What Is Your Fat Burning Zone?

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When you're working out, you want to know exactly what kind of benefits you're getting. Understanding how to efficiently spend your time will motivate you to complete your workouts and reap more benefits from them. To lose weight, you need to burn calories and fat. Before you can focus on burning more calories, though, you need to progress to the fat-burning zone.

When you're doing any kind of aerobic workout, or exercise "in the presence of oxygen," you are in the fat-burning zone. Simply put, your body needs energy. When you breathe in oxygen, your body transfers it to the working muscles via the blood vessels. This blood oxygen triggers the production of ATP, which is the energy your muscles use to contract and recover. These workouts can be walking, weight-lifting, yoga, a step class, jogging, stairs and so on.

If you increase the exercise, like adding a 100-meter sprint in between your weight-lifting sets, then you're upping the requirement of oxygen. Your body will eventually reach its limit and switch gears to anaerobic production of ATP.

One way you can measure the aerobic threshold is by calculating your maximum heart rate (MHR). Subtract your age from 220. You'll end up with your maximum heart rate estimate. That's the highest your heart should ever go when you're working at 100 percent force. Your target heart rate will be lower. Your target heart rate for the fat burning zone will be in between 55 and 70 percent of your MHR. So to figure that out, simply take your MHR and multiply it by 0.55 and 0.7 (55 and 70 percent) to get your range.

As exercise intensity increases, your body continues to burn fat for fuel in addition to carbohydrates. The more intense it gets, the less fat it burns as it shifts more to the carbohydrates. The carbs don't require oxygen to produce ATP. Instead, they just break down into glucose, which is converted into ATP.


Don't think that exceeding your fat burning zone is a bad thing, though. If you want to stay there, that's totally fine. But if you're wanting to lose weight, go ahead and kick it up a notch. Burning carbs actually burns more calories and overall weight.

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