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Fat-Burning Heart Rate: What It Is and How To Calculate It

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By: KURU Footwear

Striving to meet fitness goals or shed those stubborn extra pounds can sometimes seem like a never-ending struggle. Despite the many weight loss tips and workout strategies online, it’s often difficult to find one that actually works for you. The key to success often lies in understanding the nuances of our body’s responses to exercises. 

One of these keys to success is the fat-burning heart rate zone.

The human heart has several categories of heart rates, each with its unique characteristics and importance. These include the resting heart rate, which is your pulse at complete rest; the target heart rate zones, which further break down into the lower intensity, temperate, and aerobic zones; and the maximum heart rate. It’s important to note that these heart rates can be influenced by a myriad of factors such as weather conditions, emotional states, body weight, use of certain medications, and intake of stimulants like caffeine and nicotine.

The fat-burning heart rate is the optimal zone where the body turns to stored fats for energy. This makes this particular heart rate important when it comes to promoting weight loss.

Key Takeaways

  • Fat-burning heart rate is the specific heart rate zone where your body burns the highest percentage of calories from fat during exercise, instead of from carbs or sugars.
  • Understanding your fat-burning heart rate allows you to optimize workouts for maximum fat loss, making your weight loss efforts more effective and efficient.
  • You calculate your fat-burning heart rate by getting your maximum heart rate, which is 220 beats per minute, then subtract your age. Since the fat-burning heart rate zone is around 70% of your maximum heart rate, simply multiply the answer by 0.7.

What is the Fat-Burning Heart Rate?

The fat-burning heart rate refers to the specific heart rate zone in which your body primarily utilizes stored fat for fuel. In short, it’s believed to be the best heart rate for fat-burning during exercise. Optimal fat-burning heart rate is generally 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

Imagine your heart rate spectrum as a highway: the “fat-burning zone” is like the right lane, or the slow lane. It’s a lower-intensity area where your body’s fuel choice shifts towards fats instead of quickly-accessed carbohydrates. When you’re exercising within this zone, a higher percentage of the calories you burn comes from fat.

It’s important to note that while this zone targets fat burn specifically, it doesn’t mean you’re not burning fat in other heart rate zones. It’s simply that the proportion of fat used for energy is highest in this range.

Why Does it Matter?

The importance of fat-burning heart rate mainly lies in the context of exercise and weight loss. Some wonder though—if exercising within your fat-burning heart rate zone is not the only way to burn fat and lose weight, is it still important? Yes, it still is.

Understanding your fat-burning heart rate is key if you want a better optimized and more sustainable exercise regimen. Using the fat-burning heart zone to your advantage can help you find greater success in reaching your weight loss goals. More than that, it is also a great tool to help ensure safer workouts and better heart health.

Knowing your fat-burning heart rate and exercising within this zone offers several benefits. Below is a closer look at three of them.

Efficient Fat Loss

Primarily, this zone allows for efficient utilization of stored body fat as a source of energy during workouts. By exercising in your optimal fat-burning heart rate zone, you ensure that your body taps into stored fat for energy, instead of stored sugars and carbohydrates. This means your body is burning fat directly, rather than just using it as a secondary energy source. As a result, you will see more efficient and faster fat loss.

Additionally, since fat stores contain more than twice the energy content of carbohydrates or proteins, you basically get a larger fuel reserve for exercising. This aids in weight management and enhances your endurance—allowing you to train for longer periods and to maximize your workouts for better weight loss results.

Sustainable Workouts

Another benefit of utilizing your heart rate fat-burning zone is that it allows for more sustainable workouts. Exercising at a lower intensity within the fat-burning zone is less strenuous on your body. This can help you avoid overexertion, which can lead to fatigue or injuries. Moreover, working out in this heart rate zone may help you avoid burnout.

You can improve your overall endurance and reduce your risk of injury. This is why fat-burning zone workouts are ideal for beginners or those with health conditions that require a gentler approach to exercise. Understanding your fat-burning heart rate also helps you tailor your workout routines to your specific health and fitness goals.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Maintaining a regular workout within your fat-burning heart rate can contribute to improved cardiovascular health. It can help strengthen your heart and reduce the risk of heart-related diseases. Exercises within the fat-burning heart rate range are generally low- to moderate-impact. This moderate-intensity exercise encourages the heart to pump blood more efficiently, improving cardiac output. Over time, this enhances heart muscle strength and endurance, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Moreover, the increased circulation stimulates the release of nitric oxide, a molecule that assists in maintaining the elasticity of blood vessels for better blood flow and lower blood pressure. Essentially, consistent workouts in your fat-burning heart rate zone foster a robust cardiovascular system, promoting heart health and warding off related disorders.

