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The fat burning zone explained

by Harry 6 minutes read

Last updated: 07 Sep, 2023

When it comes to exercise and weight loss, the concept of the "fat burning zone" has been a hot topic for some time. You may have heard that working out in this zone is the key to shedding those extra pounds. But what exactly is the fat burning zone, and does it live up to the hype?

In this article, we will explore the science behind the fat burning zone (FBZ), how to target it during your workouts, and the role it plays in your fitness journey.

Understanding the Fat Burning Zone

The FBZ is a specific heart rate range at which your body is said to primarily burn fat for energy during exercise - otherwise referred to as the fat burning heart rate zones.

This zone is typically reached during medium-intensity exercise where you workout at around 60% of your maximum heart rate. To understand it better, let's delve into the science.

During exercise, your body requires energy to sustain the physical effort. It gets this energy from various sources, including carbohydrates and fats. When you work out at a lower intensity, such as in the FBZ, your body predominantly uses fat as its primary source of fuel, meaning you will burn a higher amount of fat than in high intensity workouts.

The FBZ is based on the idea that by exercising within this specific heart rate range, you can maximise fat oxidation, meaning your body will burn more calories from fat. This concept has led to the belief that if you want to lose weight, you should aim to stay in this zone during your workouts.

Calculating Your Fat Burning Zone

The FBZ is different for each person. To exercise in the fat burning zone you need to hit a specific heart rate based upon individual factors.

To work out your FBZ you need to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) first. You can estimate your MHR by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you're 30 years old, your estimated MHR would be 190 beats per minute (220 - 30).

Next, you find the FBZ by targeting 60-70% of your MHR. Using the same example, your FBZ heart rate range would be between 114 and 133 beats per minute. This is the range at which you are expected to burn a higher percentage of calories from fat.

Pros of the Fat Burning Zone

The FBZ comes with plenty of pros, especially if your goal is to burn fat efficiently. But there's much more to it than that:

  • Enhanced Fat Burning: Working out in the FBZ can increase the use of stored fat for energy, helping to lose fat over time.

  • Sustainable Workouts: The lower intensity of the FBZ allows for longer workouts, making it suitable for beginners or individuals with lower fitness levels.

  • Improved Cardiovascular Health: Exercising within this range during low intensity cardio, like jogging, can improve cardiovascular endurance over time.

  • Lower Risk of Overtraining: By avoiding the extremes of high intensity and/or strength training, you reduce the risk of overtraining and injury, making it a safe option for consistent exercise.

Cons of the Fat Burning Zone

The FBZ may not be for everyone, its value depends entirely on the goals of your exercise routine. There are plenty of pros to the training with this method, but there are some cons to consider:

  • Lower Calorie Burn: While you may burn a higher percentage of calories via stored fat, the overall number of calories burned per minute in the FBZ is lower compared to higher-intensity workouts.

  • Time Efficiency: Achieving significant weight loss through the FBZ alone may require longer workout durations compared to high intensity exercise routines. Maintaining the fat-burning zone in steady state cardio for a long period of time is the best way to put this method to use, but it will take up much more time than HIIT workouts.

  • Limited Variety: Exclusively focusing on the FBZ may limit your enjoyment of working out. Mixing things up can keep your exercise journey more interesting, and perhaps more enjoyable.

  • Neglect of Muscle Building: Lower-intensity exercise may not stimulate muscle growth as effectively as higher-intensity resistance training or interval workouts.

Incorporating the Fat Burning Zone

While the FBZ has its advantages, it's important to remember that exercise is just one part of the fat loss equation. A balanced approach to fitness includes both cardiovascular workouts , strength training, and most importantly a healthy diet.

Here's how you can incorporate the FBZ into your routine:

  • Warm-Up: Start your workout with a brief warm-up to prepare your body for exercise. During this phase, you can stay within the lower end of your FBZ heart rate range.

  • Cardiovascular Exercise: Begin your main workout by staying within the FBZ for 20-30 minutes. This could be jogging, cycling, or any other moderate-intensity activity you enjoy.

  • Interval Training: After your FBZ workout, consider adding short bursts of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to increase calorie burn and promote muscle growth.

  • Cool Down: Finish your workout with a cool-down period, gradually reducing your heart rate and allowing your body to recover.

  • Strength Training: On non-cardio days, incorporate strength training exercises to build and tone muscle, which can boost your metabolism.

  • Balanced Diet: Remember that exercise alone won't lead to significant weight loss. Pair your workouts with a balanced, calorie-controlled diet for the best results.

The fat burning zone is a valuable concept in the realm of fitness, offering an effective approach to lowering your body fat percentage and improving cardiovascular health.

However, it's crucial to view it as just one piece of the puzzle. To achieve your fitness goals effectively, whatever they may be, you need to combine exercise with plenty of rest and a healthy diet.

What matters most is finding an exercise routine that you enjoy and can maintain in the long run. Whether you prefer the steady pace of the fat burning zone or the intensity of HIIT workouts, consistency and commitment to a well-rounded fitness program will be your keys to success and enjoyment on your journey to better health and fitness.

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