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fat burning cadence(31 posts)

fat burning cadencecollinsc
Jan 8, 2002 9:47 AM
I know that the best way to burn fat is long miles at low intensity, but exactly how low is low? about what heart rate would you say is best and what kind of cadence?

(hoping i can melt my gut on the rollers this winter)

re: fat burning cadenceTroyboy
Jan 8, 2002 10:14 AM
In my opinion, cadence is irrelevant. You'll burn a higher ratio of fat to carbs when you remain well below your AT. Try staying at 75% of MHR or lower.

Good luck.
re: fat burning cadencemackgoo
Jan 9, 2002 5:20 AM
Personally what I've read it would seem that 75% is pretty. I seem to recall that it would be more like 30% or lower.
re: fat burning cadencemackgoo
Jan 9, 2002 5:29 AM
Rethinking that 30% of 200 is only 60, so it's more like 60% or maybe even the 75% so I guess this post is a wash. I wish we could delete posts.
re: fat burning cadenceLone Gunman
Jan 8, 2002 10:41 AM
I agree, it will be slow enough that you may think "how can this possibly be doing me any good?". Additionally, lower the carbo intake and start doing stomach workouts after the roller session. Here is the one I am doing:
Feet supported crunches-3sets x 5 reps
Feet unsupported crunches-3sets x 5 reps
V sits 3 sets x 5 reps
oblique crunches 3 sets x 5 reps
seated knee to chest 3 sets x 5 reps
leg raises 3 sets x 5 reps

Each week I add 2 reps or so to each set. The outlined workout has you perform 105 reps. I am currently doing 11 reps per set. The workout is adapted from a book called Gut Busters by a Joyce Vedral(sp?) It starts you off slow and is done about 5 times a week, takes about 15 minutes and it will flatten your stomach depending upon condition in about 2 months. They suggest taking it up to 25 reps per set. The book also suggests alternate exercises if one is too hard on the back, like doing the v sits bent knee style etc. Hope this helps.
re: fat burning cadencehslilly
Jan 8, 2002 10:56 AM
This may help
The body burns fat as muscle fuel most efficiently...nigel
Jan 8, 2002 11:50 AM
...when it has the most AIR to work with. ("Aerobic" means "with air," and "anaerobic" means "without air.")

We burn fat at the highest fat-to-carbohydrate ratio when we're asleep, believe it or not (There is the most air in our blood at that heart rate--slow, slow, slow). This doesn't mean, however, that we burn the MOST fat during this time, just that our bodies work on almost entirely fat when we're at our lowest heart rates.

To efficiently target fat loss, the body must exercise at low-to-moderate levels, meaning that the heart is working at between 50% and 70% of its maximum. This basically means getting on the bike and barely sweating at all. On rollers, however, people tend to sweat because they're concentrating so much on staying up, but this is different. Wear a heart rate monitor if you can (If not, I strongly recommend the Sigma Sport PC14 from for $69.95--a tremendous value!).

At 50-60% of one's maximum heart rate, the body burns 85% of its calories in the form of fat (and 10% of carbs/5% of protein). Between 60 and 70%, it works out to be 80% fat, 15% carbs, and 5% protein. Between 70 and 80%, however, this changes dramatically to 40% fat, 55% carbs, and 5% protein. What a difference, eh?

Even walking can burn great amounts of fat, especially since it's much easier to walk slowly/moderately than it may be to ride this way without feeling guilty or pressure from other cyclists passing you out there. (Working out indoors, of course, will alleviate this peer pressure.)

Best of luck, and go easier than you think you should for the best use of fat as muscle fuel. Ride smart.

The body burns fat as muscle fuel most efficiently...morey
Jan 8, 2002 12:39 PM
This is very good advice for most people. Usually people try to kill themselves to try and burn fat. Then they quit because it is too hard!
Case in point!Kristin
Jan 8, 2002 3:32 PM
My two primary goals last summer were to lose weight and hang with the fast group. (Didn't confess the latter to anyone.) Instead of losing weight, in May, I actaully gained 6 pounds. I lost overall, but it could have been much more. From what I know now, I mostly rode at 85-90% of my Max HR (i.e. killed myself).

