Do you warm up prior to exercise? Be honest. Walking out of the locker room and onto the gym floor does not count. Do you spend 5 to 15 minutes slowly revving your body up? If I had to guess, I’d say most people don’t bother to warm up. Showing up to the gym is half the battle. The other half requires some strategic planning if you want to get the most out of your training sessions. There are a lot of benefits to warming up but perhaps the least known is its ability to prepare your body for fat burning.
Picture this: You get out of bed, eat breakfast and go the gym. You forgo a warm-up and jump right into a set of squats. Your body says, “Holy cow, what the heck are you doing?!”. In this alarm state, your brain chooses to go with the most readily available energy source, sugar. The more gradually you bring up your body temperature and heart rate the greater amounts of fat will be used as fuel. Asking the body to perform at a high rate without properly warming up will increase the likelihood you’ll get most of your energy from sugars.
When you quickly enter the anaerobic zone (high intensity where the body produces energy without oxygen) your fast twitch muscle fibers preferentially drink up all the sugar. I can assure you it isn’t sugar stored around your waistline and butt! The body keeps sugar readily available for emergency use like this and fight or flight responses. On the other hand, your fat stores are a little less easy to utilize. The fat that is not immediately utilized is put away under lock and key for long term storage…an evolutionary vestige of forestalling starvation. It takes about 5 to 15 minutes for your body to mobilize its stored fat. This is where the warm up comes in. If you slowly ease into the training session your body will sense a non-emergency status and start converting fat into free fatty acids that can be used as fuel. By the time you begin your workout in earnest, your body will be a fat burning machine.
Slowly preparing your body for a workout will not only help prevent injury but get you to burn more fat. Isn’t it worth the extra 5 to 15 minutes to put your body into an optimum fat burning state?
2. Maffetone, Phil. In Fitness and Health. HalWalter, 2009.