5k Intervals: Fat Burners?

weight loss exercise class
The view in my local park is better.

What are the most efficient fat-burning intervals?

As always the caveat: Just sweat for 3 x 30 mins a week doing strenuous exercise and you’ll lose weight, regardless of what I say here.

Basically, once you can run for 45-60 minutes non-stop I reckon you can start on intervals without risking injury too greatly.

Some factoids for you:

  • For any “calorie-burning equivalent” exercise: intervals beat longer runs.
  • Shorter intervals beat longer intervals: because you can try harder as the overall, perceived effort is less.
  • You should rest for 50% longer than your interval period.

So with that in mind, the fat-burning ideal session is 14 x 1-minute intervals with 60-90 seconds of rest in between. This should be done at the target race pace, which is faster than a recent 5k PB pace. You must do at least 10 intervals. After 14, you should be very tired.

And you read the previous paragraph right? I don’t mean ‘sweating a bit’ or ‘tired’ I mean EXHAUSTED. ie You could do no more than stagger home afterwards. & it doesn’t matter how fit or fat you are…your exhausted is pretty much the same as mine and everybody else’s exhausted!


1. 1-minute intervals are not the ideal interval to improve your 5k – although they significantly help your speed. However, read on…

2. People will say that you should be going for long runs at a still-being-able-to-talk -speed in order to burn calories. At slower speeds, the body **IS**able to get energy inefficiently by burning fat rather than quickly and efficiently by burning the carbs in your muscles/liver. However, read on…

3. Regardless of the previous points. The number of calories you burn in your session will be low. Whatever session you do. Say 10 calories per minute, something like that. So you only burn 600 calories on that 1-hour run. It makes you hungry and before you know it you’ve snacked that back into your body as soon as you get home. Higher protein than normal helps fill you up but if you don’t have a balanced diet you will injure yourself or get ill.

4. What you have to do is get fit. Really there aren’t any shortcuts. I’m quite fit now. I eat LOADS more than my partner and I don’t really do that much exercise, 10 hours a week in an otherwise sedentary lifestyle…that’s 6000 calories more than my partner I burn at best. I EASILY EAT VERY much more calories than that. I just burn when I’m sitting around more cos I’m fit. [3 hours a week? you could easily sit in the gym or sit in your yoga or pilates class and do 3 hours/week and lose NO SIGNIFICANT CALORIES]

5. As long as you are a little bit fit, therefore, the one-minute interval is a great kick start. If you are not ‘already a little bit fit’ then they will probably injure you as you try to get that exercise short-cut going! So go back to the start of this post and make sure you can do the basics first! Please!

6. Against all that you might say that you should be getting the body to practice burning fat rather than carbs by doing the longer, slower runs. I’ve outlined some arguments against that, above, however in reality you should do both. Attack the problem from multiple angles: do weights, do short/fast intervals, and do long slow runs.

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