How To Use A Heart Rate Monitor For Fat Loss
by Darren Round on Aug 19, 2014
One of the most popular fitness accessories on the market is the sports watch or heart rate monitor because they can be used to manipulate your metabolism through heart rate. In this article we’re going to show you how to use a heart rate watch to burn tons of extra fat and answer some common questions people have about this subject.
When am I in the fat burning zone?
Okay, this is an incredibly complex question from a physiological perspective because everyone is different. Yes, the mythical fat burning zone does exist, but it’s not that simple. Mainstream fitness has adopted the idea that “you burn more fat during steady lower-intensity exercise over longer periods of time.” However there’s give and take between high and low intensity exercise. Here’s the basic break down from Active.com:
“The body burns a greater percentage of fat at lower intensities than at higher intensities. At lower intensities the body may burn 50% of the calories from fat, while at higher intensities it may only burn 35%. But at higher intensities you burn way more total calories—and more fat calories overall—than you do at lower intensities.”
Now a heart rate monitor will make it easier for you to understand how your body is responding to exercise, helping you achieve your fitness and weight loss goals. By utilising your age, height and weight together with your heart rate, it will determine your energy expenditure or your calories burned. Knowing how many calories you are burning so you can achieve a total calorie deficit is one of the most significant factors when exercising for weight loss.
To lose weight, it’s generally accepted that it’s essential to incorporate longer low level training sessions into your training program. These sessions will not only help reduce body fat, but also dramatically improve your cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic and muscular systems. These benefits generally are achieved between 60 - 70% and up to 80% of your maximum heart rate if you are highly trained.
The key is to vary your training, ensuring you include a minimum of 2-3 low level sessions and a variety of other activities at other heart rate zones throughout your week.
What is my max HR?
Ideally you should visit a cardiologist or your physician to get the specific answer to this question however the widely accepted formula to calculate max heart rate is 220 minus your age. For example if you are 45 years old the guide to your max heart rate is 220 - 45= 175.
It’s worth noting that your Max HR can also be affected as much as 10bpm at times by factors including age, physical size of your heart, heat, hydration, and more. It can also change as fitness levels change.
Once you know you upper limit, sports watches become far more fat-burning friendly. You can then use your heart monitor watch to ensure that you are working in the right heart rate zone for your exercise goal. In each zone your body will experience a different physiological effects and as a general rule, when exercise intensity is increased the duration of the activity / efforts will decrease.
There are five generally accepted heart rate zones based on a % of your maximum heart rate which will guide you through your workout.
Very Light 50%-60%
Ideal for your recovery sessions
Used for warm ups and cool downs
Improve your heart’s ability to pump blood
Increase the number of small blood vessels in your muscles
Increase the enzymes in your muscles responsible for oxygen metabolism
Increases the strength of your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones
Improves your endurance
Burns fat as the body’s main energy source at this intensity
Accustoms you to a faster pace
Improves your endurance
Begins to increase the intensity that you can maintain without building up lactic acid
The higher your fitness level, the greater the percentage of fat the body uses as fuel, enabling you to perform longer at this rate while preserving limited stores of glycogen
At this intensity, you will begin to work anaerobically and build up lactic acid before reaching your anaerobic threshold. (The anaerobic system is energy your body can use for shorter, more powerful exercises and this energy runs out quickly, but can also recharge quickly. The amount of time you can work within this intensity will dictate your threshold.)
Increase your fitness level due to an improved anaerobic threshold
This intensity can be maintained for about one hour in competition
Used during sprint training and racing over short distances (track sprinters, short-distance swimmers etc)
Also used during High Intensity Interval Training sessions (HIIT)
What type of exercise will help me burn the most fat?
That all depends on you. Exercises and routines that present the most challenge and get your heart pumping are going to be the best. However, as you get in better shape your body requires less calories and energy to do its work. That means you will have to edge up your intensity levels as you move along.
Don’t start with what’s easy or natural, but instead start with what’s hard. For example, if jogging is really tough for you then do that, or skipping, boxing, circuit training, etc. For resistance training, there’s really no finish line on how much weight you can move or how hard you can work by adding reps and taking away rest between sets.
The beauty of using smart fitness accessories (that probably come with smartphone app integration) like a heart rate monitor watch is that your heart rate won’t deceive you. It doesn’t lie.
What exercise equipment do I need?
Other than one of the amazing modern sports watches out there? None. You can use your body alone to reach any height of metabolic conditioning necessary. Equipment is there to help you reach higher levels of intensity much quicker, or to focus on specific muscle groups while you do so.
What is the fat burning zone I see on the machines in the gym?
A very basic calculation you shouldn’t take literally. First, just find out what your upper heart rate limit is. Then, use a sports watch to keep tabs on your heart rate during your workout (many will do it for you these days) and either keep it at lower levels for longer periods of time, or at higher levels for less. Don’t neglect your intervals either. Enjoy!