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Use the right fuel for workouts

When you are exercising, have you ever thought about what fuel source your body is using?

When we exercise, our muscles prefer to use certain sources of fuel depending on the intensity and duration of the activity that we are participating in. For high-intensity, short duration exercises (power aerobics and sprinting, for example), the body prefers to burn carbohydrates because it is the most efficient fuel. For low- to moderate-intensity exercises such as walking and jogging, the body burns fat. Protein contributes no more than 5 to 10 percent of fuel under ordinary circumstances.

The body's use of carbohydrate versus fat as a fuel source depends on the body's demand for oxygen at various intensities of exercise. At moderate intensity levels, the body requires less oxygen than at high intensity levels.

At moderate intensity, our heart and lungs work to deliver oxygen, using fat as fuel. At high intensity levels, our heart and lungs may have difficulty keeping up with the oxygen demand. Instead of fat for fuel, the muscles switch to using carbohydrate so the heart and lungs don't have to work as hard. Therefore, to burn fat for fuel it is best to stick to low to moderate intensity exercises.

Do you ever feel like your exercise isn't getting you anywhere?

You put in the time and effort to show up at the gym, and pride yourself in not taking shortcuts. So why is it not working? Experts say that poor exercise form or bad workout habits may be slowing down your progress.

Are you a bookworm? If you read while you're on the treadmill, you're not working hard enough. If you can read, text, or pay attention to some other non-workout related thing, you are cheating yourself.

Put down the book or smartphone and focus on what you are there to do.

Go ahead and listen to music. Listening to music while working out can increase endurance by 15 percent, according to several studies.

Do you hold on too tight? Holding onto the sidebars on the treadmill or the handles of the elliptical machine too tight cheats you out of precious opportunities to burn calories. If you are using your arms to make it easier on your legs, you will get tired faster, because your arms aren't as strong as your legs are.

Place your fingertips lightly on the rails just to keep proper placement. If you are not able to do that and keep good form, lower the incline or slow down your pace.

Do you flip? Do you flip channels during your work out? Did you know that you can spend half your workout flipping through channels? Not only does that cheat you out of a workout, it distracts you from the reason you came to the gym in the first place. Pick a channel and leave it there so you can spend your workout focusing on your fitness.


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