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Calculating Your Fat-Burning Heart Rate

The fat-burning heart rate is a highly individual metric, differing significantly from person to person. Factors like age, fitness level, and overall health all play a role in determining your specific fat-burning heart rate zone, so calculating a person’s optimal fat-burning heart rate zone accurately is best left to health professionals and fitness experts.

However, there is a way to calculate your fat-burning heart rate yourself, giving you a ballpark figure to help guide your workouts. The fat-burning heart rate zone is generally around 70% of your maximum heart rate. To calculate your fat-burning heart rate, you’ll need to know your maximum heart rate first.

Find Your Maximum Heart Rate

The maximum heart rate is simply the highest number of beats per minute that your heart can handle during maximum physical exertion. As you grow older, your maximum heart rate decreases, as your heart becomes less efficient over time.

There are plenty of charts or tables online to help you determine your maximum heart rate. However, it’s also quite easy to calculate your maximum heart rate manually. All you need to do is subtract your age from 220. If you’re 25 years old, your maximum heart rate will be 195 bpm. When you turn 35, your maximum heart rate will go down to 185 bpm. 

Keep in mind that this is just an estimate, as maximum heart rate is also highly individual and dependent on a variety of contributing factors. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen.

Determine Your Fat Burning Zone

Once you know your maximum heart rate, calculating your fat-burning heart zone becomes much easier. The next step is to figure out the range that makes up your fat-burning zone—in this case we’ll use the typical 70% of your max heart rate. Now, all that’s left is to multiply your maximum heart rate by the fat-burning heart rate.

That means the full formula will be: (220 – Age) x 0.7 = Fat-Burning Heart Rate Zone

Let’s say you’re currently 30 years old. That makes your maximum heart rate 190 bpm. Multiplying that by 0.7 will put your fat-burning zone at around 136 bpm. Just keep in mind that these numbers are estimates and can vary from person to person. If you want a more accurate number, it’s best to consult a doctor or fitness professional.

Find your target, maximum, and fat-burning heart rate in our helpful guide!

What is a Cardio Heart Rate?

A cardio heart rate—often referred to as the cardiovascular or aerobic heart rate—is the target heart rate that you should aim for to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Typically, this is between 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

Working out in this zone can help increase the size and strength of your heart, improve lung capacity, and enhance the flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body—pushing your cardiovascular system to become more efficient and resilient.

There are five distinct cardio heart rate zones, categorized according to increasing intensity:

  • Zone 1: The Warm-Up Zone
  • Zone 2: The Fat-Burning Zone
  • Zone 3: The Aerobic Zone, where you improve your overall cardiovascular endurance and body’s ability to use oxygen
  • Zone 4: The Anaerobic Threshold Zone
  • Zone 5: The Max Effort Zone, which is typically reserved for sprints and high-intensity training

What Sets Apart Fat-Burning Heart Rate from Cardio?

The fat-burning heart rate and the cardio heart rate serve two different purposes in exercise physiology. The fat-burning heart rate is typically lower, about 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. This zone is where your body taps into fat stores for energy instead of relying on carbohydrates, promoting efficient fat burn.

The cardio heart rate zone is where you push your cardiovascular system to its limits. Unlike the fat-burning heart rate which focuses on optimizing fat loss, exercising in the cardio heart rate zone is tied to greater oxygen consumption, which is used to break down carbs for energy. The moderate-intensity workouts are intended to improve the efficiency and endurance of your heart and lungs.

Crafting an Effective Workout Plan

There are two things you need to consider first: your fitness goals and your time or workout schedule. Your fitness goals will determine what type of exercises you need and its intensity. An effective workout schedule should also always include recovery days. Rest is crucial for muscle repair, growth, and sustainable workouts. 

Regardless of what type of exercises you include or what goal you are working towards, remember that consistency is key. You need to stick to a regular workout schedule to reach your fitness goals effectively and safely.

Here are three more tips to help you craft an effective workout plan.

Incorporate Cardiovascular Exercises

Balancing different types of workouts is highly recommended for best results. Even if your fitness goal is to build up muscle or strength, incorporating cardiovascular exercises or exercises ideal for losing weight offers plenty of fitness benefits.

Cardio workouts—such as jogging, swimming, or cycling—can enhance heart health, increase lung capacity, and improve overall endurance. Basically, these workouts get your heart rate up, increasing blood flow and oxygen supply to your muscles. This improved circulation aids in muscle recovery and growth, complementing your strength-building efforts. Moreover, cardio exercises can help maintain a balanced fat-burning heart rate, ensuring your body effectively uses its fat stores for energy. Incorporating cardiovascular activities will contribute to a holistic and well-rounded workout regimen, improving your general health and well-being.

