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Fat-Burning Heart-Rate Zone
How to Calculate It to Lose Weight Fast

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 30, 2021

If you want to know how you can maximize your low-intensity exercise and burn the most fat, then it’s time to calculate your fat-burning zone.

I spent hours digging into journals and articles to help my clients determine their target heart rate for fat loss or their fat-burning zone, and here’s how you can calculate yours.

How To Calculate Your Fat-Burning Zone?

60-80% Of Your Maximum Heart Rate

For this method, start by  subtracting your age from 220 and then multiply it by 60%  (lower limit) or 80% (upper limit):

220 – (age) x 0.6 or 0.8.

To determine your target heart rate for shedding fat:

  1. Deduct your age from 220 to get the maximum heart rate (maximum number of times your heart beats during the activity).
  2. Multiply maximum heart rate by 0.6 or 0.8.

Here’s an example:

A 25-year-old woman’s maximum heart rate is 220-25=195 beats per minute. So, a 25-year-old woman's fat-shedding range is 60% or 80% of 195 bpm, 117 bpm, or 156 bpm, respectively.

What Is the Fat-Burning Heart Rate Zone?

woman checking her pulse outdoors, and a vector drawing of a human body and its heart rate

The fat-burning zone, also known as fat-burning heart rate, is your target heart rate where you burn more fat than carbs in the muscles.

In technical terms, this zone lies between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.

When exercising in this range, the intensity is relatively low – you can talk in complete sentences while exercising.

It is also said that it burns extra fat, leading to weight loss. That’s because, in less active physical activities, our bodies fuel energy by burning fats rather than carbs.

However, the key to losing weight is using up more calories than you consume.

So, how to achieve and maintain your weight loss goals effectively?

Here are three ways:

  1. Mix up low-intensity exercises with high-intensity workouts.

Vigorous exercise burns more calories and also reduces fat [1].

“Doing different types of exercises keeps your workouts from becoming dull and makes your heart work on other heart rate thresholds. So, do hard, high-intensity interval training, have fun with cardio aerobic exercise, and mindfulness activities.”  –  April Oury, P.T. M.S. and Founder of Body Gears Physical Therapy

2. Another way is to do moderate-intensity exercise such as cycling moderately, so you can drop extra calories and excess fat.

3. If you can’t go for vigorous activity yet for some reason, then aim to do low-intensity fat-burning activities for longer hours to shed calories and lose fat. Exercising in the aerobic zone also helps develop your cardiovascular system.

Heart Rate Zones

stethoscope surrounding a paper cut of a heart

Your heart rate tells the intensity of your workout or how hard your body is working.

Exercising at the right level of intensity (or at the right target heart rate) helps you avoid over-exercising or ensure you're working hard enough to achieve the fitness benefits from a particular workout.

As the percentage of heart rate increases, your exercise intensity also increases.

  • Healthy heart range - 50-60% of maximum heart rate (max HR) - It’s the lightest and most comfortable exercise intensity. Working out in this range reduces blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, improves overall health, and helps recovery.
  • Maintenance range - 60-70% of max HR - Working out in this range feels light.  It helps you gain muscle mass, develops basic endurance, and improves your cardio and respiratory capacity.
  • Aerobic range - 70-80% of max HR - Your body is working moderately in this range –- you start to break a sweat after a few minutes, but there’s no anaerobic burn sensation, and it improves overall functional capacity.
  • Threshold range - 80-90% of max HR - You’re already exercising very hard in this range: it helps improve your endurance and use up more calories from carbohydrates.
  • The Redline range - 90-100% of max HR - The body is already working at maximum capacity in this range, so most people should avoid training at this level of intensity or do so for short periods only. It’s more fitting for elite athletes who can do extreme HIIT workouts for peak performance.

How to Measure Your Heart Rate?

man using a wrist watch heart rate monitor, and a shirtless man using a chest wrap heart rate monitor

Whether you want to shed weight or achieve a specific aerobic fitness level, measuring your heart rate helps.

To know your resting heart rate or desired range for a specific physical activity, here are several ways to do it:

1. Chest-Strap Heart Rate Monitor

Using chest-strap monitors gives you an accurate and consistent measure of your heart rate.

It's a device you wear where the electrode sensors track your heart rate and send the data to your smartwatch or phone.

2. Wrist-Watch Monitor

Wearing a wristband heart rate monitor is very convenient and works like regular watches.

They continuously track your heart rate and measure other physical activities such as daily steps, calories burned, and distance of workouts.

3. Traditional Tracking

You may also go old-school to know your pulse rate: place two fingers against your wrist (remember not to use the thumb) or find the artery in your neck on either side of your windpipe.

Count the beats within a minute, and that's your heart rate per bpm.

Here are a few tracker recommendations that can help you measure your heart rate:

FAQs

What Number Is Considered the Target Zone for Burning Fat?

There are different heart rate zones for different fitness goals; if you want to shed fat, the number for your target heart rate depends on your age.

For calculating your ideal target heart rate for fat-shedding, use 220 – (your age) x 0.6 or 0.8.

How Long Should You Keep Your Heart Rate up To Burn Fat?

Try to keep your target heart rate at 15-20 minutes during your aerobic exercises, ideally 35-45 minutes, to reap maximum results.

How Much Cardio Should I Perform a Week To Lose Weight?

To achieve your weight loss goal, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans) says you should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of intense aerobic exercise each week.

What Happens if You Go Over Your Max Heart Rate?

When you exercise beyond your maximum heart rate or above 85% of your target heart rate, it puts you at risk of overtraining, leading to fatigue and injuries.

It’s especially important to be cautious when you're just starting to exercise.

So, it’s better to know your maximum heart rate and start with some light to moderate physical activity.

Have You Calculated Your Fat-Burning Zone?

Calculating your target heart rate helps determine the right intensity for your physical activities, maximizing the results, and attaining your fitness and weight loss goals.

Exercising in the fat-burning zone helps maximize the results of your slow aerobic exercise.

To speed up shedding pounds, mix it up with vigorous activity exercises each week and other healthy habits like eating balanced meals.

Share to us in the comments what your fat-burning heart rate is and what kind of aerobic activity works for you.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991639/

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