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Fat Burning: How It Works!

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 244 views

Burning fat is a complex process that provides the body with energy . Here you can find out exactly what happens when fat is burned, what role it plays in losing weight and how it can be stimulated.

What is fat burning and how does it work?

How does fat burning work? Not only ambitious endurance athletes who have to economize with their energy reserves should ask themselves that, but above all people who want to lose weight. Because if the kilos are to tumble, the fat has to go.

Burning fat is part of the energy supply in the body. The organism splits fat into fatty acids and directs them into the fat metabolism, where they are available as energy. This fat can either come from food or from the body’s own adipose tissue.

Body stores excess energy

The fatty acids travel through the bloodstream to where energy is needed, for example to the heart, lungs or muscles. These then break down the fatty acids in such a way that they can use their energy to continue functioning.

The body stores excess food energy in the form of fat, protein or carbohydrates – to a lesser extent in the liver and muscles and to a greater extent in the fat cells. While the liver and muscles only have limited storage space, the fat cells can be filled almost endlessly.

The size of the fat cells is crucial

If we eat more than we consume, the fat cells grow so that more storage space is available. The result: we gain weight. If, on the other hand, the energy supply is reduced, the body falls back on the reserves. As a result, the kilos tumble. The “tapped” fat cells remain empty and limp.

Even if, according to the current state of knowledge, the number of fat cells no longer changes in adulthood – the body replaces dead ones with new ones – we become slimmer when the fat cells are less well filled. Because it is not the amount of fat cells that matters, but their size.

In addition, we become healthier in many ways when we store less energy. If the body stores excess fat, this has a negative effect on many processes in the body – among other things, the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases increases.

How can fat burning be stimulated?

How much fat is burned depends on how much energy you need at the moment, i.e. whether you are physically active, resting or thinking hard. The brain is the organ with the highest energy consumption.

What you eat also affects fat burning. A high-carbohydrate diet, for example, slows them down because the body releases insulin to transport the carbohydrates from the blood into the (muscle) cells. At the same time, it no longer produces a certain enzyme that dissolves the fatty acids in the fat cells.

Stimulate fat burning through exercise

Regular physical training helps boost fat metabolism. It is a natural fat burner because the muscle cells need energy to move.

endurance training

The longer a load lasts, the more important fat becomes as an energy source. Endurance training such as jogging is therefore well suited. The following applies: Even if the energy production from fat is higher in absolute terms at high intensities, the percentage is higher at low intensities.

There is also talk of the “fat burning pulse”. This is the heart rate zone where the body uses the most relative fat for energy. It is around 60 to 70 percent of the maximum heart rate.

This means that you move in the aerobic, not in the anaerobic heart rate range for the proportionally highest fat burning. In other words, at an intensity at which the body burns carbohydrates and fat with the help of oxygen.

However, it is fundamentally important that you find your individual pace that does not completely overwhelm you. The longer you hold out, the better. It is best for beginners to increase gradually.

Read more about endurance training here .

weight training

Muscle uses more energy than fat tissue, even at rest. The basal metabolic rate increases the more muscles you have. That’s why it’s good to build muscle through strength training to boost fat burning.

Read more about strength training here .


HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, i.e. training in which high-intensity exercises and recovery phases alternate. Some studies suggest that HIIT may be more effective than other forms of exercise at reducing subcutaneous fat and abdominal fat .

It also reduces insulin resistance and triggers various muscular adaptation processes, which in turn increase fat burning.

Read more about HIIT here .

Food that stimulates fat burning

There are certain foods that help boost fat burning. Some do this indirectly by providing few calories and fat, but lots of water and/or fiber. That means they fill you up for a long time. These include beetroot, apples and grapefruit.

Other foods are considered “fat burning turbo”. They should increase the metabolism and get the body to burn more fat. Is that actually the case? Not clear. There are studies that indicate this, but also some that do not certify their effectiveness.

However, there are some ingredients that could have at least some effect on fat metabolism, for example:

amino acids and amines

Amino acids and amines are found in protein-rich foods such as fish, meat, poultry, cheese or tofu. They are said to release more growth hormones , which in turn stimulate fat burning.


Antioxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), better known as green tea extract, probably help to melt the fat deposits – with regular exercise at the same time.


Choline is a fat-like substance that makes up cell membranes. The body produces them from folic acid and vitamin B12, among other things. Choline prevents fat from accumulating, for example in the liver.

