What’s great about Aerobic exercise is that it helps you burn fat the 23 hours you aren’t exercising. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they walk, jog, bike, hike, swim, dance too fast for their level of aerobic conditioning. This takes them out of their fat-burning zone and is counter-productive to your health and fitness goals.
When you train above your aerobic threshold or fat-burning zone, as it is also called, your metabolism shifts and instead of burning fats, you burn carbohydrates. What’s worse, if you don’t have enough carbs in you to get you through your workout, you burn proteins (lean muscle).
The last thing you want to do when you exercise is burn lean muscle! Can you say cellulite?
Aerobic means with oxygen – and if there is No oxygen, you Can’t Burn Fat. So, if your easy aerobic workout has you gasping for air, where you can’t carry a normal conversation, you’re probably above your aerobic threshold and Not Burning Fats. Aerobic exercise is low intensity, long duration, something you can do for hours.
Finding Your Fat-Burning Zone
Yes, it’s true, you can burn fat – as long as you keep your heart rate below 80-85% of your maximum heart rate. Unfortunately, that simple law applies to everyone! The BIG Takeaway here is that ONLY well-conditioned, elite marathoners and triathletes can train at 80% of their maximum heart rate and still be aerobic and burning fats.
If you’re not that elite endurance athlete, and you’re training at 80% max heart rate,your Not Burning Fats and you’re working your Anaerobic system. You would do better by keeping your heart rate closer to 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate to reap those aerobic, fat-burning benefits.
Think of having an 80% aerobic capacity like having 20-inch biceps. It takes lots of time and proper training to make either one happen.
DIY Test for Your Aerobic System
Here’s a simple Do-It-Yourself test to see if you might be training too fast and Not in your Fat Burning Zone?
First, you need to figure your maximum heart rate. A good starting point is to Subtract your age from 220 (220 – age = Max HR).
Let’s say you’re 40 years old. Your Max Heart rate is 180 beats per minute (220 – 40 = 180 bpm). Yes, there are variable to consider, but in general terms, this is fairly accurate and used in all diagnostics and fitness computations.
Now determine what 80, 70, and 60 percent of your max heart rate is to find your Fat-burning zone (aerobic threshold):
80% of 180, is 144 bpm (180 x .80 = 144)
70% of 180 is 126 bpm (180 x .70 = 126)
Next, you need a heart rate monitor so you can go on a Brisk 5-minute walk and track your heart rate. No jogging, just a brisk walk for 5-minutes.
Check your heart rate after a few minutes of walking, what is it?
How fast was your heart beating when you were simply walking? If your heart rate was below 60% of your max heart rate, that is a good sign that your aerobic capacity is fairly normal. If however, your heart rate was around 70-75% and You Were Just Walking – How High do you think it will go when you start jogging?
Think of it this way – was you little heart muscle beating at 75% of it’s Max, while your leg muscles were only pumping at 30-40% of their Max? If so, you definitely need to be training slower so you can reap those aerobic benefits.
Yes, it’s OK to train above your aerobic threshold, if it’s Intentional and you’re looking for that testosterone hit, which makes it an anaerobic workout. Just remember, aerobic exercise is easy, long duration, sometimes boring and stress reducing.
Reverse Engineering to Find Your Fat-Burning Zone
If ONLY elite endurance athletes can train at 80% of their max heart rate and be aerobic, where should you train?
- If you’re normal weight and do regular aerobic training, and your heart rate was around 60% of your max when you did the 5-minute walk test, you can probably train aerobically at 70-75% of your max heart rate.
- But if you’re 20 pounds overweight, and your heart rate was above 70% in the 5-minute walk test, your aerobic threshold might be closer to 65-70% of your max heart rate.
- If you’re 40 pounds or more overweight, don’t get much aerobic exercise, maybe 60-65% of your max heart rate is where you need to start.
Bodyweight is not the only variable in determining your aerobic threshold. You also need to consider your training history and if you were training aerobically.
Looking fit and ripped and being aerobically fit are two different things! You could have 7% body fat, but that doesn’t automatically means you can do aerobic exercise at 80% of your max rate. There are a lot of people who are that lean because of diet and/or weight training.
The Last Word…I hope that gives you some insight into what it means to Training Smart. We didn’t even touch on how stress and cortisol come into the picture when you train above your Fat-Burning zone. And how that also effects your metabolism and your overall health.
Good luck with your DIY Fitness Test. Let us know what you discover.