If you’ve been to a trainer, you’ve probably heard about the fat-burning zone. Even experts advise you to focus on maximizing your heart rate to burn fat. It makes sense at the start. Most people focus on burning fat.
Therefore, the ideal goal would be to maximize burnt fat. However, exercises to lose weight don’t work that way. If that’s the case, why do so many people recommend it?
There’s a bit of truth behind it. Let’s find it.
What’s your fat-burning heart rate?
Our heart rate helps us understand our exercise’s intensity. Essentially, the “fat-burning zone” is when you burn more fat than carbohydrates. Many state that you can calculate this zone with your heart rate.
The theory is simple. Once your workout gets you in that heart rate, your body consumes fat for energy. Our organism taps into two energy sources: fat and carbohydrates. Different intensities, measured by heart rate, prioritize one source.
According to most experts, your body has four “heart rate” zones:
The “fat-burning” zone uses about 70% of the maximum heart rate. Said maximum is the highest number of times your heart beats during activity. You can calculate this heart rate by resting your age from 220.
You can track your heart rate with multiple methods. Special monitors provide more accuracy. However, you can count them manually. Simply hold your fingers over your wrist and count for a minute.
The goal is to exercise without too much effort. You don’t want to maximize your heart rate to reach the “fat-burning” zone. You can walk quickly, jog slowly, swim moderately, or cycling calmly.
Is it actually effective?
It’s complicated. There’s one “zone” where you can maximize how much fat you burn. Nevertheless, it’s not ideal. High-intensity workouts are better for boosting your metabolism, but they burn less fat.
Boosting your metabolism is usually a primary goal. If you prioritize the “fat-burning zone,” you’re giving up on burning calories. Furthermore, you can get optimal results regardless of your heart rate. That’s because different “zones” overlap, yielding similar results.
How it really works
As we mentioned, your body consumes energy from two sources. You should always prioritize burning more calories. Unfortunately, less physical exertion usually burns more fat. Why does that matter?
We can consider our calories as coming from two sources: fat and carbohydrates. Their ratios shift depending on your workout intensity. When resting, most of your energy comes from fat deposits.
That’s because fat produces “slower energy.” Its concentration is higher, yet it’s slower to burn. When you work out, your body requires “immediate” energy, which comes from carbs. Low-intensity workouts and resting require less energy. Therefore, your body can take longer burning fat.
Focus on calories
If you want to maximize fat ratios, you might as well spend the day in bed. Furthermore, high-intensity workouts provide results faster. As you get used to it, you want to implement these exercises.
“Low fat-burning” zones still function better
The article linked also mentions that higher intensity still burns more fat. Walking a couple of miles in an hour burns around 200 calories. At a 70% ratio, that’s 140 calories from fat.
On the other hand, moderate cycling for the same duration burns 500 calories. At a 50% ration
The holistic takeaway
Yes, your heart rate influences how much fat you burn. However, you shouldn’t prioritize hitting that “fat-burning” zone. You’ll see much better results focusing on burning more calories.
Additionally, don’t over-exert yourself beyond your limits. Creating a fitness strategy requires time and discipline. Make sure you develop a program that works for you and while supplementing your diet.
Don’t fall for “quick hacks” for your health. The best hack is to start slow and making it enjoyable.