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Losing unwanted body fat can be a challenging process, but recent studies led by the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise & Metabolism (CNEM), at the University of Bath in the UK, have some encouraging news. In a recently published report, findings suggest that as you get fitter, your body burns more fat and becomes more efficient at scorching the flab.
It is often said that getting started with your fitness journey is the toughest part of the process, so it is good to know that if you stay on track, your body will become a more productive fat-burning machine.
This research, made up of two CNEM studies, evaluated the factors that influence an individual’s ability to drop body fat when participating in endurance sports. The process of burning fat is important to us all. For athletes, research has shown that carbohydrate stores are depleted quickly during intense exercise, so being able to tap into their fat reserves for fuel could mean all the difference between success and failure. For the regular person, the burning of body fat is also essential for maintaining metabolic health, insulin regulation, and avoiding Type II diabetes.
In the first study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Medicine, 73 healthy adults (32 women and 41 men) aged between 19 and 63 were asked to take part in a cycling test whilst under observation. The results showed that those who had a greater level of physical fitness, burned fat at a more efficient rate when exercising.
This beneficial relationship between physical fitness and burning fat was found across the board, and in all age groups. However, it was particularly pronounced in females. It is not yet known why the women fared better in the trials.
The second study, published in Experimental Physiology, took the research even further. By looking at a more molecular level, it confirmed that healthy muscle was essential for breaking down fat, thanks to proteins which take stored fat and turned it into smaller acids, ready for transportation to the mitochondria. Researchers noted that physical fitness protected the individual, to some degree, from future fat gain, but pointed out the importance of diet, in addition to exercise, for overall bodyweight management.
“Weight management is mainly about energy balance,” says Dr Javier Gonzalez of the University of Bath’s Department for Health. “So, to lose weight we need to eat fewer calories than we expend through our resting metabolism and physical activity. However, people with a higher ability to burn fat as a fuel seem to be somewhat protected against future weight gain, which might be related to how fat burning affects food intake and energy expenditure.”