Best Heart Rate For Burning Fat: The Truth Of Fat-Burning Heart Rate In 2024

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Reviewed by Maya Frankfurt, PhD
best heart rate for burning fat
Find your best heart rate for burning fat and getting fit. Photo: Petrovich Nataliya/Shutterstock

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Obesity is a growing global health problem that affects approximately 2 billion adults[1] worldwide. Many of us need to lose weight to live long, fulfilling lives, and the best way to do this is with healthy eating and physical activity.

However, this is often easier said than done. Even if your busy schedule allows for gym time, lots of people are confused about what sort of exercise they should be doing. Low intensity exercise is the best place to start for people new to the gym, but can you lose weight with gentle workouts? What is the best heart rate for burning fat, and which exercises can get you to that fat burning zone?

What Is The Best Heart Rate For Burning Fat?

For most people, the best heart rate for burning fat is between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate. You can achieve this with moderate intensity exercise and should aim to maintain this heart rate for at least 30 minutes.

If you can tolerate more vigorous exercise, your target heart rate zone may be as high as between 77% and 93% of your maximum heart rate. Athletic individuals can maintain this heart rate for 45 – 60 minutes.

What Is The Best Heart Rate To Burn Fat?

best heart rate for burning fat
Find your optimal heart rate for burning fat. Photo: Aleksey Boyko/Shutterstock

If you want to lose weight and reduce your body fat percentage, exercise is the way to go. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and works out your muscles. Regular physical activity[2] can strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your brain health, help you maintain a healthy weight, and reduce your risk of a variety of diseases.

The health benefits of exercise are obvious, but figuring out an exercise routine can be daunting, especially if you don’t usually work out. For people with low fitness levels, gentle exercise, like yoga, pilates, or walking, is the best place to start.

Lower intensity exercise can help to boost muscle strength,[3] balance and flexibility, and mood. As your fitness level improves, you can move on to moderate intensity exercises and, eventually, higher intensity workouts.

Moderate and high intensity cardio exercises[2] are the most effective way to raise your heart rate, burn calories, and reduce body fat. Any activity that raises your heart rate benefits your cardiovascular system and reduces your risk[4] of heart disease and high blood pressure. Increasing exercise intensity also burns more calories and pushes your body into the best heart rate zone for burning fat.

Once in the fat burning zone, your body starts to break down stored fat as a fuel source which, over time, will reduce your overall body fat percentage. There is no ideal heart rate zone that suits everybody, as the fat burning heart rate depends heavily on a person’s age and fit. Read on to learn the ideal heart rate for fat burn and how high intensity workouts can help you reach your ideal body weight.

The Link Between Heart Rate And Fat Loss

Aerobic exercise is an effective way to burn fat, but how does reaching your maximum heart rate burn more calories? Your body uses calories constantly, even when you sleep. Every biological process in your body, from breathing to digestion, requires energy.

This energy comes from nutrients in our diet, which are broken down by individual body cells in a process called aerobic respiration. Aerobic respiration requires oxygen, which travels to every cell in your body via the bloodstream. As your heart rate and blood flow increase, your body consumes more oxygen and, therefore, burns more calories.[5]

High intensity workouts are particularly effective for increasing heart rate and losing weight, but what is the ideal fat burning heart rate zone? You may not need to reach your maximum heart rate to deplete your body’s fat stores. The best heart rate for burning fat can vary significantly from person to person, and so identifying your target heart rate zone is the first step toward an efficient and effective workout.

Find Your Fat-Burning Zone

High intensity interval training  or, HIIT  is thought to be the most effective type of physical activity for burning both visceral and subcutaneous fat. HIIT workouts rapidly increase heart rate[6] and burn more calories than other forms of cardio, making them ideal for weight loss.

There is a clear link between exercise that increases heart rate and weight loss, but you don’t need to reach your maximum heart rate to lose fat. You can push your heart rate to its upper limit with very high intensity exercise. However, this level of physical exertion is exhausting,[7] and most people can only sustain their maximum heart rate for a minute or two.

The best way to improve your fitness levels and burn fat is by gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts. Many people can enter their fat burning zone with moderate intensity exercises, though more athletic individuals may need to work harder to raise their heart rate. To learn your optimal exercise levels for fat loss, you first need to calculate your best heart rate for fat burn.

How To Calculate Fat-Burning Heart Rate

best heart rate for burning fat
How to find your fat-burning heart rate zone. Photo: BongkarnGraphic/Shutterstock

The most efficient way to lose weight is to identify your ideal fat burning heart rate zone. This is the level of physical activity at which your body starts to break down body fat[8] for fuel and is the most efficient type of exercise for sustained weight loss.

The first step to finding your fat burning heart rate zone is to calculate your maximum heart rate. To do this,[9] simply subtract your age from 220. This number is how many times your heart beats per minute at its maximum rate. To find your target heart rate zone for fat burning, first multiply this number by 0.5 and then by 0.85. These two values are the lower and upper limits of your ideal heart rate zone for fat loss.

