Heart Rate and Fat Burn: Here’s How it Works
You may be familiar with the idea of the “fat-burning training zone” and how this low-intensity style of training is best for people who are trying to lose weight by burning fat.
However, it may be more effective to focus on your overall calorie burn if you want to achieve your weight and fat loss goals. Read on to learn how you can find the best training zone to suit your individual goals and fitness level.
Calculating your max heart rate
The first step is understanding how to calculate your approximate max heart rate (HR) because each type of training zone is calculated using a percentage of this number. An easy way to calculate your max HR is by using the equation: 220 − your age. For example, the maximum HR for a 40-year old would be 220 − 40 = 180 beats per minute (bpm).
Low intensity training
Typically, a low-intensity workout falls between 50-70% of your max HR. At this heart rate, you are burning more calories than you would be at rest, but your body’s demand for additional fuel is pretty low. In this zone, your body is using both fat and carbohydrates as fuel, but more fat is being used as a fuel source because it is an easy training zone, commonly known as the fat-burning zone. If you want to make a dent with overall calorie burn, the duration of this type of workout would have to be significant – in other words, you’ll need a longer workout.
If you are looking to improve your aerobic capacity (in short, your ability to use oxygen to fuel exercise activity), then you want to stay between 70-85% of max HR. In this training zone, you are working harder and your body needs more energy, so it uses more carbohydrates than fat during the workout.
Anything above 85% max HR is considered high intensity. At this point, you are mainly training your anaerobic system and using carbohydrates as your primary fuel source. This training zone can’t be sustained for long periods of time.
Find the heart rate that works for you
There are many choices when it comes to heart-rate specific training. You can choose to train at a lower heart rate and see benefits like using fat as a fuel source and improving cardiovascular endurance. If this is your primary focus, your workout duration will be longer, but the intensity is lower.
You can also choose to train with a high heart rate focus in the anaerobic zone by sprinting, which burns carbs during the workout and promotes muscle building.
Another popular training style you can try is called high-intensity interval training (HIIT). By mixing up your intensity levels, your body burns fat at a higher rate during rest after a hard training session – even if you weren’t burning fat as fuel during that session, you’ll be burning it after as your body recovers.
Mix it up for a well-balanced routine
Focus on the overall calorie burn of your workout and consider monitoring your exercise-induced heart rate to gauge how hard your body is working. The great thing about exercise is that you get to choose what is right for you and determine what type of training works best for your schedule. Follow a well-balanced training routine that pushes your body to adapt but mix it up with low impact-training like walking and stretching. Training that challenges your body in a variety of ways is an effective strategy for getting results. It also helps you avoid injuries from overtraining and feeling burned out by doing the same thing all the time.
You don’t need to spend your entire workout pushing yourself to the brink to burn calories and see results. Challenge yourself, yes, but pay attention to your heart rate and intensity levels throughout your workout to ensure you’re in the right zone for your fitness level and goals.