The Fat Burning Zone: Myths and Misconceptions

So what is the fat burning zone? The fat burning zone refers to low intensity workouts, which keep your heart rate to 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate. It is said that working out in the fat burning zone helps you burn more fat.

The Myth of the Fat Burning Zone

While there is truth in the fat burning zone, it does not paint the whole picture. Low intensity workouts do burn a high percentage of body fat, however, high intensity workouts burn more overall calories-including those from body fat. Therefore, while it is true that more calories will be burned from fat in the fat burning zone, you will actually burn more from high intensity workouts. Remember, the key to weight loss is to burn more calories than you eat. It doesn’t matter whether those calories come from body fat.

What Should You Do?

Low intensity workouts have their place. The body cannot continue to do high intensity workouts day after day without rest. Therefore, it is important to exercise with a mix of high and low intensity workouts to give your body a rest. Interval training, in particular, uses both high and low intensity workouts, helping your burn more fat.

To help you burn more calories, it is important to raise your metabolic rate. One way to do this is through strength training. Muscles burn calories even at rest, and strength training builds more muscles. Therefore, including strength training in your exercise regimen will help with your caloric expenditure.

Which Zone Am I In?

There are 5 different zones that your heart rate will fall under:

  • Max zone, 90 to 100% maximum heart rate
  • Anaerobic or hardcore zone, 80 to 90% maximum heart rate
  • Aerobic or endurance zone, 70 to 80% maximum heart rate
  • Weight control or fat burning zone, 60 to 70% maximum heart rate
  • Warm up zone, 50 to 60% maximum heart rate

To calculate your heart rate in each zone, you must first calculate your maximum heart rate. An easy formula to remember for calculating maximum heart rate is the following:

220 – age

While this is by no means the most scientific or accurate method of calculating maximum heart rate, it will suffice for our purposes.

Next, use the Karvonen formula for calculating the low and high ends for each zone:

Target heart rate = ((Maximum heart rate – resting heart rate) * percentage of intensity) + resting heart rate

You can calculate your resting heart rate by taking your pulse. It will typically be from 60 to 80 bpm. Using this calculation on both the low and high ends of each zone will tell you your heart rate for each zone.

Once you know your target heart rates for each zone, it is just a matter of using the information you learned here today to create a fat burning exercise regimen that works for you.


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