Weight loss and exercise with your heart rate in mind


My friend over at carasweightlossjournal.com  posted a comment on one of my posts regarding different heart rate zones. I thought it would interesting to do a post on it. When we exercise, it makes our hearts work harder to get blood (which holds oxygen and nutrients) to our muscles so that we can do what we are doing.  That is why we breathe hard.  Muscles need oxygen to do what they do so we huff and puff to get more oxygen into our blood so that the blood can in turn supply the muscles.  Different heart rates produce different training and weight loss effects in our bodies. Here is a simple little break down:

  • Recovery/Easy= Your heart rate should be between 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate.  This would put you at a nice and easy pace running.  Absolutely no huffing and puffing.  In this zone, you will primarily burn fat as well as developing your endurance and aerobic capacity (the ability for your muscles to use oxygen to burn fat for energy).
  • Aerobic/Getting harder= Your heart rate should be between 70%-80% of your maximum heart rate.  In this zone, you will be breathing harder but still able to carry on an intelligible conversation.  Not just one word sentences.  When your heart rate is between 70% & 80%,  you are still burning primarily fat after about 45 minutes as well as getting your lungs and heart stronger.  Aerobic training conditions your heart to be able to pump more blood with each stroke and trains your muscles to use what they get more effeciently.
  •  Anaerobic/Now it’s really getting hard= Your heart rate will be between 80%-90% of your maximum heart rate.  At this level, your heart is really going for it.  Your muscles are also going to forego using fat for energy (fat produces energy slower) and starts using the glycogen (sugar) as the primary source of energy.  Although this is exercise, you don’t really need to work this hard to burn fat and lose weight.  Also, at this level, your muscles will use up all the sugar pretty quickly.  As the muscles eat the sugar, they produce the evil pain the *ss, lactic acid.  Lactic acid is the chemical that you feel burning in your muscles.  Lifting weights is anaerobic, and you always feel the burn in the last reps.  When running at an easy pace, it can take many many hours before the lactic acid comes because you are burning fat instead of the sugar.
  • 90% and beyond= Don’t even go here.  In fact, running at a heart rate of over 85% for to long could increase your chance of injury.  

Hopefully this is useful for everyone.  I do almost all of my exercise with a heart rate between 65%-75%.  That is the “zone” in which I lost all my weight, got several PR’s in marathons, and finished the 50 miler.  There are many companies who make watches that will take your heart rate for you.  They have alarms even that will tell you if you are to low or to high.  I used one from the start of my running, but I lost the heart rate monitor part of the watch after a while.  I am pretty good at knowing how hard I am running now though.  Below is a link to the company who made my watch.

Polar USA.  They make a nice watch for many different types of exercise, not just for running.

You can get more detailed information and maximum heart rate calculations at this coaches website.

21 Responses to “Weight loss and exercise with your heart rate in mind”

  1. January 12, 2009 at 4:21 am

    My friend “The Bodybuilder” told me that for maximum fat loss, I should stay in the 70% zone & it’s definitely working for me! He insisted that working out harder isn’t necessary to burn fat, which goes against what alot of people believe. This was good news for me to hear!
    I’m glad to hear that this zone was what worked for you in losing your excess fat! It validates what I’m doing.

    • 2 run4change
      January 12, 2009 at 5:37 am

      This is a really big thing for us. You don’t have to kill yourself to burn the fat. This is another thing about running to. You can run/walk at a pace that keeps you in that zone and you are not completely out of breathe and dying. This should give everyone hope, from big to small, it is doable just like you are saying

  2. January 12, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Great post. I didn’t realize all this.

  3. 5 Mel
    January 12, 2009 at 7:28 am

    I’ve been looking into this topic the past few days.. thanks for the info! I am going to try to incorporate it into my walking routine!