I just began exercising again and will not crest the 150 HR mark for the next 2 months at least. This is soooo difficult to do! Especially when that stick figure on the trainer next too me keeps looking at my stats!

So how many of you guys actually do it? Keep your HR down below your AT for specific workouts?
Case in point!Troyboy
Jan 8, 2002 3:39 PM
All the time. After one month of it, you'll be able to go so much faster while the heart rate remains low. You'll surprise yourself. Nov. and Dec. are typical foundation building and fat burning months for those periodized annually. I'm now starting back into speed work, building up for the season. Good luck!
that's easycyclopathic
Jan 8, 2002 6:54 PM
just ride centuries.
Case in point!mackgoo
Jan 9, 2002 5:33 AM
When I'm on the trainer, wich I hate I do it easilly. On the road I find it very dificult. I can cruise for ever at 150 to 160 bpm and that's were I usually am. I don't compete, just like to ride so I don't fight it.
One more thing about the pedaling cadence.nigel
Jan 8, 2002 6:17 PM
Though one might be pedaling an easy gear and spinning while on a recovery/fat-burning ride, one need be wary of spinning too quickly. I've observed this when doing my recovery rides. Sure, I may feel good that I'm spinning at 90 or 100 rpm, but faster pedaling means (for most) higher heart rates.

Just because you're pedaling an easy gear and not traveling quickly DOESN'T mean that you're burning fat and working at 50-70% of maximum heart rate. To really, truly RECOVER from a hard ride (while, at the same time, teaching one's body to utilize fat efficiently as a muscle fuel), one must be going pretty darned slowly and pedaling an easy to moderate gear. Heart rate is the number to focus on, NOT cadence. Pedaling a large gear slowly may take the same heart effort that pedaling a tiny gear rapidly does: neither will target fat-burning properly.

Get out there with a friend--one with the exact same agenda, or maybe the spouse if he/she's a much slower rider--and talk, enjoy the scenery, practice your no-hands riding (makes it much easier to go easy while sitting up without touching the bars than riding on the bars does, for some reason), and have a good ol' time.

Cheers, and safe riding,
And your heart rate can transition through a workout as wellKristin
Jan 9, 2002 7:06 AM
This surprised me. I like the Cross Trainer at the gym, is because of the built-in HR monitor and cadence. This enables me to focus on what my body is doing. For the first 20 minutes, I move at 52-54 RPMs in order to keep my HR at around 151 BPM, I sweat a little and my breathing is light (near tempo). Somewhere between 20-30 mintues things change. My HR rises steadily, my breathing is reduced and I sweat less. To maintain a 151 HR, I reduce my cadence to 44-46 RPM an remain there for the rest of the workout. I found that very interesting. I realized that I can't guess my HR on the bike.
Low is pretty lowWayne
Jan 8, 2002 12:26 PM
If you're really concerned with burning a high percentage of fat you're best bet is probably to go to sleep hungry at night, since you're body largely rely's on fat overnight (not completely though, most people deplete their liver glycogen stores overnight to supply glucose for brain/nervouse tissue which can't use fat for energy). Probably at the low end of effort that provide some endurance training adaptations (like 50-65% of max HR)you're burning about 50/50 glucose(glycogen)/fats, around lactate threshold you're almost totally relying on glucose for energy. Basically the longer it's been since you've eaten, the easier you go, and the longer you go for, the more you're body will rely on fat for it's energy. But that may not burn the most fat, exercising at a slightly higher intensity will burn more total fat (and carbohydrate).
Stick to high candence (which means low force) this tends to recruit you're type I small motor units with large oxidative capacities.
Actually, all cadences are fat burning cadence...PdxMark
Jan 8, 2002 12:57 PM
From what I've read, and I think what most of us are saying here, is that the ratio between fat & carbs varies dramatically at different ewxertion levels, but that the actual amount of fat burned remains fairly constant. The link by hslilly above shows this. The huge change in the ratio comes about from the large amount of carbs that can be burned as exertion levels go up.

