Understanding weight loss: How heart rates and fat burning exercise works
Whether you’re focused on weight loss, metabolic conditioning, or building muscle, heart rates matter. Read below if you’re curious about heart rates and how they impact your workout.
Heart rates 101
You can measure your heart rate, or pulse, by counting the number of times your heart beats in a minute. During exercise, keeping track of your heart rate provides you with real-time data so you can adjust your output to suit your fitness goals. This means your training will be more efficient and you’ll be more likely to lose weight sooner.
To use your heart rate as a reliable tool in a fitness program, you need to know what your max and resting heart rates are. If you have a cardiologist appointment coming up, they can get to perform a stress test for the most accurate result of your maximum threshold. However, you or your trainer can calculate your max heart rate with the standard formula of 220 minus your age. Your resting heart rate is easiest to measure first thing in the morning, before coffee and after a decent sleep. Do this for a few mornings in a row for better accuracy.
Both your max and resting heart rates are numerically expressed as beats per minute or bpm. A range of 60-100bpm is a typical resting heart rate (or HR) for much of the population which widely varies due to age, fitness and health conditions.
Tools like Fitbits, Polars and other wearable devices will measure your heart rate via your wrist or a chest strap. Many models will also upload this data onto devices like your smartphone and illustrate how long you spend in each heart rate zone. This makes it a valuable tool during your workout, and you can monitor your efforts post-workout and track your resting heart rate. This helps you know when to make your workouts harder as your fitness improves and resting heart rate becomes lower. It also helps indicate when you should take it easier after illness or injury. Wearables also tend to be more accurate than heart rate readings on cardio machines and they are portable so you can check your HR while doing weights or are on the go.
What zone should I exercise in?
FOnce you know your max heart rate, you can identify your target zone to train in. 85-100% of your max HR is considered Peak/vigorous exercise, cardio/hard is considered 70-84% of max HR and fat burn/moderate exercise is 50-69% of your max HR.
The zone you should work in will depend on your fitness goal. If you’re new to exercise or deconditioned it’s a good idea to train in the lower end of the range you are aiming for. Once you have established a workout pattern and have built on your base fitness, vary your workout so you can operate across several HR zones in one workout for best results.
Tips to up your HR
If you want to modify your work out so you exercise across more zones in each session, you might add some of the following to your workout:
– shorter rest periods, intervals or HIT
– power sets
– drop sets
Don’t forget that with the right configuration, your weight session can be used as a cardio workout and you can add resistance to your cardio program! Calories are expended in any of the three HR zones, so if fat burning is your ultimate goal, mix it up and vary your training frequently for best results on the scales and to avoid weight loss plateaus
Calculate Your Aerobic Training Heart-Rate Range for Fat Burning
This fat-burning range will lie between 50 and 75 percent of your max heart-rate. For example: 50 percent of 100 beats per minute is 50. And 75 percent of 100 is 75. Next, add your resting heart rate to both numbers: 50 + 80 = 130 and 75 + 80 = 155. Therefore, during aerobic training, the heart rate that will most efficiently burn fat is 130 to 155 beats per minute. It is recommended that you stay in this zone for a minimum of 35-45min to have an effective fat burning session.