What is the Fat Burning Zone
When we go to the gym for a workout we more than likely know what sort of exercise, we will do and the benefits that those exercises will give to us.
There are those who want to add muscle, so they will be on the free weights or weight training machines specifically for working certain muscles. Look at the fat-burning zone chart below.
Then there are those who go for a full cardio workout. This could be a high-intensity workout or a workout in one of the 5 zones that you see in the charts that show what the zones mean.
But are these charts really worth looking at? Do you really burn more fat by working at a lower intensity than you would if you’re worked harder and have the lungs working the body more?
Table of Contents
Is the Fat Burning Zone Chart misleading
Looking at the fat burning zone chart above, what does it tell you and how do you use it according to research, and is this actually true.
NOTE – This chart is set out for a MALE person. A female has a slightly higher (MHR) Maximum Heart Rate of 226, so needs a slightly different calculation.
At the top, we have “Exercise Zones” Below that is our age groups from 20 all the way up to 70 years of age. On the left is “Beats per Minute” Next to that is the intensity of your workout from 50% all the way up to 100%
Then you can look at the color of the chart. It is designed to show you that the lower intensity workout is easy and color-coded yellow. As the workout gets harder and the heart rate rises the color changes until it reaches a deep red, which is the maximum heart rate.
- VO2 Max – Maximum Effort Zone
- Anaerobic – Hardcore Training Zone
- Aerobic – Cardio and Endurance Training Zone
- Weight Control – Fat Burning Zone
- Moderate Activity – Warm-Up Zone
To understand these zones you need another chart which is not shown here. What does 50% actually mean when you have no idea what it is supposed to be.
The most basic understanding of how the heart works without a heart rate monitor is to use a simple calculation – 220 minus your age.
For a better understanding and a closer assessment, you would need to see a specialist who can measure your level of fitness and give you your true reading.
However, this calculation has been used for many years and is pretty close to what the average person will be doing.
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How To Use the Fat Burning Zone Chart
So if you are a 40 years young MALE your basic maximum heart rate would be 220 minus 40 = 180 beats per minute. At this rate you are at a given maximum rate of 100%. This is what you should not exceed.
If you take a look at the chart above you will see from the top directly underneath the AGE the persons age followed below it by a line which shows each age and the maximum 100% heart rate.
Below that age and following on down you can see all of the other zones and heartrates until you reach zone 5.
This is all relatively straightforward when you understand how it works and by using most modern cardio machines in a gym you should get a heart rate reading from the machine that will show what your heart rate is and you can then asses which zone you are in.
Obviously, you need to know your heart rate zones. Without this knowledge, you will not be able to train in a specific zone if your aim is to try and do this. The “fat burning zone ” for instance.
If you are 40 years old and you want to only burn fat on today’s cardio hour, you would be looking at training from a minimum of 108 beats to a maximum of 126 beats throughout your whole training session.
According to research for the last 20 years, this is the best way to actually burn excess body fat.
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Common Questions Asked
What should my heart rate be to lose weight? – This is a very common question asked by those who do not train or look after their body as often as they should. This question will depend on your age and your fitness level.
The fitter you are the higher the heart rate will go. Fitter men and women can have a higher 100% maximum heart rate by as much as 20 beats per minute. It may not sound a lot, but if you are trying to burn fat in the fat burning zone you may well be working in the wrong zone.
For example – A 40-year man looking to burn fat should be training between 108 and 126 beats per minute. There could be a plus or minus depending on your fitness level to this.
If you are a couch potato the chances are your fat burning zone will actually come in at a lower rate, more than likely around the 90 plus beats per minute.
If you are already trained and do a certain amount of fitness each week your level could be higher and therefore come in at 115 beats per minute. These adjustments need to be put in place to stay in the correct zone.
How do I calculate my fat burning zone? – Take a look at the fat burning zone chart above. Then subtract your age from 220 if you’re male; subtract your age from 226 if you’re female.
Your fat–burning zone is between 60% and 70% of your MHR (Your MHR multiplied by .6 or .7). For example, a 40-year-old man’s MHR would be 180, and his fat–burning zone would be between 108 and 126 beats per minute.
A female would have a different zone to look at 226 minus 40 = 186 beats per minute at 100% intensity for her maximum heart rate. This then needs to be calculated throughout the zone. In the above chart, you can add 6 points to each top and bottom zone respectively to get a rough idea.
For Example – A 40 year young female working in the fat burning zone would be looking at a base of 114 (108 men) to a maximum of 134 (126 men) beats per minute.
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How The Body Chooses What fat or Calories To Burn
The body is constantly on the move and is therefor burning some sort of fuel all the time. It could be a very slow burn as we sit at a desk and use a computer, or it could be a faster burn by walking to work, or it could be in a cardio range when we are on a pedal cycle or in the gym working out.
