Heart Rate and Fat Burning – The Need to Knows of Monitoring Your Heart Rate to Burn Calories

heart rate

The past year has revealed the importance of exercise and its impact on a person’s physical and mental health as we’ve been in lockdown.  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.  Here, Chris Gillett at Watch Shop reveals the need to knows of monitoring your heart rate to burn calories and explains the basics of the body’s 5 heart rate zones.


Heart rate training

PTs and health practitioners often refer to heart rate training that focuses on 5 heart rate zones.  ‘Each zone uses your HR max (maximal heart rate) and your beats per minute (BPM) as a guide’, explains Gillett.  ‘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.  Your maximum heart rate is taken when it has reached its highest intensity whilst conducting high levels of physical activity.  The resting heart rate and the maximum heart rate serve as markers to which the 5 zones fall in between.


The 5 heart 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.  

According to Gillett, 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’.  


Heart Rate and Burning Fat

Ultimately, it is the number of calories you burn that increases weight loss.  If you are working out within Zones 1 or 2, the body is burning fat.  If you are working out at zone 3 or higher, you are burning carbohydrates.  Fat takes longer to burn than carbohydrates therefore, 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, will 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.  When undergoing any new workout regime, it is always best to consult your doctor first’, advises Gillett.  

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