Weight loss - misconceptions?

Hi all,
I was discussing training with a friend of mine last week. He has a Peloton which he uses for about 3x45 minute sessions per week. He primarily wants to lose weight. He has read that at certain exercise intensity levels you burn more fat vs carbs compared to higher intensity levels where you’d burn more carbs than fat. So he tells me that he does low intensity workouts because he burns more fat than if he went faster.

I tell him that if he went harder he would burn more calories and consequently become thinner. He’s having none of it though.

How can i tell him that his position is one of “A little knowledge being a dangerous thing”?

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Either approach can work. What’s most important is finding something that is sustainable. He could lose weight just by sitting on the couch, so long as he’s maintaining a calorie defecit.

Benefits to your argument:

  1. he’ll burn more calories in each 45 min session
  2. he burns a higher PERCENTAGE of fat in his easy workouts but not necessarily a higher OVERALL amount of fat depending on calorie expenditure

Benefits to his argument:

  1. easier workouts are easier to recover from so there’s higher chance of compliance
  2. harder workouts may build some unwanted muscle mass and therefore weight
  3. in my experience, harder efforts make me hungrier so I’m more likely to over-eat
  4. some people new to cycling don’t like sweating or pushing hard. they want simple, easy, comfortable workouts
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Nutrition and workout and consistency are key.
Dedication once you see the kg drop it is easy to just keep going.
71.2kg right now from last year August 98kg.

For me it was Cat. D Zwift rides did about 5 per week and really did just enjoy it.

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I think the truth is somewhere in between. Yes you want to train to raise your FTP which allows you to burn more calories per ride, but I also feel like you need to put in volume, and going easier is a way to get there without burning out on intensity. Your friend should be doing more than 45mins, really, but I don’t see anything wrong with the approach of just riding. Personally I think Peloton and spin classes in general are so focused on intensity at the expense of easier longer efforts.

Anyhow, I started cycling in 2013, I weighed 225lbs, and over a few months dropped 70lbs (I got myself a cheap fluid trainer and just ramped up my time in the saddle). I still weigh around the same 7 years later!

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Regardless of intensity, if losing weight is the objective, I think it’s much easier done in the kitchen than in the gym.

I don’t think the composition of the fuel (fat vs. carbs) you burn during a workout really make that much of a material difference. It still comes down to thermodynamics. Calories in vs. Calories out. He may burn more “fat” during the workout (assuming he’s in ketosis, which not sure if he is based on what you said), but at the end of the day, he needs to maintain a calorie deficit to see real progress. I don’t think you will change your body composition materially if you maintain a net 0 calorie deficit and just switch which fuel you use. I could be wrong.

I have tried to have the same conversation with people at work and in my personal life and just ended up giving up. The misconceptions about the ‘fat burning zone’ are very frustrating to me.

As you said, at low intensities you burn more fat as a percentage of calories burned but at slightly higher intensities you will burn less fat as a percentage of calories burned but will probably burn more fat calories and total calories overall. People get hung up on the whole percentage thing and I just wish the fitness industry would stop perpetuating this piece of misinformation. Additionally, improving your aerobic fitness will allow you to burn more calories as your fitness improves and unless people violate the laws of thermodynamics it is about CICO.

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