This energy production is constant, and the dominant energy source changes depending on what we’re doing and lifestyle factors like what we’ve eaten most recently. “In most cases, the body is going to choose what’s readily available in abundance,”
EG – if you eat a meal shortly before exercising, your body will begin to burn those carbs first for energy, no matter the intensity of your workout.
If you have consumed any food before you go to the gym or begin your bike ride, your body will start to use u that food first rather than go to your fat reserves, as that food is readily available now to use.
Energy production is a complex process that’s happening every second of every day—and our bodies are smart machines that generally operate in the most efficient way possible.
It is true that when you work out in the fat burning zone at 50 or 60% to 70% of your Maximum Heart Rate, your body uses more fat than carbohydrates for fuel.
Here’s why. “When we’re at rest, the body is definitely geared and driven toward oxidizing, or burning, its major fuel source, which is our stored fat.”
Any time the body is at a steady state, it is saying, ‘I need to do the smartest thing possible in order to survive so I’m going to draw energy from the greatest fuel depot in my body, and that’s stored body fat.
Not only is fat abundant, but it’s also great at providing slow-burning energy, which makes it perfect for fueling our brains and bodies when we’re at rest (which is often) or working out at lower and moderate intensities.
When you work out at a high intensity, you burn more fat and calories overall
Higher-intensity exercise pushes multiple systems in the body—including the cardiovascular and respiratory systems—to work harder and faster so that we can keep moving and functioning at this intense level.
EG – the heart has to contract quicker to supply enough blood (which carries oxygen and nutrients) to working muscles; the respiratory system has to work harder and faster so we can breathe at this rapid pace. Any time our organs and muscles have to work harder than normal, they’ll need more energy (or, calories) to do so.
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This makes the garmin products much better for me as I can see through the quality app exactly what I am doing on a dailt or weekly basis. Plus the Garmin Fenix lasts for around 14 days before you need to recharge it.
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Other ways to lose the fat
EG – One of the best ways to lose fat is to take a break in eating on a daily basis. This is a simple process that millions follow every day.
I am one of those. Try the 12-hour rest between meals. This simply means having your last meal at say 7 pm at night. You do not consume any other foods until at least 7 am in the morning. It is quite a simple process to follow and the benefits are high.
Because the body has just been fed at 7 pm it will use those foods to keep it ticking over. Once those foods have been consumed it will then turn to the fats stored in the body and begin to tuck into them during your fasting stage.
It is only when you consume your next meal that your body will then revert back to the new food and carry on there.
I personally do this on a daily basis. I break the mold as I sometimes have a tea or a coffee at night or early morning, but that is only a handful of calories extra that the body gets as a treat before it runs back to the fat cells.
This certainly works as I can eat and snack until around 9 pm at night. I then do not have a meal until around lunchtime the following day. A gap of around 15 hours.
In that time I will have a tea or a coffee, and in the morning I have at least one coffee and a tea to keep me topped up. At no time do I feel a hunger pang.
On the extreme side and only if you are capable, you can seriously burn fat by doing your morning gym routine. This will burn excess fat only as the body has no other foods to consume.
You can work just in the “fat burning zone” and gain massive benefits from it. Over time your tummy will shrink and you will find, like I do, that you no longer want or feel like consuming large meals.
Eat a diet that focuses on whole foods
Fruits and veggies should make up a lot of your plate. Whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy are other good choices. Try shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, and avoiding added sugar and saturated fat that’s found in packaged foods.
Drink plenty of water
Juice and soda has added sugar and calories. If you don’t like plain water, consider flavoring it with a squeeze of lemon. Don’t use artificial sweetener as it is still not know what the risks are or if it is bad for the health.
Take a look at portion sizes
Restaurants tend to give overly generous portions, so consider asking to take a doggy bag home. Do not eat more than when you get that full feeling. At home, choose a smaller plate for your meals.
For example, serve your food on a salad-sized plate instead of a dinner-sized one.
Aim for slow and steady weight loss
Losing more than two pounds a week may not be healthy or sustainable. Your doctor can help you determine your own weight loss goal and refer you to a dietitian for help.
What is Caloric Expenditure
- Fat loss is all about caloric expenditure. You must burn off more calories a day than you consume to lose body fat. Even among the proliferation of diets—low carb, low fat, high protein—this simple rule remains.
- The key to achieving this is not aerobic training, which will burn calories only while you are doing it. It is anaerobic training, which burns calories while you are working out and increases the calories burned for hours afterward.
- In the case of weight training, building muscle burns calories, as long as that muscle is retained—even during sleep.
- During anaerobic exercise, the body burns a lot of calories. However, the metabolism still remains elevated following a workout. At one time, this was referred to as oxygen debt, but is now known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Recovery of the metabolic rate back to pre-exercise levels can require several minutes for light exercise (aerobic training) and several hours for very heavy exercise (anaerobic cardio training), and even up to 12 hours or longer for prolonged, exhaustive exercise (interval training or circuit weight training).