Monitor Your Heart Rate

Monitoring your heart rate during workouts is highly recommended when formulating an efficient and effective exercise routine. This critical metric serves as a window into your cardiovascular fitness and provides a reliable indicator of workout intensity. By keeping track of your heart rate, you can ensure that you’re working within your ideal heart rate zones—whether it’s the “cardio” or “fat-burning” zone—which can significantly affect the effectiveness of your workouts and the results you achieve. 

Knowing your heart rate also allows you to structure your workouts accurately, scaling your effort up or down to match your desired outcomes. This could be optimizing the fat-burning process, enhancing cardiovascular health, or improving athletic performance. A heart rate monitor can be a powerful tool to help you understand your body better and make informed decisions about your workout regimen.

Gradually Increase Intensity

Gradually increasing workout intensity is fundamental for safely enhancing fitness and avoiding injury. Jumping into an intense workout without adequate conditioning can strain the body, leading to higher risk of potential injuries and prolonged recovery times.

Meanwhile, maintaining the same workout intensity can lead to a plateau. In short, you’ll be limiting your overall progress. By consistently challenging yourself and varying your workout intensity, you can continually stimulate your body to adapt, grow, and improve—breaking through plateaus and achieving your fitness goals more effectively.

This is where high intensity interval training (HIIT) comes into play. HIIT consists of short, intense bursts of exercise followed by recovery periods. This method keeps your body guessing, aiding in breaking through plateaus and bolstering your fat-burning heart rate. Remember, you need to balance intensity, consistency, and recovery to yield the best results for fat burning and overall fitness.

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Tools to Calculate Fat-Burning Heart Rate

We know not many people love math. If you don’t like it either, don’t worry—you can still calculate your fat-burning heart rate without resorting to manual computations.

Technology and a deeper understanding of fitness science have made it significantly easier to measure and monitor your fat-burning heart rate. There are now various tools at your disposal. These can range from convenient mobile apps and wearable technology to online calculators, each offering unique features that cater to different user needs.

Check out some of the tools that can help you calculate your fat-burning heart rate below.

Heart Rate Monitors

Heart rate monitors are an effective way to stay within your target fat-burning zone and make the most out of your workouts. These are compact and portable devices designed to measure and record your heart rate in real time. These are typically worn around the chest or wrist, similar to a common wristwatch. Nowadays, modern versions are often included in or can be linked with smartphones and fitness apps.

Their primary function is to provide you with an accurate and immediate representation of your heart rate, allowing you to adjust your workout intensity based on your target fat-burning zone. Apart from just heart rate, these devices can offer additional data such as calories burned, steps taken, and even sleep patterns. 

Online Calculators

Online calculators are another accessible tool that can simplify the process of determining your fat-burning heart rate. All you need to do is provide some basic details such as your age, weight, and gender, and the calculator does the rest. It uses scientifically-backed formulas to estimate your ideal fat-burning zone.

These calculators are usually free and can be easily found on fitness or health-related websites. With just a few clicks, you can get a quick, personalized estimate of the heart rate range where your body will burn fat most efficiently.

Mobile Apps

Mobile applications are an innovative addition to the tools that can help determine your fat-burning heart rate. Many fitness apps come with integrated heart rate monitors and calculators that use your personal data like age, weight, and gender to estimate your optimal fat-burning zone. They also track your heart rate during workouts, providing real-time feedback to help keep you within this optimal zone.

Additionally, these apps often include additional features like workout plans and nutrition advice, making them a comprehensive tool in your fitness journey. Easy to use and usually free or budget-friendly, mobile fitness apps are a modern, convenient way to ensure your workouts are targeting the best heart rate for fat burning.

Exercise Machines

Exercise machines—such as treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes—often come equipped with built-in heart rate monitors. These machines use handlebar sensors or chest straps to track your heart rate throughout the workout. They also feature preset workout programs designed to maintain your heart rate within the optimal fat-burning zone.

By inputting basic personal data like age and weight, these machines can provide a real-time report on whether your current pace aligns with your target heart rate for efficient fat burning.

Fitness Professionals

Consulting with fitness professionals is often considered the most effective and reliable method to determine the best heart rate for fat burning. These certified trainers have the expertise to understand your unique physiology, fitness goals, and exercise history, allowing them to meticulously calculate your personalized fat-burning heart rate.

