Feeling the Burn Doesn’t Mean You’re Burning Calories

The term “burn” has been associated with exercise for a long time: Feel the burn, burn away fat, calorie burn, burning muscles . . . the list goes on and on. We all want to feel that the exercises we are doing are effective and worthwhile, and that burning sensation we get while doing a specific movement helps us feel that we are working hard, burning lots of calories, and therefore tightening the mus­cles that are burning. But what exactly is that burning sensation, and is it really a barome­ter for the effectiveness of a workout?

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Contrary to popular belief, the burn that we feel in our muscles during exer­cise is not directly related to caloric burn or the amount of fat that is being burned. Just because you feel a burn in your abdominal muscles during a crunch, it does not mean that your body is burning fat in that area.

That sensation in your muscles is actually something else: an indication that those muscles are out of ATP, a cellular fuel your muscles burn for quick energy. Once the ATP is gone, your muscles begin creating lactic acid and hydrogen ions which, well, they burn! That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean you’re burning a ton of calories; just that your muscles have burned all their stored ATP.

What you need to know for the pur­poses of fat loss is that the higher you get your heart rate, the more calories you will burn. It’s tempting to base the effectiveness of a workout on how much “burn” you feel in the muscles, but it’s the intensity and duration of the workout that will truly determine how many calories—and therefore how much fat—you are melting away.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers. Take a look!

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