The afflux of health and fitness related information coming our way on a regular basis can sometimes seem like a double edge sword: on the one hand it gives us extra tools and tips to tweak our behaviors and increase our motivation, while on the other hand it heightens the confusion as a lot of contradictory information comes our way.

Fortunately, half truths and misinterpretations are eventually exposed and we can get a better grasp as to what the best options we have to reach our objectives as planned. Fat burning is perhaps one of the most controversial subjects as new theories constantly emerge and we are left trying to discern between facts and fiction. Let’s examine some of the long-held theories and see the truth behind them:

Exercising in the morning burns more fat The theory is that at night the body uses carbohydrates and by the morning the only fuel left is fat and therefore, the body burns more fat if the exercise session is done in the morning. Turns out, however, that early birds might not have all the benefits proclaimed.

However, carbohydrates are stored in the liver as well as muscles and while the glycogen stored in the liver is used by the body, the glycogen (the form in which carbohydrates are stored) from the muscles can only be utilized by muscles, so the theory doesn’t hold much water. Forget exercising on empty stomach too: the effects are marginal at best and the strategy might even work against you as you might not be able to push yourself as hard and you will diminish calorie burn too.

Longer lower intensity workouts burn more fat than medium and high intensity ones It is indeed true that lower intensity exercises rely primarily on fat as fuel, however, for the claim to be true the workout would have to extend to several hours. Also, while the percentage of fat burned might be higher, the total calorie burn will eventually be lower and thus, the amount of fat shed will also be lower, so, unfortunately, replacing challenging workouts might not be all that beneficial.

Strength training/Cardio is better for burning fat After cardio has taken the weight loss spotlight for the number of calories burned, strength training proponents have argued that weight training is better as it enables you to burn fat long after the workout is over. While neither of these theories are inherently wrong, it’s important to understand that they work best together. Focusing exclusively on cardio will result in muscle loss as pounds melt, while focusing solely on strength training will delay weight loss progress. Furthermore, new studies suggests that doing both in the same exercise session will enable you to eat less.

A calorie is a calorie Sounds logical enough, doesn’t it? As a measure of energy, a calorie is indeed a calorie. However, from a metabolic standpoint, the food source really does matter as the body processes the foods differently. Our bodies crave macronutrients not calories, so focusing on clean eating is of utmost importance when it comes to accelerating metabolism. Focusing on nutrient dense foods will have a much more beneficial effect on metabolism than simply cutting calories.

Photo credit: Thinkstock