what is a fat-burning heart rate
Your fat-burning heart rate is 70%-80% of the maximum heart rate for your age and gender. In this target zone, your body uses stored fat for energy

Your fat-burning heart rate is 70%-80% of the maximum heart rate for your age and gender. For example, if your maximum heart rate is 200 beats per minute (bpm), your target heart rate should be 140-170 bpm.

Usually, the standard heart rate at rest is between 60-100 beats per minute. Heart rate increases with exercise intensity. The more intense your workout, the higher your heart rate. In your fat-burning heart rate zone, your body uses stored fat for energy instead of carbs, resulting in more fat loss. You need to stay in the fat-burning heart zone for a minimum of 30 minutes for the exercise to be fully effective.

Table: Target, maximum, and fat-burning heart rate by age (American Heart Association)
Age (years) Target heart rate zone, 50%-85% Average maximum heart rate, 100% Fat-burning heart rate, 70%-80%
20 100 to 170 bpm 200 bpm 140 to 160 bpm
30 95 to 162 bpm 190 bpm 133 to 152 bpm
35 93 to 157 bpm 185 bpm 130 to 148 bpm
40 90 to 153 bpm 180 bpm 126 to 144 bpm
45 88 to 149 bpm 175 bpm 123 to 140 bpm
50 85 to 145 bpm 170 bpm 119 to 136 bpm
55 83 to 140 bpm 165 bpm 116 to 132 bpm
60 80 to 136 bpm 160 bpm 112 to 128 bpm
65 78 to 132 bpm 155 bpm 109 to 124 bpm
70 75 to 128 bpm 150 bpm 105 to 120 bpm

According to some claims, low-intensity workouts put you in a fat-burning zone and burn more fat than high-intensity workouts. However, experts refute this claim, as scientists have found that the fat-burning zone occurs at 55%-75% of maximum heart rate. 

To achieve maximum fat loss, aim for moderate to higher-intensity workouts and control your calorie consumption.

What is the link between fat-burning heart rate and fat loss?

Your body uses glycogen or fats for energy, which fuels muscle cells. During energy metabolism, glycogen and fats are converted to glucose, carbon dioxide, and water. Oxygen is essential for the breakdown of glycogen into glucose.

Since your body needs more energy during exercise, the heart pumps faster and sends more oxygen to break down glycogen to fuel your muscles.

During high-intensity workouts, your body runs out of glycogen stores because it provides less energy than fat. Once the glycogen store is depleted, the body breaks down fat for more energy. Thus, with a high-intensity workout, your heart rate and fat loss increase simultaneously. Your body also continues to burn calories even after you have stopped exercising. This is called the afterburn effect.

What are the types of heart rates?

Heart rates vary depending on several factors, including:

Different types of heart rates include:

  • Resting heart rate: Measured when you are at rest and should be between 60-100 bpm.
  • Target heart rate: Measured during exercise and is calculated as 50%-85% of your maximum heart rate. Different types of target heart rate zones include:
    • Lower-intensity zone: Working out at 50%-60% of your maximum heart rate.
    • Temperate zone: Working out at 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate.
    • Aerobic zone: Working out at 70%-80% of maximum heart rate.
  • Maximum heart rate: Calculated as 220 − your age. For example, if your age is 20, your maximum heart rate should be 220 – 20 = 200 bpm.

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How to achieve a fat-burning heart rate

You can achieve a fat-burning heart rate by working out at 70%-80% of the maximum heart rate with moderate to high-intensity exercises. 

Opt for moderate-intensity exercises that are tolerable and allow you to talk, which may include:

  • Brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour)
  • Water aerobics
  • Gardening
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Cycling slower than 10 miles per hour
  • Dancing (ballroom or social)
  • Slow jogging

You can also opt for high-intensity workouts, which may include:

  • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
  • Running
  • Swimming laps
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Heavy yard work, such as continuous digging or hoeing
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Cycling at 10 miles per hour or faster
  • Jumping rope

Other ways to achieve fat-burning weight loss include:

  • Controlling your portion size
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Consuming whole foods instead of processed and packaged foods
  • Aiming for slow and steady weight loss

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Medically Reviewed on 11/17/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

American Heart Association. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

American Heart Association. Target Heart Rates Chart. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates

Cleveland Clinic. Exercise Heart Rate Zones Explained. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/exercise-heart-rate-zones-explained/

Dalleck LC, Janot JM. 5 More Fitness Myths That Won't Go Away... The American Council on Exercise. https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/3044/5-more-fitness-myths-that-won-t-go-away/