Understanding The Fat-Burning Process And Maximizing It To Burn Fat Faster

by Matthew Theis January 18, 2016

Understanding The Fat-Burning Process And Maximizing It To Burn Fat Faster

If you had to sum up your fitness goals in one sentence it would probably sound something like this "burn as much as possible while keeping as much muscle as possible."  This is the common goal for just about all who enter the gym, but very few are able to execute.  But why is that?  Everyone knows exercise burns fat so all you need to do is exercise, right?  Wrong.  

The processes that govern your body's ability (and willingness) to burn fat are actually much more complex and worth understanding if you really want to acheive your goal of burning "as much fat as possible".  So let's begin.

Lipolysis And Oxidation: Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Though often grouped together for the sake of simplicity, there are actually two distinct processes the body must initiate in order to burn fat.


Lipolysis simply means "breakdown of fat".  It is the process by which stored fat, or triglycerides, are broken down into their individual components, glycerol and fatty acids, and released into circulation.  


Oxidation is simply a scientific way of saying "burning".  It refers to the process by which Fatty Acids are utilized for energy.

Although these two processes, Lipolysis and Oxidation, generally occur one after the other, just because one occurs doesn't mean the other will.  More specifially, just because Lipolysis occurs and fatty acids are released into circulation, they will not automatically be burned.  

You must actually do something to make your body burn these fatty acids as fuel...Can you think of what that might be?

You Have To Exercise!

Exercise is the component that makes the whole formula click.  Without exercise, fat will be burned at a much slower pace.  It's true that when you haven't eaten in a while (and Insulin levels are low), your body will burned stored fat to support your basal metabolic rate, but if you want to actually lose fat you'll need to add some good ole' exercise into the equation.

But Just Because You Exercise Doesn't Mean Your Burning Much Fat

If you've been concerned with building muscle up to this point, you've probably heard/read about how you should be eating a high carb meal prior to working out to provide your body with energy.  While it is true that consuming a bunch of carbs will allow you to perform better during your workout, it will also cause your body to utilize less fat for fuel.

This is simply because your body prefers carbohydrates as an energy source.  Glucose is easily converted to energy, moreso than fat, so if you have plenty of it your body will have no reason to burn stored fat for energy.

If you really want to maximize fat-loss during your workouts, the best thing to do is train fasted.  This will allow you to burn much more fat, especially that stubborn fat thats been hanging around your midsection.  Your body will initiate lipolysis and, since you're exercising, 

Tweaking The Fat-Loss Process For Your Benefit

The body has two types of receptors that regulate lipolysis: alpha-receptors and beta-receptors.  We discuss those two receptors more in this article, but here's the short version:

Beta-receptors kickstart lipolysis and alpha-receptor stpo it.  This allows your body to burn fat when needed but not burn too much of it.  

A major activator of Beta-receptors is Noradrenaline, a hormone heavily involved in the "fight or flight" response.  This makes sense evolutionarily speaking when you consider that 

Fortunately, there are ways to influence how these receptors work in order to burn more fat.  If more rapid fat-loss is your goal, in theory, you'd like to block the function of alpha-receptors and activate beta-receptors.

Supplements That Faciliate Fat-Loss


Synephrine functions as a beta-receptor agonist, meaning it directly induces lipolysis.


Yohimbine functions as an alpha-receptor antagonist, meaning it blocks the receptors that would otherwise block lipolysis.


Rauwolscine functions similarly to Yohimbine but is more potent.  Anecdotal evidence suggests it is also prone to cause less side effects. 

The Bottom Line On Supplements

Supplements like the ones above are NOT a substitute for exercise when it comes to burning fat.  None of the above supplements will work if not used in combination with exercise.  Why?

That goes back to fat-loss being a two-part equation.  Remember?  Lipoysis (fat-breakdown) is only the beginning.  Once the fat is broken down it must have a reason to be burned.  Otherwise, the body will initiate yet another set of processes to begin converting the peices back into stored fat.

 So, just to be VERY clear, you cannot burn fat unless you exercise.  Don't be fooled by supplements that claim to allow you to do this.  Just exercise.  

Matthew Theis
Matthew Theis


Hi! I'm Matt Theis, Founder of Singular Sport and Co-Founder/CEO of Momentum Nutrition. When it comes to training, nutrition, supplementation, and all things fitness-related, I believe following the science is the ONLY way to go. If you can't show me the research, I don't believe you!

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