- The EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) can add up to a substantial energy expenditure when totaled over the entire period of recovery. If oxygen consumption following exercise remains elevated by an average of only 50 milliliters per minute, and the metabolism remains elevated for five hours, this would amount to an additional expenditure of 75 kilocalories over that time period.
- This major source of energy expenditure—which occurs during recovery but directly results from exercise—is frequently ignored in most calculations of the energy cost of various activities. Doing the math, if the individual in this example exercised five days a week, he or she would lose the equivalent of approximately 0.1 pounds of fat in one week just from the additional caloric expenditure during the recovery period alone.
- Is the effect accumulative? If you trained the next day while your metabolism is still elevated will we have an even higher return? Science has yet to give an answer. However, I have seen amazing results with my clients using this exact protocol.
What Is HIIT Training
- HIIT usually involves a very difficult pace for 30-90 seconds followed by a rest for double that time. Once you become more fit, the intensity split will become 50-50. This recovery is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC, which means that there is a substantially large increase in oxygen intake to replenish the oxygen deficiency that you just experienced. This is important because you will actually be burning calories long after the workout is over.
- To achieve this level of EPOC during those static “one-speed” cardio workouts, you will have to run for an hour on a treadmill. HIIT requires much less time than that.
What are the benefits of HIIT Training
One of the biggest benefits people find from HIIT is the reduction in training time. Through HIIT, you can put in about half the amount of time compared to traditional cardio exercise to reach your goals. And honestly, more people tend to stick with this kind of cardio training because it is easier to motivate yourself to do.
Even though it is very challenging, I find it much easier to say, “Okay, just 20 minutes of interval training and then I’ll do my lift,” in comparison to, “Okay, just have to run for an hour and then I am going to go lift.”
- HIIT training can be done in a much smaller time frame. It allows you to do your training over a lunch period instaed of having to go to the gym after work for a 2 hour session. It has some seriously good benefits for those who need there time and would love to train over a short lunch period.
- Other benefits from HIIT training include increasing your VO2 max. This is the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can absorb. This means that you can last longer during all sorts of exercises. HIIT training will increase your VO2 max at a faster rate compared to static cardio.
- The best thing about HIIT training is that you don’t need to be a professional athlete or need a personal trainer to do these workouts. All you have to do is match the right workout to your fitness level.
- They are very easy to do and the Internet provides a ton of different workout routines that you can try. Here are a few easy starter routines that I used when I got involved in HIIT.
Consider following a high-fat, low-carb diet
I have not tried this personally as I like my current system of eating until a certain time at night and then taking a minimum of 12 hours before my next meal. However, this seems to be quite a popular diet plan at the moment.
A ketogenic-type diet like Bulletproof (high in healthy fats, moderate in protein, low in carbs) trains your body to burn fat as fuel rather than carbs while building up ketones to curb hunger and fuel your brain. This process, called ketosis, reduces inflammation and burns fat fast.
If a full-on keto diet sounds daunting, or you’re in search of more sustained or moderate weight loss, try cyclical ketosis for similar fat-blasting benefits. On this carb-cycling diet, you get one “cheat day” a week to load up on carbs.
Make sure you read up on this eating plan as it has its benefits and its concerns within the body. It is not a diet plan that will suite everyone.
Consult Your Doctor
As with any exercise, if you have not trained regularly in the last few years, or even as low as the last 12 months, make sure you have a health check first and consult your doctor before you change your Exercise routine or health plan.
The fat-burning zone per person is relative to their age and fitness level. People with more lean muscle mass tend to be more efficient in utilizing energy, and younger people will generally have higher heart rate levels. Using heart rate measuring devices can give us a general idea of the intensity of a particular activity. One practical application is that it can provide a picture of whether you’re going beyond 70 percent on an active rest day or going “too light” on your workouts. In addition, the type of activity performed (low or high intensity) will determine which energy source our body will use. Low-intensity exercises utilize fat (9 kcals/g) because of its density, requiring a longer time to be used by the body and the ideal energy source when at rest.
On the other hand, carbohydrates (4 kcals/g) are the primary source during high-intensity activities. It is important to note that being in a caloric deficit is still the most critical factor in weight loss. That is, the calories you consume must be lesser than what you burn. Supplementing with fat burners can aid in elevating the heart rate primarily due to the caffeine content, and the appetite suppressant ingredients can help control cravings. Training both the aerobic and anaerobic systems are beneficial for overall health. Aerobic training strengthens the heart and lungs for cardiovascular endurance. Anaerobic exercises involve quick bursts of energy performed at maximum effort for short periods.
Lastly, this article only serves as a general guideline. Long-term adherence and consistency to diet and exercise will produce the best results. Always consult with your doctor before starting any workout or diet plan.”