Does carrying a heavy backpack burn fat quicker than hiking without one?
It appears so. If you want to burn more fat faster, you should simply carry a heavier backpack when you go hiking. Let’s answer some of the questions being asked about backpacking to see if we can unearth exactly why that is.
What Is Hiking With A Heavy Backpack Called?
Hiking while carrying a heavy backpack has several names. In the old days, when I was just a young man it was called Backpacking, which seems to make sense. It was also called Rucking as the backpacks we used back then were always called Rucksacks, which also made sense too.
In the military, where I spent a large proportion of my life, it also had a few different names. In the Marines it was always called Yomping and in the Army it was called Tabbing.
You obviously get used to using the terminology that you are surrounded by the most, so I was more accustomed to calling it going for a Yomp than a Tab. However I’ve been out for 13 years now, so I’ve called it Backpacking or Carrying a heavy backpack for a while.
Whatever you choose to call it is up to you, but just remember that they are all the same thing with the names being used interchangeably.
Does Carrying A Heavy Backpack Burn A Lot Of Calories?
The answer is yes, carrying a heavy backpack will force your body to burn more calories as you will be hiking over the same terrain, but you will be operating under far heavier load conditions, butting much greater energy demands on your body. This fuel will have to come from burning calories, lots of them.
For the average guy, a 30-minute walk burns about 125 calories, according to the Compendium of Physical Activities. But throw on a weighted backpack and take that exact same walk, and you burn about 325 calories, also according to the Compendium of Physical Activities.
Exactly How Does Carrying A Heavy Backpack Burn More Fat Than Hiking Without One?
To answer this question we’ll first have to clarify the stages that our bodies have to go through to start, and to continue burning fat for energy.
When we carry out physical exercise such as Hiking, with or without a Heavy Backpack, we will need to use up some form of fuel to satisfy the greater energy demand.
That fuel will first come from the fast release Carbs stored for easy access in our Muscles and Liver in the form of Glycogen. But the think about Glycogen is that it is in short supply and it isn’t a very powerful form of energy. It only gives us around 4 calories/gram of energy and our supply only lasts for between 30 and 45 minutes, and for even less time if the energy demand is greater.
Once our Glycogen is depleted, our body will switch to burning calories from a far more powerful energy source that we carry, Fat. Fat in the form of Fatty Acids flowing in our blood streams from recent meals will be burned first, as it is readily available. Fat is more than twice as powerful as Glycogen and provides around 9 calories/gram of energy. But once again, the Fatty Acids in our blood streams are in short supply and will also run out quickly. That is why our bodies store Fat Deposits, for times of need such as this.
In the next stage, the stage we want to reach and stay in for Fat Burning, our bodies draw upon the reserves of stored fat and break them down into Fatty Acids to release into our blood streams replacing the ones we have just burned off.
So, the reason that carrying a heavy backpack on a hike burns more calories than hiking without one, is because it will burn through your Glycogen faster and it will draw on more of your stored fat for the greater amount of energy that the extra weight demands to move it over the same distance.
Does Carrying A Heavy Backpack Build Muscles?
Yes, carrying a heavy backpack builds muscle. It does so because it is a form of resistance training. Putting our muscles under repeated resistance triggers a growth response in our bodies. Our bodies will develop larger muscles to cope with the extra demands placed upon us.
Does Having More Muscle Burn More Fat? Yes, the benefits to us in the area of burning fat then become even greater. Larger muscles require more fuel to run them, therefore we burn more calories, so it goes without saying that we will burn more fat with our larger muscles, because a bigger engine needs more fuel.
Does Carrying A Heavy Backpack Improve Fitness?
There’s more good news. Yes, carrying a heavy backpack on out hikes will improve our cardiovascular fitness. Putting our bodies through the greater demands of hiking with a heavy backpack will exercise our heart and lungs making them more efficient. We will also be exercising, building and toning our muscles.
Fitness, Strength and Stamina are all very closely related, and they are all attributed that most people who exercise look to improve. The good news is, that backpacking will improve all three of them, and fast.
Does Rucking Burn Belly Fat?
Yes, Rucking of Hiking Carrying a Heavy Backpack will burn belly fat, but not directly. Unfortunately, it is well known that we can’t spot target the areas we want to burn fat from. However, Rucking will burn fat, and lots of it. It stands to reason that some of that fat is going to be taken from the deposits around your belly. So in effect, yes, Rucking burns belly fat.
Will Rucking Give Me A Six Pack?
Getting a six pack, or visible abs is going to be a bit more difficult to obtain than simply going out hiking with a heavy backpack.
In order for you to have visible stomach muscles or abs, you are going to have to reduce you overall body fat percentage to around 15% for women and 10% for men, which believe me is pretty low.
Rucking can get you down to those sort of low body percentages but only in conjunction with a good diet plan. You are very unlikely to get there if you carry on with the diet that gave you belly fat in the first place.
Are There Other Health Benefits From Hiking With A Heavy Backpack?
Yes, there are numerous other health benefits associated with hiking with a heavy backpack. To name but a few of them:
- It increases endurance
- It lifts low mood and depression
- It gives us time in nature
- It improves digestion
- It help with regular toilet functions
- It tones our bodies making us look good
- It is good for the complexion
- It strengthens our bones
- It rewires our brain pathways
- It reduces rumination giving us space to think
- It allows us to meet like minded, fit, healthy others
There are of course many other benefits of hiking with a heavy backpack, but just seeing those above should be enough to get you enthusiastic about dusting off your rucksack or backpack, filling it up and getting out in the hills.