What You Don’t Know about Burning Fat

Credit: ThorneFX.com

Credit: ThorneFX.com

The old school methods of burning fat toggled between eating less and exercising more (the energy balance equation) or following a low-fat diet. For most people, this has not worked well and certainly not something that was sustainable long-term.

Most of the time, these types of practices result in yo-yo dieting techniques, leading to lower self-confidence.

Nowadays, there are new school methods of tapping into stored body fat to use as energy, thereby improving body weight and composition. These methods, broken into “exercise” and “nutrition”, not only enhance the body’s ability to burn fat but also improve overall health and exercise performance.


For decades, it has been known that exercising at less than 65% of maximal intensity would provide the best strategy for burning fat. It is true that aerobic exercise will improve the mitochondrial capacity and enzymes to enhance the body’s ability to burn more fat.

The confusing part comes in the knowledge that was taught in the past. Exercising at less than 65% of max intensity was validated in scientific research that was done in a lab, usually on male subjects on a bike.

These studies were searching for the maximal rate of fat burning (termed fatmax) based on the intensity level of exercise. What they didn’t account for was different types of exercise that works the best.

Turns out that long, slow aerobic training is not the ideal choice for burning more fat. Instead, a combination of higher intensity (sprints, strength training, etc.) interspersed with lower intensity (walking, hiking, etc.) sessions throughout the week seem to be the best bet for enhancing the body’s ability to tap into its fat stores.


Arguably, the most significant piece of the fat burning puzzle is how a person eats throughout the day. This has often been overlooked in research because it is quite expensive to conduct long-term feeding studies.

Imagine the resources it would take to not only plan and develop daily nutrition plans for 20 or more people but also the steps required to logistically feed 3-5 meals per day and ensure accountability over at least 6 months.

Fortunately, we don’t necessarily need these types of studies to show us how to improve the body’s ability to burn fat through daily nutrition habits. There are a good amount of research studies that correlate eating certain nutrients to the increased risk of disease states but also how to improve the body’s fat burning abilities.

Enter the concept called metabolic efficiency (ME). Simply put, ME is a lifestyle change that focuses on combining the proper food at meals and snacks to properly control and optimize blood sugar. This teaches the body how to use fat better as an energy source and preserve carbohydrates.

There are many benefits of ME that include reducing body weight and fat, improving health markers (whereby decreasing the risk of chronic diseases), improving sleep patterns and eliminating gastrointestinal distress that some people get when they exercise for longer periods of time.

Interestingly, there is no methodical system you have to following to implement ME. No counting calories. No weighing food.

The key in teaching the body to burn more fat and improving its ME is to put three nutrients together at almost all feedings. These include protein, fat and fiber. The key to controlling blood sugar is the physiological effect that all three of these nutrients have on the body.

This combination has routinely been used in those who have diabetes and when done properly, these nutrients can optimize blood sugar and insulin, curb uncontrolled cravings and extend a person’s satiety response.

A quick note about insulin. When blood sugar is not controlled, the body releases insulin from the pancreas. This cascade of events shuts off lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) and signals the body to store fat rather than burn it.

Protein, fat and fiber. In combination, they will work wonders.

However, one thing to remember that when fiber rich foods, in particular, are consumed without protein or fat, blood sugar will spike. This will increase the insulin response and turn off the body’s ability to burn fat.

So, no more eating a banana for a snack. A much better option would be to have a whey protein isolate shake made with a small amount of berries and a spoonful of coconut oil. Protein, fiber and fat.

Metabolic efficiency works for everyone, including fitness enthusiasts, athletes, children and older individuals because it is a way of life. It is not a diet but rather focuses on food. Since the basis is all about controlling blood sugar through food, the implementation strategies are easy and achievable in any person’s busy lifestyle.

This post is a guest contribution by Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, and first appeared on the ThorneFX blog. The original post and more information about ThorneFX can be found here

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.