    • 6 run4change
      January 12, 2009 at 7:57 am

      That’s great. Thanks for the comment and keep up the good work. Sometimes it takes less than we realize to lose weight

  4. January 12, 2009 at 9:20 am

    That’s really good info – especially the part about burning sugar instead of fat. Yesterday I walked extra hard and extra long (because I was working out my frustration) and about 3/4 of the way through I started feeling weird. I felt all rubbery – jelly legs, somewhat shaky – and had to really slow down to get all the way home. Maybe I had pushed myself too hard without eating enough first (it had been about 3 hours after a good oatmeal breakfast.)

    • 8 run4change
      January 12, 2009 at 9:24 am

      Tell me this. How did your head/mind feel. Was it cottony or fuzzy. Were you in a zone but at the same time not as alert.

  5. January 12, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I’ve been following a low heart rate running program for a while now. It seems to be working too.

    • 10 run4change
      January 12, 2009 at 9:52 am

      That is awesome. I have read of many ultra runners using a low HR program where they never let their HR over 65%, even on hills. They love it and they have improved a lot.

  6. January 12, 2009 at 10:05 am

    You are just a wealth of knowledge!!!! Very useful info even though I’ve never been one to get all technical. However, one of these days when I can afford it I’m going to buy that HRM watch (along with a new bike, competition swimsuit, membership to local rec center, tummy tuck, etc.) and really kick ass. For now, I’m just going to get my exercise any way I can to get my butt in gear.

  7. January 12, 2009 at 10:14 am

    My head felt a bit fuzzy. I felt, not dizzy, but not 100% alert either. It kind of felt like a sugar drop when I haven’t eaten in a very, very long time. I chose a route that was more strenuous than I’d been doing – mostly uphill 2/3 of the way. It was a route that a couple years ago I couldn’t even do without stopping every 10 feet to catch my breath, so I wanted to see how I did. I remember one day going up that hill to catch a bus and thinking I was going to die. This time, I huffed and puffed a bit, but not too bad really. It wasn’t until I’d hit about the 2 mile mark that I started feeling weird.

    • 14 run4change
      January 12, 2009 at 10:18 am

      That is so cool to do a route that was impossible before only now to see you can do it. Great job. Sounds like you had not to much sugar left for your body and brain. It is weird, but I like that feeling. When I do my long runs, I don’t eat for the first 2 hours. I really feel different by then. At that point I eat and within 5 minutes feel 100% more mentally alert and positive that I can make it. I do this only to train my body to use fat more substantially for the ultra races. I don’t recommend it be a thing to do though. Great job.

  8. January 12, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Thanks! I felt good about my endurance progress. My goal is each time I exercise to increase my exertion level by five minutes. So if I walk at a moderate pace for 30 minutes to take five of those minutes and jog or run, or add on five minutes to jog or run. Or to walk at a higher pace and increase my heart rate. When I got home I drank more water (had some with me but drank it all) and then went and had a Subway sandwich. I felt fine after that.

  9. 17 Geri
    January 12, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    A fantastic article, very informative and useful. I don’t think I can afford to purchase a heart rate monitor right now, is there any other way that I can gauge heart rate? I’ve heard a little about perceived rates of exertion, but I’m not very familiar with this. Perhaps you could fill us in, maybe in a follow up post?

    Many thanks.

    • 18 run4change
      January 12, 2009 at 1:25 pm

      I will do a post just for you on the percieved exertion since I think it is a wonderful way to do things. I use it now since I have lost my HR monitor and have gained much experience monitoring my exertion during my ultra races. Thanks for stopping by and come back to check for the post.

  10. 19 Geri
    January 12, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Awesome! Thanks so much – this type of information is really useful to know when trying to lose weight. I personally would have no idea about exertion (perceived or otherwise!) before beginning my first (realistic) weightloss program. Thanks for your swift turnaround!

    • 20 run4change
      January 12, 2009 at 3:05 pm

      No problem. I am going to email you the post so you can have a sneak peak at it. Just promise to come and leave a comment on the real post 🙂

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