pace so that the blood can provide all the oxygen needed by the muscles.  As soon as you increase the pace beyond your current capacity or go farther than your muscles are trained to go, the muscles can’t get enough oxygen to burn fat and so they shift back to the readily available but inefficient energy source, glycogen.  Your exercise is now anaerobic, meaning that the muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen!  The longer and faster you run anaerobically, the worse you’ll feel and the sooner you’ll quit because of the accumulation of lactic acid.

Walking breaks and a slow pace at the start keep you in the fat-burning zone longer!  If you’re used to running for 5 miles (at 12 minutes per mile) with no walking breaks, try slowing down to run at between 14 and 16 minutes per mile.  This will reduce your level of exertion so that you can run for 6 to 8 miles while feeling the same way you felt after 5 miles.  When you add a 1-minute walking break every 5 minutes, you can push the wall back to between 7 and 10 miles while feeling as though you covered only about half that distance.  It’s always better to increase your mileage gradually, so I recommend that you make this type of increase over several runs.  The slower running with walking breaks will allow you to extend the distance with little or no risk of injury or over-fatigue.  The extra mileage means that you are burning more calories and fat.

The continuous movement of the body during long, slow runs and walks (lasting at least 45 minutes) mobilizes an incredible number of muscle cells in the legs, back, butt and related areas.  By slowly covering several miles, three times a week, this network of muscles specializes in the work that can keep moving the body in the most efficient way.  Because fat is the most efficient and abundant fuel, the muscles will adapt to become fat burners if this run is done regularly enough.

Walking Breaks Can Help You Burn Off 10 Pounds Of Fat!

To show you why it’s better to go slowly, let’s look at the math.  Continuous running (whether it is slow or fat) burns about 100 calories per mile.  If you’re walking normally, you’re burning about 50 calories per mile.  Even if you’re running for 2 minutes and walking for 1 minute, you’re closer to the running side of the continuum, burning about 80 calories per mile.  Let us suppose, then, that you’re running 5 miles four days a week.  If you slowed down and took a 1-minute walking break for every 3 minutes of running, you’d feel about the same, after covering 8 miles, as you would feel if you’d run 5 miles continuously.

Here’s the math:

  • 8 miles 
    • 85 calories per mile = 680 calories per run 
  • 5 miles
    • 100 calories per mile = 500 calories per run

That’s an increase of 180 calories per run!  In one year, you’re walking breaks will enable you to burn off an extra 10 pounds of fat!

Stoking Your Fat-Burning Furnace

By slowing down enough to break the 45-minute barrier and exercise for longer periods, you show your body that you’re serious about endurance.  It responds by converting the formerly sugar-burning cells into fat burners.  The minimum necessary is one session longer than 45 minutes per week, but the process is accelerated by exercising for more than 90 minutes once every two weeks. As the long-run distance increases significantly in a marathon (or half-marathon) program, you force more and more cells into the more efficient mode of fat metabolism and keep them there.  To maintain the capacity of your expanding fat furnace, you’ll need at least two other 30-minute sessions a week.  If each of these can be increased to at least 45 minutes, you’ll improve the adaptation.  As always, it’s better to slow down from the beginning of exercise so that you’ll feel better, be more motivated to continue and go further.

Burning Fat In The Office & While You Sleep

Running and walking elevate your core body temperature.  Many experts believe that this produces a healthy “fever” that often kills off infections before they cause colds or worse.  But the greater your blanket of body fat, the more heat you’ll retain, which can lead to excessive fluid loss through sweating.  Your body’s temperature control mechanism will try to reduce this source of stress if you run regularly.  After months of regular long runs, you’ll slowly burn off the blanket, reducing your set point, and therefore your body fat, if you’re not significantly increasing calorie intake.

As more of the muscle cells adapt to fat metabolism through training, you’ll be burning more fat throughout the day!  Once they’ve run enough long runs, regularly, even sedentary office workers will burn fat while sitting in their offices or on the couch at night.  Endurance-trained fat-burning cells will choose more fat as their fuel even while you are asleep.  Then, in the “battle of the bulge”, you’ll be able to enlist as your soldiers thousands of cells gobbling fat all day and all night.

The Virtue Of Patience

We Americans often want changes to occur too rapidly!  If a little exercise burns x amount of fat, we are tempted to log twice as many miles to double the rate.  This doesn’t work!  By adding to much distance too soon, you’ll get tired or injured, and be forced to stop exercising or to cut back dramatically.  Even worse is the possibility that you’ll get mentally burned out.  If you continue to run slowly and increase your total weekly mileage by no more than 10%, you’ll reduce changes of injury and burn-out to almost nothing.

The biggest mistake runners make is to start a run too hard, too fast!  This is so easy to do because it usually doesn’t “feel” too hard, but 6 to 10 minutes later you’re wishing that you were finished.  By forcing yourself to start much more slowly than you want, you’ll get a stream of benefits, sped your entry into the fat-burning zone and set yourself up for more enjoyment later.

  1. January 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm | #1

    great great post!! i just stumbled across you and i love your blog already… you know so much!

    • January 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm | #2

      Oh, why thank you, that is nice of you to say! I READ A LOT! Most of what I know is from reading magazines (Fitness, Women’s Health, Self, Shape, Runner’s World, etc.) and of course Jeff Galloway’s book, which is where I got the information for the post you read. =)

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