How to find your fat burning zone

Your body’s energy source is fat.

Did you know that one pound of stored fat can provide about 3,600 calories of energy?

woman riding a spin bike

Your body will burn fat or carbohydrates for energy during physical activity, depending on how hard you’re working. Exercising at a moderate pace, with your heart rate slightly elevated, burns more calories from fat. Turn it up to a heart-pounding pace and your body eventually switches to burning more calories from carbohydrates.

Either way, your body needs to burn calories.

Calculating your fat burning heart rate zone

For most people, the heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute while at rest. Heart rate increases during exercise. The harder you exercise, the more your heart rate will increase.

When you work out in your fat-burning heart rate zone, your body taps into fat stores for energy instead of using basic sugars and carbohydrates. This leads to fat loss.

Your fat-burning heart rate is at about 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Next take 70 percent of that number to find your maximum fat-burning zone.

fat burning heart rate chart

For example, a 40-year-old woman’s maximum heart rate is 220 minus 40 — or 180 beats per minute.

To enter the fat-burning zone, she’d want her heart rate to be 70 percent of 180, which is about 126 beats per minute.

Fat-Burning Walking Workout

Aim for a speed at which you’re hustling but still able to speak in sentences (your rate of perceived exertion on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is sitting still and 10 is a full-tilt sprint, should be about 6 or 7). Depending on your fitness level, this will be somewhere between a 13- and 17-minute mile, which will keep you in the fat-burning zone.

Increase the incline of the treadmill to a point where you are not holding onto the rails or any part of the treadmill.

Walking uphill activates 25% more muscle fibers than strolling on a flat surface.

Maintain this pace until you’ve reached your time goal. However, don’t think you have to go gangbusters at first. Start at a moderate pace to warm up and increase the speed gradually until you reach the desired level.

Tools to measure heart rate

Traditional tracking

Tracking your heart rate does not require any equipment, per se. You can measure your heart rate by using your fingers to track your pulse. To do so, place your finger over a pulse point on your neck, wrist or chest.

Count your heartbeats for 60 seconds (or for 30 seconds and mulitply the number of beats by two). The number you get is your heart rate.

Use a watch or sports tracker

wrist monitor

Watches and fitness trackers have become more popular in the past few years. Many sports watches including Apple Watches and Fitbits also include wrist band monitors. One of my favorite watches is a Polar Vantage M which can be paired with a heart rate chest monitor.

One advantage of using a writst monitor over traditional tracking is that your heart rate is continuously monitored and you don’t have to stop your activities to receive a reading.

Wear a chest strap monitor

A chest strap monitors straps around your chest and records your heart rate during exercise.

Many brands have heart rate monitors that wirelessly send your heart rate to your compatible device, usually a watch, to get a more holistic view of your workout. The straps are made of a soft fabric and are adjustable to fit a variety of body sizes.

You can wear chest strap monitors during most activities including walking, running, spinning, strength training and even sometimes swimming.

Choosing a fat burning workout

The best workouts to get you into your fat-burning zone vary from person to person. The key is to monitor your heart rate during different activities to see where you land and go from there.

For fat-burning, stick with moderate activity. Some examples include slow jogging, brisk walking, water aerobics, swimming

If you can’t talk during your exercise, you’re likely working at vigorous levels. If you’re slightly out of breath, but can maintain a conversation, you’re likely working at moderate levels and in your fat-burning zone.


One key is to losing fat in your fitness journey during exercise is working in your fat burning zone. Don’t forget to mix up your workouts to include strength training and where you hit your maximum heart rate in HIIT cardio.

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