Certified trainers and fitness experts can perform tests—such as the Karvonen formula—to determine your personalized fat-burning heart rate zone. This personalized approach ensures that your workouts are optimized for fat burning, enhancing your fitness progress and health outcomes, while also accounting for various other factors that may affect your heart rate.

Other Factors Influencing Weight Loss

Heart rate and exercise intensity play significant roles in weight loss but are far from the only factors that can determine your success. Your diet, sleep patterns, hormonal balance, stress levels, and even genetic predispositions can all have substantial impacts on your weight loss outcomes. 

Understanding these elements can help you adopt a more holistic approach to health and fitness, enhancing the efficacy of your efforts and accelerating your progress towards your goal. Below are five other crucial factors to consider.

Caloric Intake and Macronutrients

Caloric intake is the number of calories you consume each day. This principle of calorie deficit forms the basis of most diet plans and weight management programs. If you burn more calories than you ingest, you lose weight.

Macronutrients—namely fats, carbohydrates, and proteins—have varying caloric content. Fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient with nine calories per gram, while carbohydrates and proteins each supply approximately four calories per gram.

The composition of these macronutrients in your diet plays a substantial role in shaping your dietary choices. It can influence your hunger levels, metabolic rate, and even your food preferences. It’s important to consider not just the total amount of calories consumed, but also where these calories are coming from.

Insoluble Fiber and Satiety

Insoluble fiber—often found in food sources like wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains—is a particular type of fiber that does not dissolve in water. Foods high in insoluble fiber tend to have a lower energy density, meaning they provide fewer calories per gram. Its primary role is providing bulk to your diet and promoting regular bowel movement. This type of fiber contrasts with soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and helps lower glucose and cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber’s role in weight management is to control your urge to snack. It contributes significantly to managing your caloric intake by adding volume to meals without adding any extra calories—promoting feelings of fullness. This bulking effect helps regulate food consumption by reducing your inclination to eat more often, playing a pivotal role in weight management.

Gut Microbiome and Weight Loss

The gut microbiome is a complex community of trillions of microbes residing in the digestive tract—and it plays a crucial role in overall health. This intricate ecosystem—made up of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms, largely influences digestion, absorption of nutrients, and how you store fat.

Studies have found that variations in the diversity and type of bacteria in your gut can influence your metabolism speed, the way you metabolize certain foods, and—by extension—your susceptibility to gaining or losing weight. As such, a balanced and diverse gut microbiome can potentially aid in more efficient calorie burn, supporting weight loss efforts. Improving gut microbiome diversity can be achieved by consuming a varied diet rich in fiber, fermented foods, and by leading an active lifestyle.

Impact of Health Conditions

Pre-existing health conditions can significantly affect your weight loss efforts. For example, people with type 2 diabetes often struggle with weight management due to insulin resistance, where the body’s cells cannot use insulin properly. This leads to high blood sugar levels that can cause hunger and weight gain. Moreover, some medications used to manage chronic conditions may also contribute to weight gain. Examples of these include corticosteroids, depressants, and even antihistamines.

It’s important to tailor your weight loss plans for your specific needs to accommodate these challenges. If you have type 2 diabetes, this might mean focusing on a diet low in simple carbohydrates to control blood sugar levels, combined with regular physical activity to improve insulin sensitivity. The goal is to create a weight loss strategy that not only promotes weight loss, but also aids in managing your pre-existing health condition.

Resting Metabolic Rate

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) refers to the amount of energy expended by the body at rest, primarily used to support vital functions like breathing, maintaining body temperature, and cell production. RMR varies considerably among individuals, depending on factors like age, gender, body composition, and genetic makeup.

Notably, muscle mass significantly affects RMR, with a higher muscle ratio leading to a higher RMR. Physical activity boosts energy expenditure beyond the RMR, which is crucial for managing weight. By engaging in regular exercise, you can significantly increase your daily energy consumption, thereby promoting weight loss and overall health. This also highlights the importance of incorporating strength training into your exercise routine, as it helps build and maintain muscle mass, leading to a higher RMR in the long run.

FAQs

  • Is the fat burning heart rate the same for everyone?

    No, the fat-burning heart rate isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. It varies among individuals based on factors like age, gender, fitness levels, metabolism rate, and overall health. Generally, fat-burning heart rate is estimated to be at 70% of your maximum heart rate.

    You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Then, to get your best heart rate for burning fat, multiply the answer by 0.7. For example, a 30-year old person will have a maximum heart rate of about 190 beats per minute (bpm), while a 20-year old has 200 bpm. That makes their optimal fat-burning zone around 133 bpm and 140 bpm, respectively.

