Heart Rate and Fat Burning

Is there an ideal heart rate for fat burning or is the 'Fat Burning Zone' a myth?

Your heart rate and fat burning ability have had a long association. It was thought for many years and to some extent still is, that there is a 'Fat Burning Zone'. Many people still measure their heart rate for fat burning.

Unfortunately though, with advances in exercise physiology, this has been disproven. The 'fat burning zone' is said to be 60-80% of your maximum heart rate and by exercising within this zone you can burn off the maximum amount of fat.

Heart Rate and Fat Burning

However, there are several reasons why this theory is incorrect.

Calorie Expenditure

Even though exercising at a higher level of intensity burns off a greater proportion of carbohydrate compared to fat, at the higher level of intensity a greater amount of fat can be burnt off.

This is simply because the energy expenditure during the session is far greater. Plus, at the higher level of intensity the metabolic rate stays elevated for longer after the exercise session is completed, which means even more fat is burnt.

Fuel Availability

Also, fuel utilisation by the body is dependent more so on the existing fuel availability of the body at the time rather than heart rate for fat burning. What this mean is that if the body is in a carbohydrate-depleted state (mildly hypoglycemic), then the body is more likely to use fat as a source of fuel.

Furthermore, if the level of glucose in the blood stream is high during the exercise, then it makes sense that the body is more likely to use this fuel source no matter what the heart rate is!

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