Heart Rate to Burn Fat? Not Exactly...

Have you heard about a heart rate to burn fat - the mythical "fat burning zone"? You know, work out at a lower intensity, burn more fat. It might seem like the magic bullet, but...

Today, we are going to kill one of the biggest misconceptions to hit the fat loss community... the so-called “fat loss zone.”


I read your article on interval training, but now I am even more confused. Isn’t there a fat loss zone in cardio where there is a certain heart rate to burn fat?

Jessi L.

Hey Jessi, This is a really good question, and one that confuses a lot of people.

I am going to cut right to the “heart” of this myth, and give you the straight facts on why you are going to burn fat faster by ignoring the “fat loss zone.”

Back in the dark ages of cardio, somebody, somewhere, figured out that there was a heart rate to burn fat. More specifically, at a certain heart rate, you tended to burn a great percentage of calories from fat than from glycogen (blood sugar).

Now, I want to say that one more time. At certain heart rates, you burn a greater percentage (I want to emphasize percentage one more time) of the total calories burned from fat. Percentage. Not absolute value.

This is important. Very. Very. Important.


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Let’s start here, with this foundation. Calories are what matter at the end of the day for fat loss. Eat less calories that you burn each day, and you will have less fat, and vice versa.

Now, many times, to prove a point, we have to work at the extremes of a problem. So it is with the heart rate to burn fat and the fat burning zone.

Think of the lowest intensity exercise you can do...

For me, it is sitting on the couch and watching TV. At this intensity I may burn a couple of calories, let’s call it 5 calories per hour. 100 percent of those five calories are from fat.

Big whoop that 100 percent of the calories come from fat.

Now, at the other extreme, I exercise at 70% of full capacity for 10 minutes and burn 50 calories.

If only 20 percent of those calories come from fat, that is still 10 calories from fat, plus 40 calories burned additional.

But let me remind you one more time... That calorie deficit will cause fat loss, no matter where the calories came from.

This is because, after you finish exercising and begin your rest period, you body uses mostly fat as fuel for repair (remember the example above about sitting on the couch?). As your body repairs itself and recovers, and your metabolism remains slightly elevated, you are losing fat.

Cool, ain’t it?

So, that’s why you should focus on burning more calories with something like interval training (in a shorter amount of time, I might add) rather than spending a hour on the hamster wheel treadmill concentrating on the “heart rate to burn fat

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