This means that what is commonly called "fat burning" really means "fat burning without any extra effort that would just burn carbs." What this also means is that the "purely" fat burning" range of effort burns a small fraction of the calories that are burned at even moderate exertion levels.

So, for what it's worth, ride as hard as you can sustain and repeatedly enjoy... to the extent it's more than just low exertion "fat burning" effort, you'll burn alot more calories ... any more effort and you won't ride as much. Good luck.
negative Roger negativecyclopathic
Jan 8, 2002 6:51 PM
amount of fat calories burned drops as you approach threashold check the link. Max would be ~50% of VO2Max or ~70% MaxHR.

second cadence does metter. if you deviate much from "natural" cadence you start recruting fast twitching fiber, which indeed isn't good fat burner.

so the answer is HR - 70% of MaxHR (80% LTHR), cadence - most comfortable. ride hard
Sorry CP, I think you're making this too complicated.PdxMark
Jan 8, 2002 10:33 PM
The variations if fat burning exist, but are small compared to the variations in total numbers of calories burned. Expecting sustained winter trainer riding at 70% max HR imposes an unneccesary complication to the workout. Roughly the same amount of fat will be burned at any workout level - within a variation of about 50 calories/hour at the link, versus variations of HUNDREDS of total calories an hour... As for cadence, I did suggest a sustainable and enjoyable pace... not much less specific than the "natural" cadence you suggest.

As for "optimized" workouts - some people use that term to mean the workout level iat which fat calories are burned at the greatest percentage of the total calories - these are very low level workouts. My point was (and remains) that these low exertion workouts are not as beneficial as a slightly more intense workout - unless all one can do is make that low, minimal exertion.

The link we're both citing says:

The researchers observed that because there is a reduced utilization of fat in the first 20 minutes of exercise, exercise duration beyond 20 minutes should be the goal. Most scientists recommend that total calories burned are more important than fat calories because more fat calories are burned when more total calories are burned.
re: fat burning cadencerjsciolino
Jan 9, 2002 2:01 AM
Look, here's real world. My wife weighed 230 lbs in 1997. She hit stationary bikes and stairmasters and pushed herself hard....and spun her wheels in the mud! She lost FIVE pounds. She trained her body to be a great sugar burner...just like all those fat linemen in the NFL. Then she got smart and realized her relatively low fitness level and walked briskly, just enough to not be able to sing the first verse of "God bless America without taking a breath (real world, as she didn't have a heart rate monitor) and she sustained this and lost one hundred pounds in 8 months. Do not let these guys confuse you. My wife is back to her honeymoon body BECAUSE she did it right. Moderation...not exertion wins the fat race. NOW, if you're relatively fit your kind of "brisk walk" may turn out to be a run...or in the case of riding...a relatively fast cadence. Your fitness factor AND YOURS ALONE, determines what cadence you should use. You can only do this with a HR monitor (or sing like my wife!). The guy who has been preaching about 50 to 70% of max HR is correct. The guy who preaches "exertion" at any level and then pulls out the demotivating statistics is wrong, or at best being misunderstood. We've all seen the fat guy at the gym who sweats like crazy on the stairmaster but never EVER gets thin...and I've seen my wife, and I see my own 32 inch waist at 41 years old. Find your fitness level and choose a cadense that keeps you at 50 to 70% of your max HR. You can use the very generic and most times inaccurate formula (220 minus your age) or find it yourself with your HR monitor. Just keep this whole thing simple...slow and steady wins the fat race....PERIOD.
THANK YOU!! And I'll second that...(again)Kristin
Jan 9, 2002 7:30 AM
This is what I was trying to say, and you said it well. I slendered down more in 2000 by riding a Hybrid 75 miles/week at 12-15 MPH, than I did in 2001 riding 100 miles/week at 80+% of my max. What PdxMark is saying contradicts my own experience. If he is right, then I should have lost more weight in 2001 than I did in 2000. This is not the case. There's no comparing the two seasons. I rode farther and faster this summer than ever before, but overall was more fit in Sept. 2000 than in Sept. 2001.
losing weight isn't the same as losing fat..dotkaye
Jan 9, 2002 1:08 PM
What was your body fat % in 2000, as opposed to 2001 ? weight loss on its own is essentially meaningless, if you went from 35% BF to under 20%, but added muscle, then it's quite possible to weigh more when fitter. Muscle weighs more than fat.