    Take note that this is just a general guideline. It’s always better to consult with a healthcare provider or a fitness expert for more accurate advice regarding your fat-burning heart rate.

  • Can I lose weight without exercising within this heart rate zone?

    Yes, you can! Exercising within your optimal fat-burning heart rate zone simply enhances fat loss and improves your cardiovascular fitness.

    Weight loss is ultimately about creating a calorie deficit where you burn more calories than you consume. Maintaining the recommended heart rate is not the only way to burn calories. This can be achieved through any form of physical activity that boosts your heart rate—not just exercises within the fat-burning zone.

    Additionally, dietary changes—such as reducing calorie intake and eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet—play a significant role in weight loss. More importantly, everyone’s body responds differently to exercise and diet changes. What worked for someone else—regardless of how similar you are in body type or whether the workout is within your optimal heart rate zone—may not work for you.

  • How often should I exercise in my fat-burning heart rate zone?

    To reap the most benefits from working out in your fat-burning heart rate zone, the general recommendation is to exercise around three to five times a week. Consider doing so for at least 150 minutes per week. That’s roughly 30 minutes a day over five days. This duration can be broken down into shorter, more manageable sessions, like two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions each day.

    However, this is just a loose guideline—not a hard-and-fast rule. There is no single, specific frequency when it comes to exercising. It all depends on a number of factors: your fitness goals, fitness levels, current lifestyle, health conditions, and more. For best results, consult a health or fitness professional for an optimal exercise program.

  • Are there any risks associated with exercising in this heart rate zone?

    Yes, there are a few risks associated with exercising at your fat-burning heart rate zone, particularly if it’s not done correctly or if you’re new to exercising. One of the main concerns is overexertion, which can lead to injuries, exhaustion, or even serious heart problems in extreme cases.

    Prolonged exercise in the fat-burning zone can result in overuse injuries, including stress fractures, muscle strains, and joint discomfort. Monitoring your heart rate while exercising and learning to recognize your body’s signals of overexertion can help reduce these risks.

    It is important to remember that your heart—much like any other muscle—needs to be conditioned steadily and gradually. Suddenly pushing your heart rate to the higher end of your fat-burning zone could lead to complications. Make sure to get clearance from your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions.

  • Can I combine high-intensity workouts with fat-burning heart rate training?

    Absolutely! Combining high-intensity workouts with fat-burning heart rate zone training is an effective way to optimize your fitness regimen.

    High-intensity workouts often involve pushing the heart rate beyond the fat-burning zone, which aids in improving cardiovascular capacity and overall athletic performance. For example, incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and heavy resistance training helps boost your calorie burn.

    On the other hand, exercising in the fat-burning heart rate zone helps you burn fat more efficiently, supporting weight management and overall health. It’s all about finding the right balance that suits your fitness level and goals. Always remember to listen to your body and consult a fitness professional to ensure you’re exercising safely and effectively.

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Elevate Your Fat-Burning Workouts With KURU

Embracing the concept of a fat-burning heart rate zone can play a pivotal role in your weight loss journey. This zone is your sweet spot for burning fat more efficiently during workouts. It’s not always about high-intensity workouts; sometimes, it’s the slower, steady-state exercises in your fat-burning zone that can contribute significantly to your weight management.

Take note that everybody is unique, so you will need to tailor your fitness regime to meet your personal goals and health needs. A balanced workout routine that incorporates both high-intensity and fat-burning heart rate zone exercises may be your key to an optimized fitness journey and a healthier life.

To take your fat-burning to the next level, you also need proper workout shoes. Wearing supportive footwear is a crucial element to any weight loss journey. Your chosen footwear can significantly enhance your exercise experience, especially when tackling fat-burning workouts or cardio exercises.

KURU’s pioneering footwear technology provides optimal cushioning and arch support, so you can focus on reaching your target heart rate zones effectively and safely. As you transition between high-intensity workouts and steady-state exercises, your feet will appreciate the cushioning and stability that KURU shoes—such as our QUANTUM 2.0—offer. Additionally, our breathable uppers and patented heel protection allows for lasting endurance and sustainable workouts. They’re perfect for helping you achieve your fitness goals.

Good footwear can further reduce your risk of injuries, increase your performance, and significantly impact your overall workout quality. The more comfortable your feet feel, the longer you can workout without risking your health or safety. 

Gear up with the right shoes, find your fat-burning heart rate zone, and embark on a fitness journey that keeps you healthy and fit. Remember, fitness is not a destination; it’s a lifelong journey. Every step you take in your KURU shoes is a stride toward a healthier you.

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