Cardio or Fat Burning - Setting Your Pace on the Treadmill

Which burns more calories? Which burns more calories?

The high-tech displays on treadmills and other fitness machines give us a choice between workouts. So which setting burns more calories?

Which Burns More - Cardio or Fat-Burning?

The high-tech displays on treadmills and other fitness machines give us a choice between workouts. So if you want to burn calories and control your weight, like most people, should you select the “fat-burning” workout or the “cardio” workout? Most of us would logically choose “fat-burning” mode on our treadmill or elliptical trainers if our goal was to lose weight.

While burning calories is an important element of a weight loss plan, you actually burn more calories in a shorter time when you work harder in “cardio” mode.

Mode Models

Fat Burning - The fat-burning mode works you at a pace that allows more oxygen to be delivered to the muscles – about 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate. Your body will burn a higher percentage of fat, compared to carbohydrates, at this lower level of exertion. Lower intensity workouts are great for building endurance, but it will take longer to burn 100 calories in this mode.

Cardio - When you choose the cardio mode – about 70%-90% of your maximum heart rate – you work out at a higher intensity and less oxygen is delivered to your muscles. You will burn a lower percentage of fat and a higher percentage of carbs to give you the energy you need for the burst of activity. A cardio workout also helps strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels.

Mixing the Modes

An interval workout blends both options, burning calories AND building endurance. If losing weight is your goal, continue to focus on the amount of calories you take in and the number you burn in a workout, not the percentage of body fat you burn during exercise. The sooner you’re done with your cardio work, the sooner you can get to your strength training.

This article originally appeared on USAF FitFamily©, a publication of the U.S. Air Force. Republished with permission.

USAF FitFamily©

USAF FitFamily© is a web based goal incentive program. Families have the opportunity to set goals and monitor their progress. The FitFamily website provides resources, ideas and goal setting tools to help Air Force Families be active, make healthy nutrition choices and have fun in an effort to promote overall wellness. FitFamily is open to all active duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, DoD and civilian families.