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Figure Out Your Fat Burning Heart Rate: 2 Formulas Plus Guide

By Rob Poulos...

Here’s the real truth–starving yourself or exercising for hours on end won’t make you thin.

Sometimes, it even makes you fatter, by eating away at your lean muscle tissue (this increases your metabolism).

Instead, research shows that losing weight–fat, specifically–relies on two factors, called caloric intake and fat burning exercise.  Here’s what they mean.

Why Caloric Intake is Important

Physiologically speaking, we accumulate that dreaded body fat not from choosing the wrong foods (although it does play a role), but from eating more calories in general.  It takes 3500 calories to create one pound of fat; conversely, if you want to lose that fat, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 3500 calories.

This holds true even if you exercise a lot.  Aerobic exercise is only designed to increase your caloric deficit; strength training exercise helps you build muscle, which can increase your metabolism (and therefore your caloric needs).  If you do not exercise off enough calories to create a 3500 calorie deficit, however, you’re not going to lose weight.  It doesn’t matter how or how long you exercise–your body obeys this law, no matter what.

Fat Burning Exercise: Why It’s Important

As well as getting your caloric intake on point, it’s also important to remember fat burning exercise, as it increases your caloric deficit, making it easier to lose body fat.  Fat burning exercise simply means any exercise that causes you to burn enough calories to lose fat.  This can be anything from intense weightlifting to Zumba (though we don’t recommend Zumba)–something that gets your heart rate high and starts the calorie burning process.

The only requirement for engaging your exercise’s fat burning potential is something called the fat burning heart rate–the heart rate in which more fat is burned off.  It’s not the same for everyone.  And there’s even a simple formula for figuring it out.  Here’s what it is:

220 – age x .60

.60 in this formula stands for 60%–personal trainers recommend aiming for 60% of your maximum heart rate to reach an optimal fat burn.  So for instance, if your maximum heart rate is 200, your target heart rate should be 120.

For women, some experts recommend using a different formula, which takes into account their smaller size.  For women, this formula is best:

206 – 88 x .60

So for instance, if your heart rate is 150, your ideal heart rate is 90.

How to Track Your Heart Rate

So how do you monitor your heart rate?  First off, don’t trust what the elliptical machine says–these machines are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to determining a person’s heart rate.  Instead, invest in something called a heart rate monitor, which will track your heart rate in real time.  For a cruder (and cheaper) way to track your heart rate, you can also take your pulse by pressing the big artery on your neck and counting the beats for up to a minute.  The number you end up with is your actual heart rate number.

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