The body is a very strict calculator - weight will be lost when calories in < calories out. To burn more calories, exercise longer at higher intensities. This is more effective at fat-burning than shorter periods of exercise at lower intensities, because the total amount of fat burnt is higher, even though the percentage of fat utilized at low intensities is higher. Lots of people find exertion unpleasant, so they prefer to exercise at low intensities. That may well be the most effective way for them to lose fat - it's not going to work if you hate to do it. But it's not the absolute most effective way to lose fat. This is a matter of scientific record. The rest is anecdote and marketing efforts.
Okay you did it. I'm gonna tell you my weight!Kristin
Jan 9, 2002 1:54 PM

March 2000 ................ 185 lbs
September 2000 ............ 158
Difference................. 28 lbs
Moderate intensity on the bike 11-15 miles 3-4 times a week +30 mile on Sat. or Sun.

March 2001 ............... 180 lbs
May 2001 ................. 185 lbs (muscle)
September 2001 ........... 165 lbs
Difference................ 17 lbs
higher intensity workouts 18-30 miles 3 times a week 40+ miles 2 times a week.

In order for me to have lost the same amount of weight during this summer (riding hard) that I lost last summer (riding easy) I would have gained 11 pounds of muscle. Is that even possible? And no one has mentioned yet, the to maintain a higher intensity level of exercise you MUST eat more. Its unwise to try to calorie deprivate if you are working out at over 80% of your max, correct?

I have never measured body fat properly, but know for certain that my body fat % is higher right now than it was in September of 2000. I know because clothes that fit me last summer do not fit today. Muscle weight more but is lean, if I really lost 28 pounds of cellulite and gained 11 pounds of muscle, I should be skinnier than I was last year.
Okay you did it. I'm gonna tell you my weight!Troyboy
Jan 9, 2002 2:41 PM
Well, it would seem to me that you're at the point in which you should completely ignore the weight numbers. Go get a bodyfat test. They can be done in millions of places. Most fitness outfits like the Y will offer them for free if you're a member.

My recommendation to you, like I said, forget the number. Look in the mirror. Happy? If so, continue on like normal. If not, what is the issue and concentrate on that particular issue and develop the proper fix for it.
Kristin - did your weekly riding time vary 2000 to 2001?PdxMark
Jan 9, 2002 4:05 PM
Did your moderate pace of riding in 2000 translate to more riding time overall? Or maybe not, you were riding far more miles in 2001, it looks like, to offset a lower pace...

I'm still trying to understand the mix of variables in everyone's (including your) real world experience with these tables.... Thanks.
Yes and noKristin
Jan 10, 2002 7:09 AM
Its hard to say if I spent more hours on the bike in 2001 than before. That number might be close. What I'm talking about here is what kind of hours I put in. In 2000, I was riding a 28# hybrid on a limestone path. I doubt I ever got my HR over 165. In 2001 I rode a 20# steel crit frame faster and farther, and my HR rarely dropped below 150*.

So I'm not saying so much that I rode more or less, but that I rode at a much higher intensity. This, I think, is because the road bike is more physically demanding, the terrain more variable and my heart is weak. I found it difficult on yesterday's ride to keep my heart rate down--not because of ego, but because even small inclines push me over my annaerobic threshold.

