So often I see people working away on cardio machines. They spin those bikes, move those elliptical machines, and dash on those treadmills, and no doubt something is happening. But is it what they are expecting? Not all cardio workouts are created equally. And this is not by accident.
When talking about cardio we are referring to what people generally relate to toning and losing weight. However, the zone you are training in is very important. Simply chugging as fast as you can does not guarantee you will lose the most fat. In fact that can be even farther from that goal.
Zone refers to what percentage of your maximum heart rate you are working in. The higher the percentage, the more you are in the zone where you are working endurance. In those high zones you may notice your muscles burning more, tiring quicker, and you are out of breath much faster. To burn fat, you actually want to work at a lower percentage of your max heart rate.
Fat takes longer to break down than do carbs, and that is why fat burning depends more on the length of your workout, rather than maximum intensity. When lifting weights or sprinting you are generally burning carbs for energy, as they are readily available to be transferred into energy. Fat, however, must go through more stages than carbs in order to be converted to energy. That is why different zones generally produce different results.
The easiest way to find your max heart rate is as follows: 220 – age = max heart rate. So, if you were 20 years old, your max heart rate would be approximately 200. With this information you can find a chart, usually located on cardio machines in gyms, to figure where your heart rate should be to reach your personal goals.
If your goal is to burn fat, you will want to move slower, and work longer than the person who is training for endurance. Keeping with the age of 20, to burn fat you want to stay between 60-69% of your maximum heart rate, meaning your heart rate would be between 120-138. If you were going for endurance you could go between 70-79%. Between 80-89% could be considered almost a strength workout as you will be close to working anaerobically. Also, keep in mind that it is generally accepted that getting in the fat burning zone takes at least 20 minutes, though there have been those who have suggested the length to be 15 minutes.
It has been proven that cardio training has many benefits for anyone seeking a fit body and healthy lifestyle. But what many people do not understand is that there are different benefits associated with each heart rate zone during training. Remember that endurance is best advanced at a higher heart rate, while fat burning begins after the 20 minute mark of a work out at a lower heart rate. Each zone is characterized by a percentage of one’s max heart rate, and that max heart rate is based on an equation which takes in to account the person’s age. To get fit, get informed and strive for a healthier you.