Everyone burns fat differently- at different speeds and levels of ease. It can be hard to get motivated about losing weight when you’re seeing other people lose weight at different rates and maybe even with less effort. That’s why knowing about the fat burning zone is so important. There’s actually a scientific way to figure out exactly how you burn fat and how to access the fat burning zone for yourself. Basically, the fat burning zone is the peak part of a workout where you are burning the most fat possible. To understand the fat burning zone, you first need to understand exactly what fat is and how the body uses energy.
How Are Our Bodies Fueled?
Fat is often seen as an unwanted part of our bodies, but it’s actually an integral part of all of us. The body burns through fat every single day in order to stay fueled and keep energy levels up. The body uses a bunch of different fuel sources like fat, protein, and carbohydrates to keep us moving throughout our lives. Additional fat becomes a problem when we have too much, more than we are able to burn through and use as an energy source. Fat is absolutely necessary to human life since it’s the most effective fuel- even more than carbs or protein. Fat holds a lot more calories, and our bodies are able to store much more fat than anything else. The fat in our bodies keeps us going even if we are not constantly eating and consuming more fuel.
Why Do We Store Fat?
So, why do our bodies tend to hold on to extra weight that is unwanted? We have plenty of fat and plenty of use for it, but our body uses carbohydrates more often than fat. It takes a lot longer for fat to provide us with energy than carbs. Carbohydrates break down faster and give us the boosts of energy we need to get through our daily lives. We tend to use more carbohydrates when we move quickly or strain ourselves harder- so the harder your workout becomes, the less you burn through fat, and the more you start to burn through carbs. That’s why it can be difficult to lose weight, even if it feels like you’re constantly exercising.
How Does the Fat Burning Zone Play a Role?
Because our bodies are complex and use plenty of different sources of fuel, figuring out the fat burning zone can really help with the pursuit of weight loss. When you work out, depending on exactly what exercise you’re doing, you burn through a certain amount of calories. A certain percentage of these calories are fat. The fat burning zone is the point where you’re burning the highest percentage of fat calories. Everyone has a different fat burning zone, but there’s a simple way to find out what yours is.
Finding Your Fat Burning Zone
With just a pen and paper, you are able to find out your approximate fat burning zone. It’s usually somewhere around 50% of your maximum heart rate. So, subtract your age from the number 220- that will give you your approximate maximum heart rate. 45-65% of that number is your fat burning zone. However, this number is just approximate and not specific to your body. In order to find a more exact number, you’ll need to get active.
Find an activity like biking or running on a treadmill to complete this calculation. Warm up for a few minutes and then set a timer for 20 minutes, working out as hard as you can sustainably for the entire time. Try to keep a steady pace the entire time, monitoring your heart rate for the entire 20 minutes. After the time has elapsed, use the heart rate you recorded and subtract 20. The range of your fat burning zone is between that number minus three and that number plus three. Here’s an example to make it a little clearer:
- An average heart rate of 170 during the 20 minutes of activity.
- 170-20 = 150
- 150-3= 147, 150+3= 153
- So, the range of your fat burning zone would be between 147-153
What this means is that your body burns the most fat it possibly can when your heart rate reaches that range. With this information, you can start exercising at your highest level of effectiveness. Plus, this number is proven to be quite exact. As opposed to the approximate calculation, by doing this check yourself, the number is specific to your heart rate and body type.
How to Use the Fat Burning Zone?
Now that you know your fat burning zone, it’s time to figure out how exactly you can use it in your fitness routine. The fat burning zone is great for weight loss, but it shouldn’t be the main or sole focus of your workouts. It doesn’t necessarily burn a ton of calories in total, help with muscle tone, or help with endurance. However, spending a portion of your workout in the fat burning zone ensures that you are able to reach your weight loss goals and see physical results from your fitness. Use a combination of cardio, resistance training, and fat burning zone workouts for a comprehensive approach to your physical health. You should focus on working out within the fat burning zone some days, giving yourself rest days, and going above the fat burning zone on other days.
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