The so-called fat burning heart rate zone is something that came into vogue years ago on the weight loss scene. When fitness gurus found out there was a specific “zone” that is best to burn fat, and that it’s at a lower intensity than the so-called cardio or aerobic zone, you can bet they lost their minds. This was fitness industry gold!
Why the Fat Burning Heart Rate Zone Doesn’t Matter
While the science backs up the claim generally, the logic in terms of weight loss and perceived benefit is flawed. Here’s the deal – when you are operating in your fat burn zone, at around 60-70% of your max heart rate, about 85% of your calories burned are coming from fat. Dude, that’s a crazy amount of fat, right? Especially when you compare it to the amount of fat burned when you’re in the aerobic or endurance heart rate zone at 70-80% of your max heart rate – a measly 50%.
What matters is not what percentage of calories burned come from fat, but rather how many calories you burn in total. And guess what, the harder you work out – ie, the higher your heart rate – the more calories are going to be burned.
You could walk for a half hour and burn 150 calories, or jog for half an hour and burn 350 calories. Losing weight comes down to a pretty simple formula…
Weight Loss = Calories Consumed vs Calories Burned
So, for the best weight loss results, jack up that heart rate! Burn more calories by working out for a shorter, more intense interval – and then get back to your day. Time is a major obstacle for people when it comes to creating a fitness plan. I’d much rather see people work out at a higher intensity for 15 min to half-an-hour than a moderately brisk walk that lasts for an hour.
By getting your heart rate up above this “fat burn zone” you’ll actually lose more fat and you’ll experience greater cardiovascular benefits, such as an improved vO2 maximum (basically, how efficiently your body uses oxygen) and you’ll have greater lactate tolerance which helps with muscle fatigue. In more plain English, you’ll have greater endurance. So make sure your target heart rate reflects your true fitness goals.
This is not to say that the Fat Burning heart rate doesn’t have it’s place. Getting your heart rate elevated is good for you at any level – and if you’re heart is weak or you’re just getting into a new fitness regimen it’s totally fine to take things a bit easy. Work your way up. And as always, consult a physician if you have any concern about your cardiovascular health.
Monitoring Your Heat Rate
Using a heart rate monitor is fantastic for getting the most out of your workouts. How else are you supposed to determine how hard you’re working – whether you’re in the Fat Burning Zone or the Better than Fat Burning zone? There are multiple options available – ones with chest-straps (best for athletes and cyclists in my opinion as they give you a constant reading) and those that don’t require a strap (these require you to press and hold a button on them with your opposite hand to complete an electrical circuit and get your heart rate reading).
These monitors will give you precise feedback on how much effort you’re putting in during your workout or exercise routine, prompting you to pick up the pace or tap the brakes. Look out for a future review article covering the highest rated heart rate monitors.
Fat Burning Conclusion
Getting your heart rate up above the resting level is great for your cardiovascular fitness and overall endurance. The Fat Burning heart rate zone of 60-70% is misleading, though – you’ll get a faster and more efficient workout by getting into what’s called the Aerobic or Endurance range of 70-80%. And subsequently, you’ll burn more fat – and lose more weight. Here’s to a healthy heart!