.*I don't own a HRM so these numbers are based on my guesstimated VO2Max and the perceived effort scale.
Yes and noTroyboy
Jan 10, 2002 11:42 AM
If you're interested in talking, let me know. I've got a lot of experience with this type of stuff and do consulting as well as training, teaching, racing, analysis.
well now I begin to wonder..dotkaye
Jan 11, 2002 10:38 AM
lacking an accurate BF measurement, your numbers aren't conclusive, but certainly do suggest an unexpected result. SO, went off to PubMed, and skimmed through some research. Now I'm thinking there may be another process to consider - the lower intensity rides may be facilitating fat mobilization and oxidation. Then because the body has learnt to use fats more efficiently for energy supply, it uses more fat throughout the day. But doing nothing but high-intensity rides tends to emphasize the glycogen pathways, so fat metabolization becomes less efficient. Actually this is one of the goals of base training (low HR), the long slow rides maximise fat metabolism. Conclusion: periodize your training, make sure to do a few months of base training every year - exactly what you'd do if racing, anyway.

Go here for reading material ;-)
Why Cadence Matters (long)Wayne
Jan 9, 2002 6:33 AM
I think it's pretty clear from the other posts that an effort level of around 65-70% max HR maximizes the amount of fat burned, anymore and you're increasingly relying on glycogen/glucose until around LT (around 90% max HR) you're exclusively burning these fuels to get the required ATP. Most studies that have measured this probably either let riders self select their cadence which most people naturally choose around 85-95 rpms, or imposed a similar cadence. Now, if you keep the HR the same you can either push an easy gear (low force) quickly (say 110 rpm) or a big gear (high force) slowly (say 50-60 rpm) to achieve that HR. The former will rely mostly on Type I, high oxidative capacity motor units to provide the force, the latter will use these motor units (but at slower rate, only 50 times per minute instead of 110 times, probably well below their oxidative capacity which equals less fat burning) and Type II fast-twitch fibers, which have a lower oxidative capacity/fat burning capacity and will rely more on glycogen/glucose for fuel (and burn less of those fuels oxidatively). Thus, all cadences are not the same. This is the essence of Lance Armstrong's high cadence technique, by pushing small gears quickly he relies more on muscle cells that can get alot of their ATP requirement from fat (which you have an endless supply of) or ATP from oxidation of glycogen/glucose which gives more ATP per molecule than non-oxidative ATP production from these fuel sources. Don't confuse high-candence with fast-twitch fibers use, slow-twitch fibers can contract plenty fast enough go every .5 second even (120 rpm). Motor unit recruitment is largely a matter of force and proceeds in a largely orderly fashion from small low force units (which tend to be type I, highly oxidative fibers) to large force units (which tend to be Type II, low oxidative capacity) so that at a maximum force all units are recruited.
I keep learning from you all... thanks...PdxMark
Jan 9, 2002 9:05 AM
I was basing my opinions on small variations in numbers in books and web sites... your real world experiences continue to teach... thanks for sharing.
re: fat burning cadenceBender
Jan 9, 2002 11:20 AM
While you're at it....

Get a body fat analysis done (calipers or the more accurate 'water' method) to be used as reference point. Apply whatever training methods you select and then follow up at regular intervals (2 to 4 mo. is good) with another fat analysis. That way you'll know if if you're losing fat and your methods are effective. Be sure to use that same testing method and person if possible for the analysis. Calipers vary depending on how they are used but they can still be effective if the tester is consistent, and the cost less.

interesting discussion ...bianchi boy
Jan 9, 2002 8:08 PM
But I'm not sure what to believe. I had an experience similar to Kristin, however. I rode 1,200 miles in 2000 between August and December, weighing about 185 at year end. In 2002, I rode 7,000 miles and increased my average speed by about 2 mph -- but I ended the year weighing about 195. My body is definitely in better shape and my muscle tone is better, but I don't seem to be losing any fat. I'm not way overweight, but would like to get down to about 175, but just riding more miles doesn't seem to do it for me. The only way I have successfully lost weight is a low-carb diet, which doesn't mix very well with strenuous exercise. In 1999, I lost about 20 pounds in one month on a low-carb diet and have managed to keep the weight off until the past couple months, when I gained back around 10 pounds.
Perhaps I'll try more low-intensity workouts during the cold winter months to see if I have any better luck with that. What's frustrating is to be riding 600 miles a month and still gain weight.