Heart rate and fat burning – what you need to know about monitoring your heart rate to burn calories

Love to lose weight and get fitter? Here’s what you need to know about heart rate training.

As lockdown measures across the UK continue to lift, much of the nation is eager to continue their newly adopted workout routines.  

The last few months in lockdown have revealed the importance of exercise and its impact on our physical and mental health. 

According to NHS England, approximately one million people in the UK downloaded a fitness app, reflecting the nations desire to set aggressive fitness targets that they can reach over a certain period.  

When setting a target, it is useful to understand the workings of the body when we exercise. Chris Gillettat Watch Shop reveals what you need to knows about monitoring your heart rate to burn calories, and explains the basics of the body’s five heart rate zones.

What is heart rate training?

PTs and health practitioners often refer to heart rate training that focuses on five heart rate zones. Each zone uses your MHR (maximal heart rate) and your beats per minute (BPM) as a guide.  

Working in such a way ensures that a person practices a workout that is prescriptive to them as they are working with their individual heart rate data.  

Many people prefer to use this training method as they no longer lay focus on distance or speed but instead maintaining a certain level of effort for a specific amount of time.  

What is your MHR?

Everyone’s heart rate is different. To determine your individual heart rate zone, you must calculate your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate.  

Your resting heart rate is best obtained when you have woken up in the morning. And your maximum heart rate is taken when it has reached its highest intensity whilst conducting high levels of physical activity. 

Your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate serve as markers to which the five zones fall in between. 

The five heart rate zones

Here are the five heats rate zones:

  • Zone 1 (50% of MHR) – Gentle exercise that requires minimal physical activity. Training at this intensity serves to build endurance and aids in recovery.
  • Zone 2 (60-70% of MHR) – A light form of exercise.  People can usually sustain training at zone 2 for long periods of time which in turn, burns fat and boosts endurance. 
  • Zone 3 (70-80% MHR) – A tolerable level of exercise that sees the heart rate mildly increase.  It is wise to remember that at this level of exercise, lactic acid begins to build. This can lead to achy muscles post work out. 
  • Zone 4 (80-90% MHR) – A hard level of working.  Participants are often out of breath and the heart is at a high BPM.  
  • Zone 5 (90-100% MHR) – The highest level of intensity that is impossible to maintain for long periods.  It is unnecessary to reach this level of intensity when exercising.  

Heart rate training is great if you feel that you may have over trained during lockdown as it does not focus on distance or speed. Heart rate training actually prevents you from pushing your body to far as it protects the skeletal and overdoing the muscles.  

What your heart rate has to do with burning fat and weight loss

Ultimately, it is the number of calories you burn that increases weight loss.  If you are working out within Zones 1 or 2, then your body is burning fat. And if you are working out at zone 3 or higher, you are burning carbohydrates.  

Fat takes longer to burn than carbohydrates so, when working at a higher intensity, your body demands quicker access to fuel so turns to carbs. If you are working out at a higher intensity than level 3 you are burning more calories and in turn, you’ll increase the likelihood of weight loss.  

In order to effectively train the MHR way, you must work with the correct fitness products. Smartwatches are great at providing an accurate reading of your BPM and give easy access to data. But as always, when undergoing any new workout regime, it is always best to consult your doctor first.

Photo by Fil Mazzarino