Your target heart rate zone for moderate physical activity should be between 64% and 76%[10] of your maximum heart rate. If you are fit enough for a high intensity workout, your target heart rate should be between 77% and 93% of your maximum heart rate.

Fitness tracking devices allow you to monitor your heart rate during a workout and can help you reach your desired heart rate zone. This is a convenient way to determine whether you are exercising hard enough to burn fat, or if you need to increase the intensity of your workout.

Another benefit of wearable fitness trackers is that they can motivate users to meet their exercise goals.[11] This is because they allow people to track their physical activity on a day-to-day basis and function as a constant reminder of their health goals, which can help individuals stay on track with their weight loss journey.

How Much Should You Exercise to Burn Fat?

The most effective way to shed excess body fat is with moderate or intense physical activity, but how much should you do to see results? Adults should aim for 150 minutes per week[12] (or 30 minutes per day, five days a week) of moderate intensity exercise to stay fit and healthy. However, if you want to burn fat quickly, you may need to work out more than this.

One study[13] found that 200 – 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise was necessary for long-term weight loss in obese individuals. This amount of physical activity can burn between 2000 and 2800 calories per week, leading to sustained weight loss. If you have a lot of weight to lose and struggle to find motivation for the gym, hiring a certified personal trainer can help you to stay on track with your fitness goals.

Can You Burn Fat With Exercise Alone?

Regular exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, but diet is just as important when it comes to weight loss. Even if you exercise daily, you won’t get slimmer unless your body is in a calorie deficit[14] and you are burning more calories than you eat[14] per day. Many people need to reduce their food intake or change their diet to achieve a calorie deficit.

The easiest way to reduce your calorie intake is to eliminate ultra-processed foods from your diet. Processed foods have little nutritional value[15] and are typically high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat. They usually contain significantly more calories than non-processed foods, and so regularly snacking on junk food can contribute to weight gain whether you work out or not.

A diet that consists mainly of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats is the most conducive for weight loss. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant-based foods, is widely considered the gold standard of healthy eating. Studies have found[16] that sticking to a Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and dementia while helping you to maintain a healthy weight.

Dietary supplements containing green tea extract may also be effective fat burners. Research has found[17] that the active ingredients in green tea can promote weight loss and, when combined with exercise and a healthy diet, may help you to lose weight faster.

Other Effective Ways To Lose Fat

Diet and exercise are reliable ways to reduce your body fat percentage, but some types of body fat are harder to shift than others. For example, fat stored under the chin, in the upper pubic area, and around the hips is often persistent and difficult to target with exercise. If you want to lose fat rapidly from a specific body part, you may consider cosmetic procedures like cryolipolysis (fat freezing) and lipolysis (fat-dissolving injections).

Cryolipolysis is a non-invasive cosmetic technique in which a device is used to apply extreme cold to the skin over fatty areas of the body. The cold destroys fat cells under the skin and can effectively reduce fatty tissue[18] in specific body parts. Many people opt for cryolipolysis as a way to remove stubborn fat pockets, such as double chins.

Lipolysis is another cosmetic procedure that rapidly removes fatty tissue from target areas by destroying fat cells. During a lipolysis treatment, a doctor injects deoxycholic acid[19] under the skin to destroy and remove fat fatty tissue from the area. Both cryolipolysis and lipolysis treatments can visibly reduce fatty bulges in a matter of weeks and may be the best option for people who want to spot reduce fat fast.

Conclusion

Frequent exercise combined with a low calorie diet is the most efficient way to lose weight. If you don’t usually work out, lower intensity exercises can increase your stamina and strength until you are ready to increase your exercise intensity.

Aerobic activity that raises your heart rate is best for fat burning, but the optimal heart rate for fat burn varies between individuals. For most people, the fat burning heart rate zone is between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate. If you are already fit and can tolerate high intensity exercise, your target heart rate is between 77% and 93% of your maximum heart rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which heart rate zone burns the most fat?

Your ideal fat burning heart rate zone depends on your age and current level of fitness. For moderate exercise intensity, you should aim to raise your heart rate to between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate.

Is fat-burning heart rate effective?

As your heart rate increases, so does your body’s consumption of oxygen and calories. Regularly exercising your way into a fat burning heart rate zone can effectively reduce your body’s fat stores.

How long should I be in the fat burning zone?

You should aim to maintain a fat burning heart rate zone for at least 30 minutes per workout session. If you are fit enough to tolerate longer, more intense bouts of exercise, you can increase this to 45-60 minutes.

Does a higher heart rate burn more fat?

Vigorous exercise significantly raises your heart rate. A higher heart rate during aerobic activity indicates that your body is using more energy and, therefore, burning more fat.

+ 19 Sources

EHproject has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We work mostly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure accurate information. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate is an experienced science writer with a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a background in medical research. Her mission is to help scientists and healthcare providers communicate the value of their findings, products and services… See More