I just received a facebook message question about their “target heart rate”. I believe this is one of the most deceiving fitness principles so I’m going to attempt to explain exactly what the “target heart rate” is and the truth (more like a lie) behind the “fat burning zone”.
Learning Your Maximum Heart Rate
You may have heard the term, Maximum Heart Rate, but most people have no clue what that is. We see stickers on treadmills saying “65% of your maximum heat rate”, but that’s basically a foreign language to most people. Here’s the answer: your maximum heart rate is always 220 minus your age.
Your Maximum Heart Rate is:
220 – my age (_____) = ___________
My maximum heart rate is 178
The Fat-Burning Zone
The so-called magical “Fat Burning Zone” is 65-75% of your maximum heart rate. This is the zone where your body burns a higher percentage of calories from fat. This is where I start getting mad and here’s why. Stay with me. We need to work through this math so you can follow me here. Trust me – it will be worth it!
Before I can show you why the Fat Burning Zone is not what it’s all cracked up to be, we have to do some simple math so we can compare numbers. Follow along with me. I did the math for me, and put the equations up so you could learn what your personal numbers are as well.
The low end of My Fat Burning Zone is:
Your maximum heart rate of _________X .65 = ____________
My low end of the fat burning zone should average 115.7
The high end of My Fat Burning Zone is:
Your maximum heart rate of _________X .75 = ___________
My high end of the fat burning zone should average133.5
The Cardio Zone
The low end of my Cardio Zone is:
Your maximum heart rate of ____________X .75 = _____________
My low end of the cardio zone should average 133.5
The high end of my Cardio Zone is:
Your maximum heart rate of ____________X .85 = _____________
My high end of the cardio zone should average 151.3
Calories Burned: High vs Low Intensity Cardio
The body DOES burn a higher percentage of calories from fat in the “fat burning zone” (percentage, being the key word here). BUT, at higher intensities, you burn a greater number of overall calories which is what you should be concerned about when trying to lose weight – AND, believe it or not, you also burn MORE FAT too!
Look at the chart very closely. Prepare to be amazed!
You see, you burned MORE calories and MORE fat working at a HIGH intensity. BAM! Case closed!
NOTE: ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) suggests a workout should expend 300 calories in order to be considered a “fat loss” workout. So the low-intensity workout loses in every department! Now, don’t get me wrong, if working at a low-intensity is pushing you, then keep pushing! 😉
I wish companies would take the Fat Burning Zone labels OFF the treadmills and cardio equipment because it SO misleading. I’m sure they thought it was a great marketing ploy to convince America they could get MORE results with LESS work. The sad part is America believes them and MANY people are actually not pushing themselves as far as they should in order to stay “in the zone”. Let’s just go ahead and say encourage mediocracy people! NOT!
If you want to burn the MOST fat AND the MOST calories, I suggest interval training. It has been actually proven to burn more fat and it’s more fun too. Basically the idea is to peak in the cardio zone and rest in the fat burning zone so to speak. Like sprinting for a couple minutes and power walking or jogging for a couple minutes. This is also why we put intense exercises, like burpees, in our BCx Boot Camp workouts, followed by something that is not as intense. It gets your heart rate up during the intense section and then gives you time to recover in the more moderate sections, which burns more fat while burning as many calories as you can.
NOTE: If you REALLY want to track your calories burned during workout, I recommend getting a heart rate monitor. The Polar brand is recommended (we have the Polar RC3) . They aren’t cheap but SO worth the investment. PLUS, when you know you just killed 600 calories in a class, seeing that figure in black and white makes you less likely to eat 700 calories of junk and throw all that hard work away. It’s also a rude awakening when you feel like you burned a million calories and you only burned 300 calories. It’s a great tool to enhance your training.
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