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Nancy, I’m trying to lose about 20 pounds and I want to know how to burn the most fat. I’ve heard I should 1) exercise on an empty stomach, because that results in more fat burning, and 2) do low intensity “fat burning” exercise rather than push my self very hard.  What do you suggest?


Answer: Burning fat differs from losing body fat. Burning fat occurs with low level activity. Two perfect examples of fat burning exercise are sitting and sleeping––but I doubt if those are the most conducive way to lose body fat! 


In order to lose undesired body fat, you have to create a calorie deficit. Any type of exercise can contribute towards this deficit. If, by the end of the day, you have burned more calories than you have eaten, this calorie deficit will contribute to loss of body fat.


I vote against exercising on an empty stomach. I suggest you fuel yourself with 100 to 300 calories of a pre-exercise snack. This fuel will boost your blood sugar, energize your workout, and help you enjoy your exercise program. The snack will help you have energy to exercise longer and harder, and you’ll end up burning more calories than if you were to work out “on empty.” The pre-exercise snack will also curb your appetite so that, after the workout, you will be less likely to reward yourself with 400 calories of treats that you rationalize you “deserve” to eat.


The “E” in exercise should stanf for Enjoyment. You should be exercising because it helps you feel good, feel good about yourself, relieve stress, enhance fitness and improve your health. Please don’t use exercise as a form of punishment for having excess body fat.


For additional help with exercise and weight management, please see Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

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Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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