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

| 2 min read

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

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.