The Fitness Fact or Fiction series tracks the BioMark team’s explorations into popular training methods, nutrition, and all manner of ways to maximise our wellness and athletic performance.
Have you ever spent stray minutes of your day just wondering how your body processes the energy that it gets from food? Or how all the caloric gains and losses add up? I know I do. Whether it is a concerted effort to be healthier or just a subconscious wondering, I find myself considering the way food affects my body and its correlation with fitness. But between nutrition hacks and workout tips I see online, there’s always too much advice and too little time to try them, let alone figure out what works for me. Well, enter Coached Fitness and their training programmes.
Coached, is a heart rate training programme that helps people optimise, track and enjoy their training. And today we’re heading down for a session!
The Basics: Fuel Efficiency Test
A fuel efficiency test is a metabolic test that measures the percentage of fat and carbohydrates you’re burning at different intensities. It’s a test best measured on an empty stomach and so, no eating in the morning to ensure the highest accuracy in results (sigh, what happened to #ButFirstCoffee?)
Ben, the founder of Coached, and a former professional triathlete himself talks me through the whole process. I get started with walking on a treadmill at an increasing pace until it speeds up to a running pace. This goes on for about 7-10 minutes. Simple enough, except that I’m strapped to a fancy mask. This is where the real magic starts. It’s amazing because this device measures my oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange to facilitate the test. In turn, it shows whether my body is burning sugar or fats.
What I Learnt About Burning Fats and Sugar
My Fuel Efficiency Graph (Courtesy of Coached)
Wow, take a peep at the orange area – that indicates fat burning! And do you know what’s funny? Growing up, a lot of people would tell me that fat burning only kicks in after 20 minutes. But guess what: fat burning occurs at the start of the workout, not 20 minutes into a cardiovascular workout (or that track we are told to run circles around). In fact, let’s get a tad more sciencey about what’s going on!
Watch where the orange line ends – around the 6 minute mark. This is where fat burning ends. Take a look at the blue area – that’s sugar burning. It continues even as fat burning ends and therefore serves as the main source of energy.
Wait a second. Do you mean that fat burning ends after just 6 minutes?
Well, yes and no. It did end for me at 6 minutes but it might not be the same for the next person. Even though caloric burning continues as we work out, the main takeaway here is that everyone burns a different proportion of fat and sugar. With my results, if extrapolated into a full workout session, I would still burn calories (which is great). But it’s just that, at and above the intensity I reached at the 6 minute mark, my body is burning sugar. It doesn’t seem that bad at first, but then, Ben divulges the truth – my fat burning system is not working well.
Ben explaining my results from the Fuel Efficiency Test
You see, sugar only provides half the energy as compared to fat for every unit burnt. Have you ever noticed why some people stop working out and they put on weight almost immediately? That’s because, like me, their fat-burning system isn’t working as well as it could. But the good news? We can always train our body to burn fat!
The 70-30 Ratio
Sustainable weight loss can be attained with a combination of nutrition and exercise. But here is the thing – nutrition carries more weight (pun intended). In fact, it accounts for about 70% of the overall weight loss equation. So if you’re pounding the gym but doubling down on the fries, there is not going to be much of a difference in your general fitness, especially if you are looking to lose weight and keep it off for good.
Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, burning fats for energy can sustain you longer for your workouts. In fact, it gives you a more sustainable energy to power through your day! Now that’s pretty interesting to take in, isn’t it? I wanted my fat burning mechanism to be in its tip top shape. So I asked Ben what I could do to accomplish just that.
Enter: The 2-Week Challenge. Ben recommends getting a good nutritional foundation first with this challenge, to which I accepted. And this journey’s one for the ages – but it’s a story for another time.
Excited and want to read more about improving your exercise routines? Then stay tuned to the next installation of our Coached series where my colleague Shu Hui will get to that!
In the meantime, we want to thank Coached for collaborating with us on this feature.
To find out more about the programmes Coached offers, check out their website here.