If you’re trying to reduce your body’s fat stores, knowing how your body uses calories for fuel can make a difference in how you approach weight management. You get your energy from fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Which one your body draws from for energy depends on the kind of activity you’re doing.
Most people want to use fat for energy. It may seem that the more fat you can use as fuel, the less fat you will have in your body. But, using more fat doesn’t automatically lead to losing more fat. Understanding the best way to burn fat starts with some basic facts about how your body gets its energy.1
The body primarily uses fat and carbohydrates for fuel. The ratio of which fuels are utilized will shift depending on your activity. A small amount of protein is used during exercise, but it’s mainly used to repair the muscles after exercise.
Higher-intensity exercises, such as fast-paced running, cause the body to rely on carbs for fuel. The metabolic pathways available to break down carbs for energy are more efficient than those for fat breakdown. Fat is used more for energy than carbs for long, slower exercise.
This is a very simplified look at energy with a solid take-home message. Burning more calories matters more than using fat for energy. The harder you work, the more calories you will burn overall.
Think about it this way—when you sit or sleep, you’re in your prime fat-burning mode. But you probably don’t think of sitting and sleeping more as a pathway to losing body fat. The bottom line is that just because you’re using more fat as energy doesn’t mean you’re burning more calories.
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