A closer look at fat-burning heart rate zone

We learn about the science behind the fat-burning heart rate zone as well as practical tips to help reach your weight loss goals.

The science of fat-burning heart rate

When you exercise, your body uses different energy sources, primarily carbohydrates and fats. The fat-burning zone represents the range of heart rates at which your body burns more fat for fuel.

Typically, this zone falls within 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Your MHR is a rough estimate of the maximum number of beats your heart can handle in one minute, and it’s often calculated using the formula 220 minus your age. 

For example, if you’re over 30, your estimated MHR would be 190 beats per minute (220 minus 30). So, in this case, your fat-burning heart rate zone would be 114 to 133 beats per minute (60 to 70% of 190).

Myth busting: the fat-burning zone isn’t a magic bullet

It’s important to understand that the fat-burning zone doesn’t magically help you shed unwanted kilograms without you having to work. Here’s why:

  • Calories still matter:While you burn more fat calories in the fat-burning zone, the overall number of calories burned might be lower than in higher-intensity workouts. Weight loss ultimately boils down to burning more calories than you consume.
  • Total fat burn:Working out at a higher intensity may lead to higher complete fat burn, even though the percentage of calories burned from fat is lower. It’s like the difference between a gentle, steady stream eroding a rock over time and a powerful waterfall breaking it down faster.
  • Time and consistency:Staying in the fat-burning zone for extended periods can be time-consuming. It’s vital to consider your lifestyle and how much time you can devote to exercise.
  • Individual variations matter: It’s essential to recognise that individual variations play a significant role in the effectiveness of the fat-burning zone. Genetics, fitness level, andmetabolism can influence how your body responds to exercise. What works for one person might work differently for another.

Finding your fat-burning zone

You might wonder, “Is the fat-burning zone still relevant?” In short, the answer is yes, especially for beginners, those with medical conditions, or if you are looking for a low-impact workout. 

While calculating your fat-burning zone, as mentioned earlier, the easiest way to ensure you’re exercising within your target heart rate range is to wear a heart rate monitor during your workouts. Many fitness trackers and smartwatches have this feature built-in.

Some exercises can burn more calories per hour than others. To burn the maximum calories, you should consider running. Running is the biggest calorie-burning activity per hour. If running isn’t your thing, other calorie-burning activities include HIIT workouts, jumping rope, and swimming. You can perform any combination of these exercises depending on your interests and fitness level.

Practical tips for effective fat burning

Start with a light warm-up to elevate your heart rate gradually. This prepares your body for more intense exercise. While the fat-burning zone can be effective, keep yourself open to workouts outside this range. Incorporate a variety of workout intensities to keep your routine exciting and maximise overall calorie burn.

Remember that muscle burns more calories at rest than fat (about 50 times more), so incorporate strength training into your fitness regimen to boost your metabolism. Give your body adequate time to recover between workouts. Overtraining can lead to burnout and hinder your progress.

Tracking your progress

To gauge the effectiveness of your workouts within the fat-burning zone and assess your weight loss journey, keep an eye on changes in your body measurements, such as waist circumference and body fat percentage. 

Notice how you feel during and after your workouts. Increased energy levels and improved stamina can be indicators of progress. 

Lastly, while not the sole measure of success, tracking your weight on a scale over time can help you see trends and make necessary adjustments to your routine.

*This article is attributed to Affinity Health.

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