Folate, the natural form of folic acid, is found in

  • Leafy greens (spinach, lettuce)
  • tomatoes
  • legumes (chickpeas, lentils)
  • sprouts
  • potatoes
  • eggs

Vitamin B12 is contained in

  • meat
  • Fisch
  • seafood
  • eggs
  • dairy products


Especially in fruits like pineapple, kiwi or papaya there are enzymes that have gained the reputation as fat killers, especially due to nutritional concepts like the Hollywood diet. However, it is not clearly proven that they actually boost fat burning.


Found in coffee, tea and energy drinks, caffeine increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the nervous system that, among other things, regulates the burning of body fat.

It is best not to drink coffee in the morning on an empty stomach – then caffeine increases the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol, which is already sufficiently present in the morning. This in turn slows down the fat metabolism. Thus, caffeine indirectly inhibits fat burning.

Read more about caffeine here .

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are considered good for heart health, can be found in fish, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils such as safflower oil, olive oil , canola oil or avocados, among others. Among other things, they probably have a muscle-building and weight-reducing effect because they stimulate the metabolism.

Read more about unsaturated fatty acids here .


There are studies that suggest that calcium, such as that found in dairy products, can help with weight loss . It is found in yoghurt, quark and cheese, among other things.

If there is a calcium deficit in the body, it produces the hormones calcitriol and parathormone, which in turn inhibit the burning of fat and promote its storage.

Read more about minerals here .

pungent substances

Ingredients that add spiciness to food are also said to boost fat burning. For example, 6-gingerol in ginger , capsaicin in chilies and cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon are said to have a fat-burning effect.

The heat stimulus increases the body’s own heat production (thermogenesis) and it in turn consumes more energy.


Vitamin C is said to increase fat oxidation during moderate exercise as the body needs it to make L-carnitine. This amino acid-like molecule is involved in the body’s production of energy from fatty acids. Vitamin C can be found, for example, in sea buckthorn berries, sweet peppers, black currants or in citrus fruits, potatoes or spinach.

Read more about vitamins here .

Fat Burning Drinks

It’s also possible to speed up fat burning with drinks. Some people swear by a glass of lemon water to help burn fat.

In fact, this probably only has a positive effect on weight management because the liquid regulates appetite.

The situation is somewhat different with stimulating drinks that contain caffeine, for example. Coffee and tea may arguably speed up fat burning by stimulating the nervous system. The hormone epinephrine tells the cells to break down fat. However, this is only useful if the energy released is also dissipated again – for example through movement.

What is certain is that alcohol inhibits fat burning. The body breaks it down first because it cannot store it. If the organism is busy, it consumes fewer macronutrients, including fat.

In addition, alcohol has a comparatively large number of calories and triggers cravings – two more reasons not to enjoy it or only in moderation if you want to lose weight or optimize your fat burning.

Increase fat burning through fasting – is that possible?

The consideration sounds logical: If you don’t supply any energy at all, you will very quickly force the body to fall back on its fat reserves. But does the “fast fat burning through fasting” math add up?

Classic fasting

When fasting for several days, fasting people actually lose weight quickly, sometimes several hundred grams per day. In the beginning, however, this is not fat, but muscles and water.

Fasting can still be a good start or preparation for a change in diet for overweight people . But: You should always do this with medical supervision, since fasting initially means stress for the body.

He interprets the lack of food as a danger and increases the production of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. It also slows down your metabolism to conserve energy, which is exactly what you don’t want.

In addition, fasting can change the water-electrolyte balance and, in extreme cases, trigger cardiac arrhythmias.

Read more about therapeutic fasting here .

The interval fast

What can boost fat burning almost overnight is intermittent fasting, also known as intermittent fasting. With this variant, fasting people are only allowed to eat within a certain time window. Eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16 hours is a classic, but there are other models.

The advantage: Due to the limited “dry dry spell”, the body does not switch to economy mode, but releases less insulin, which would slow down fat burning.

Anyone who starts the fasting phase in the evening sleeps through a large part of the fasting and burns fat overnight, so to speak. When intermittent fasting starts or ramps up fat burning varies from person to person. Experts estimate that after 12 to 14 hours of fasting, the body begins to burn belly fat.

This is fat that lies beneath the muscular layer of the abdomen and surrounds the organs. It actually serves as an energy reserve, but if it gets too much, it can also cause diseases such as high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases as well as diabetes.

In addition, fasting phases relieve the organism, since it is not constantly busy digesting. This gives him time to “clean up” and, for example, to dispose of old cells.

However, these effects have so far only been found in studies involving laboratory animals. Proof in humans is still pending.

Read more about intermittent fasting here .

Conclusion: fat burning

While we can’t completely control how we burn fat, there are some things we can do to boost fat metabolism. A mix of exercise and a healthy diet works best to boost fat burning and stay slim, fit and healthy.

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