Are You Burning Fat When You’re Working Muscles?

Searching the Internet for fitness and health can be a daunting experience, from an overdose of information to often misleading advice. This series aims to shed light on these hard-held beliefs still circulating in the fitness industry today.

The burning feeling while working a muscles means it’s burning fat.

The burning sensation is simply lactic acid produced when a muscle is under tension for more than 15 seconds and has used up its immediate energy stores. It is NOT fat that is being burned.

A muscle has three main systems to produce the energy needed to work the muscles.

The first system is immediate and the energy lasts for 15 seconds. The second is quick, with the energy supply lasting for less than two minutes, but it produces lactic acid as a waste product. And the third system is slow to produce energy but it supplies the most of all.

Any fitness activity relies on all three systems, which work continuously together to produce energy. The burn we feel is exactly the lactic acid produced from system two. This acid is eventually flushed out and used as energy as the activity proceeds. When too much acid is produced and the muscles cannot flush it out fast enough, fatigue sets in and the muscles cannot contract properly.


One cannot sense what he or she is burning as fuel for energy (sugars or fats). The workout determines which source of energy and which system is preferred. Tolerance to lactic acid and the burning feeling increases as one trains more consistently.
  • For beginners, remind yourself that you will, with time, be better able to handle the achy feeling that the burn produces.
  • Some workouts are designed to produce that sensation because of the training benefits of these types of workouts. Take the challenge.
  • Unless you’re well trained, it’s difficult to resist the burn, so instead of stopping an activity, try to take active rests (for example working a different muscle or doing some full body moves like burpees) every now and then, until you’re there.
  • The best way to flush out acid is to keep moving. So don’t stop the workout half way through.

Stay tuned for more fitness myths in our upcoming issues.



Why You Can’t Afford Not To Know About Fructose

Honestly, I always take nutrition advice with a pinch of salt. It is so easy to oversimplify research findings. Do you remember when eggs were supposedly harmful and presumed to contribute to bad blood cholesterol? Now, it is recommended that you eat eggs (up to 3 a week), to maintain healthy levels of good cholesterol. What happened? Eggs didn’t change in 30 years, the research did.

This is a reminder how important it is to practice moderation in everything; it is a good way to live, to eat.

When it comes to today, we are consuming way more sugar than we used to. Our food quantities have increased in all food categories, carbs, fats and proteins. Many would agree with me that the quality of the food we eat is not something we can be proud of.

Here, I’ll focus on one particular sugar type (FRUCTOSE), breaking down the reasons why its over-consumption poses a health risk that most of us overlook or simply are not aware of. 

  1. We are consuming too much: Fructose is the natural sugar found in most fruit. People assume that because fruit is natural, it’s okay. We forget that fruit isn’t available all year round in traditional and organic farming and that we have other sources to consume this sugar, (fizzy drinks, candies, and so on).
  2. Fructose is broken down in the liver: Because it’s not digested in the digestive system, this over-stresses the liver, which already has other functions to perform like removing waste products.
  3. Fructose confuses the body: It tastes sweet, but doesn’t act like glucose. Since it’s broken down differently, your body asks for more sugar but doesn’t really feel content. This means, you’ll always ask for more.
  4. Fructose is in products that are supposed to be healthy: Remember low fat products? When a macro ingredient is stripped away from food, it is usually replaced by another macro ingredient (usually sugar).
  5. Fructose is in products that aren’t even sweet: If you read the food ingredients’ list on a food label, you are sure to find fructose. It’s usually what’s making it taste so good. Food products notorious for this, include sauces like red pasta sauce, ketchup, barbecue sauces, commercial salad dressings, coffee creamers and even health bars (protein bars). Look for the following in food labels: High fructose corn syrup, fructose syrup, agave and so on.
  6. You might suffer from fructose intolerance and not know it: In an average body, the small intestine can absorb up to 50 grams of fructose at a time. Some show a reaction to even less than 20 grams of fructose. For those suffering from malabsorption, the fructose absorbs water into the gut and causes diarrhea. The fructose might also linger too long in the gut, becoming food for gut bacteria. The latter usually results in bloating and flatulence.

Some tips for us Saudi residents:

Dates are full of fructose: Granted, dates also have antioxidants and are a good source of calories. It is, however best to have 2-3 dates half an hour before a meal. The sugar from dates will help you feel fill faster.

We need to redefine our relationship with fruit: We fall prey to the benefits of fruit. Even worse, most juice places around town add sugars to the already sugary beverage, making it a ticking sugary bomb. Be sure to choose the smaller size cups, request the sugar free version, and stick to one serving before your meals instead of with it.




Myth: Working out in the morning burns more fat

Our focus is to shed light on these hard-held beliefs on fitness, training and health, and to distinguish the misconceptions that despite the wealth of knowledge in the wellness industry, still exists today.

The Internet can be a gold mine of info, or a minefield, depending on where you look and how you research. It can be overwhelming though, so we have done the work for you.


Working out in the morning burns more fat.

Exercise burns both stored fats and sugars for energy. Whether we burn more fat or sugar depends on many factors including the intensity and length of the workout, stored sugar levels in the muscles, and other factors. The time of the day affects all these factors, which then determine how much fat we burn. It is therefore an indirect relationship and NOT a cause/effect relationship.

The hormone cortisol is generally highest in the morning and gradually decreases during the day. Cortisol helps the body respond to stress, including exercise. This means the body is better suited to respond to exercise in the morning.

However, some people may feel more energetic during the day, especially after eating their meals. Also, because most gyms in Saudi don’t open early in the morning and the sun is quite intense, it might be easier to commit to fitness in the afternoons.

People who are not used to exercising in the afternoon may find their sleep patterns disrupted as exercising close to bedtime increases cortisol; removing the benefits of an afternoon workout.

Workout times are a personal choice and a habit. Choose what works for you.

Whenever you choose to workout, make sure you are consistent and committed. If you can, mix it up by training some days in the morning and other days in the evening.

If you choose to exercise in the morning, have some days where you workout in on an empty stomach. For high intensity trainings however, it’s better to eat something like a small fruit or shake before your workout.

Stay tuned for more fitness myths in our upcoming issues.