Burning fat vs. burning calories – what’s the difference?

Torch calories, burn fat…you hear these buzz words mentioned all the time in regards to weight-loss plans and devices. They seem to be used almost interchangeably, but there is a slight difference between burning fat and burning calories. And it’s important to understand the nuance if you want to achieve your weight-loss goals.

Your body draws energy from both calories and fat to power everything you do: walking the dog, unpacking groceries, even thinking and sleeping. However, the energy burn follows a very specific order that’s pivotal to weight loss. Calories from food and drink either get used immediately or turned into energy reserves, which are stored in fat cells. When you’re active, your body draws on recently consumed calories for fuel, and only taps into its stored energy supply (fat) once the available calories have been depleted.

In other words, the difference between burning calories and burning fat depends on the type of fuel your body is using. If you don’t work out for long enough or have eaten too much recently, your body will never get to the fat-burning stage. The takeaway is that if you want to burn fat, you have to consume fewer calories than you use in a day. You can do this by exercising more, eating less or a combination of both.

If you want to hit the fat-burning stage sooner, these fat-burning foods can help stoke your metabolism:

  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Green tea
  • Lentils
  • Hot peppers


Photo credit: Jack Lyons

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  1. “if you want to burn fat, you have to consume fewer calories than you use in a day. You can do this by exercising more, eating less or a combination of both.”

    – That is pure nonsense. Listening to advice like that is why virtually all diets fail.

    Exercise burns very few calories unless you exercise for many hour per day. Eat less calories than you use each day and your body will slow its metabolism to keep the weight on, so you won’t lose weight. Moreover starving yourself is extremely unpleasant and eventually the mind rebels and starts eating again.

    The way to lose weight and to keep it off is to cut carbohydrates down to an extremely low level and eat all you want of fats and protein. When you get down to your target weight reintroduce the carbs but keep them down to a level that keeps to your ideal weight. Don’t even bother counting calories because that is NOT the way to lose weight and to keep it off. That method has never worked and never will.

    It is NOT the amount of calories that you burn, its the speed at which you burn them that matters. Carbs burn fast, fat and protein burn slowly. Burn your calories slowly and the weight will fall off and you will never be hungry.

  2. just want to loose tummy fat! i am on treadmill daily lose 400 cals before i add but still have love handle!!! HELP!!

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