Using Heart-Rate Zones to Burn Fat

Learn how this fat-burning range breaks down into three specific heart-rate zones, the benefits of each and how to calculate them.
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heart rate training to burn fat

Using Heart-Rate Zones to Burn Fat

You’ve seen it on treadmills, bicycles and ellipticals. It stares you in the face and yells, “Pick me! Pick me!” The allure of this button drowns out all other options as you instinctively press it. And why wouldn’t you? Don’t we all want to burn fat? Isn’t that the reason we’re running, cycling or using the elliptical? The fat-burning zone is an appealing place to be. But why is that? What are the other zones, and do they even matter? Let’s explore life beyond the fat-burning zone.

It’s important to know your heart rate and determine your recommended range during exercise. First, to calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. The result? It’s an age-predicted maximum beats per minute. The recommended target heart-rate zone is 55 to 85 percent of your max heart rate. To determine this range, multiply your max heart rate by 0.55. Then multiply your max heart rate by 0.85. These two numbers represent each end of your target heart-rate zone.

We’re about to learn more about how this range breaks down into three specific heart-rate zones, the benefits of each and how to calculate them.

Fat-Burning Zone

The fat-burning zone increases your aerobic endurance while the body burns fat as fuel. Activities done in this zone require minimal to moderate effort, allowing you to talk comfortably throughout. However, the phrase “fat-burning zone” can be misleading. At this lower intensity, you’re burning fewer calories overall. While the percentage of calories may be higher, you will burn more calories by exercising at an increased intensity level, resulting in a higher overall amount of fat burned.

The fat-burning zone is 55 to 70 percent of your max heart rate. Multiply your max heart rate by 0.55 for the lower end of the range. Multiply your max heart rate by 0.70 to calculate the higher end of this range.

Cardio Training Zone

The intensity level of the cardio training zone is more difficult than the fat-burning zone. When working out at this increased intensity, your body will build cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. This zone is particularly effective for improving the efficiency of your heart, making moderate workloads easier over time.

The cardio training zone is 70 to 85 percent of your max heart rate. Multiply your max heart rate by 0.70 for the lower end of the range. Multiply your max heart rate by 0.85 to calculate the higher end of this range.

Peak Zone

Training in the peak zone will help increase your performance and speed. This vigorous intensity consists of short, intense sessions and is not recommended for beginners. By working anaerobically, your body will get better at using carbs for energy. Incorporating peak training workouts will result in peak performance.

The peak zone is 85 to 100 percent of your max heart rate. Multiply your max heart rate by 0.85 for the lower end of the range.

Heart-rate tracking helps you evaluate your workout and make adjustments based on your goals while avoiding plateaus. It is important to vary your training zones because there are advantages to all of them, but the next time you’re tempted to hit the “fat-burning” option on your favorite piece of cardio equipment, consider mixing it up. The variety you create by making different choices will result in different results, leading you beyond the fat-burning zone and toward your fitness goals.

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