Friday, July 22, 2011

Fat Butt Friday: Heart Rate and Weight Loss

I have been doing challenges like this one (120 miles) for over a year now, and there is one common theme among many of the emails and comments I receive.  I have been thinking a lot about it for a while now, and I now I want to write a little about it:  Heart Rate and Weight Loss.

What do the two have to do with each other?

First off, I get several emails a challenge stating that although they have enjoyed the challenge, they didn't lose any weight.  Now there may be a couple reasons for this that I can think of, first off:  nutrition.  People tend to think that if they exercise, they can still eat what they want: WRONG!  If you are taking in more calories than you are burning in the day, you will NOT lose weight.  Good nutrition and exercise go hand in hand to a healthy weight loss.  Secondly, heart rate is SUPER important to losing weight.  You can walk around until you are blue in the face and your legs feel like they are going to fall off, and still not lose weight if you don't get your heart rate up!  A higher heart rate is the KEY.  Sure, walking is still good for you and you can build muscles, but for you body to go into fat burning mode, you have to get that heart rate up to it's target.

How do you know your target heart rate?

It is important to know that to start burning that fat off, you need to do cardio for AT LEAST 20 mins.  It takes that long to get warmed up and that heart pumping and burning off fat.  Your weight loss zone is considered to be 70-80% of your maximum heart rate.  To figure out what yours is, considering you are an average sort of person, take 220 minus your age.

For example:  I am 30 so 220-30=190.  So my max is 190 beats per min, I don't want to ever go over that!

Now to calculate my target heart rate for my weight loss zone:

70% of max heart rate is: 190 x 70% = 133, 80% is: 190 x 80% = 152.  So my weight loss zone is: 133-152 beats per min.

This means that I should exercise a minimum of 20 mins with a target heart rate of 133-152 for my maximum weight loss results. says:

"The reason your target heart rate is so important is that it reflects the rate at which your body is using oxygen, as well as the rate at which it is burning calories (metabolism). The more oxygen youre using, the more calories you are burning. If you exercise in the weight loss zone, youll be using the required amount of oxygen that is necessary to burn excess calories. Once you reach your ideal weight, you can exercise in the maintenance zone. The maintenance zone is a target heart rate of 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. You dont want to exercise with a target heart rate lower than 60% of your maximum heart rate because it will be a waste of your time. You will not see any results exercising at that level. When you first start exercising, you may not be able to exercise in the weight loss zone for a minimum of 20 minutes. When I first started exercising, it was very difficult for me because I was so out of shape. The good news is, if you stick with it and push yourself, it gets easier and easier everyday. I now exercise regularly at 80% of my maximum heart rate with relative ease. If someone would have told me when I started that I would be able to exercise at this level, I would have thought they were crazy! The key is to start out slow. Aim for 10 minutes in the weight loss zone initially and then gradually work your way up to 20 minutes. An easy way to accomplish this is to add 1-2 minutes to your workout every week. Before you know it youll be up to 20 minutes or more!"

How can I check my heart rate?

Well, the best way is to get a heart rate monitor watch.  Ben has a really pricey one that has a band that goes around his middle that sends his rate to his GPS watch.  I would like to get just a regular wrist watch band... they are only like 30 dollars for the cheapo ones.  All you have to do is look at your watch while you are working out to see what your current rate is.  If it's in your zone, keep it up, if not, bump it up!

So if you are walking your little legs off and your heart rate isn't in your zone, chances are you're not burning off fat, just building a little muscle and wearing yourself out.


PS  Congrats to all of those OVER-ACHIEVERS that have already reached the 120!!  Woo Hoo!


Geoff Alaishuksi said...

Be careful with the heart rate monitors that don't have a strap. From experience, they can be very flaky. If you're serious about it, spend a few more dollars and get one with a strap. I thought it'd be uncomfortable but you get used to it after 2 or 3 days. I use a Polar FT7 and it has treated me very well. It also calculates the # of calories burned during your workout. You can get one on Amazon for less than $100.

Geoff Alaishuski

Mama Nut said...

I totally agree Geoff, and I should have mentioned that! I didn't, because I can't wear the the strap, it won't work on my me because of womanly reasons :) Drives my husband nuts because it works perfect on him, but I can't seem to get a stable reading unless I hold the strap up and that hurts.

They work perfect for men though.

Geoff Alaishuksi said...

Have you tried to see if you can get a reading in other places? Try it closer to your neck, under your breasts or even down near your waist?