How to Determine a Fat Burning Zone: 7 Steps (with Pictures)

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How to Determine a Fat Burning Zone: 7 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Determine a Fat Burning Zone: 7 Steps (with Pictures)

The fat burning zone is the level of activity where the body uses fat as its primary energy-producing fuel. While in the fat burning zone, about 50% of the calories burned come from fat. Exercise at a higher intensity burns only 40% of calories from fat. If your goal is to lose weight, finding and maintaining exercise in those zones is important to maximize the amount of fat you burn. Everyone's fat burning zone is different, but it's especially useful when you're trying to adjust your workout intensity based on your heart rate.


Part 1 of 2: Determining the Fat Burning Zone

Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 1
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 1

Step 1. Calculate your fat burning zone with the formula

There is a fairly simple formula for determining a person's fat burning zone. This formula is not 100% accurate, but it will give you a fairly reliable relative range.

  • First, find your maximum heart rate (MHR). The trick, subtract your age from 220 (for men) or 226 (for women). The fat burning zone is between 60%-70% of your MHR (multiply your MHR by 0.6 or 0.7).
  • For example, the MHR of a 40-year-old man is 180, and his fat burning zone is between 108-126 beats per minute (BPM).
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 2
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 2

Step 2. Purchase or use a heart rate monitor

They come in a variety of forms: watches or bracelets, chest straps, and even handles on some cardio machines. This monitoring tool can help you see your current heart rate and determine fat burning zones based on your age, height and weight.

  • You can find your fat burning zone accurately using a heart rate monitor. This is because the tool will calculate your heart rate while you exercise and use it to calculate your fat burning zone.
  • Many people use this monitoring tool for the first time and realize that so far the exercise they have done is too light. Pay close attention and challenge yourself while putting safety first.
  • Although many cardio devices (such as a treadmill or elliptical) already have a heart rate monitor, the results are not 100% accurate.
  • A heart rate monitoring device in the form of a chest strap has better accuracy than a watch or bracelet. However, they are also usually more expensive.
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 3
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 3

Step 3. Take the VO2 Max test

The VO2 max test (volume per time, oxygen, and maximum) will record the body's ability to move and use oxygen during exercise. In this test, participants walked on a treadmill or cycled and breathed on a face mask that measured oxygen and carbon dioxide levels as the heart rate increased.

  • This information can be used to determine the heart rate that burns the most fat and calories in your fat burning zone.
  • This test is considered one of the most accurate and reliable methods of measuring body fitness. This test can be done in fitness centers, laboratories, and doctors' private clinics.
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 4
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 4

Step 4. Use a speech test

This method is the most non-technical method of determining body fat burning zones. This test is done by participants talking while exercising. Based on the degree of your shortness of breath, an increase or decrease in the intensity of the exercise can be determined.

  • For example, if you are too short of breath to speak, it means that the intensity of the exercise needs to be reduced. If you can still talk easily, it means that the intensity of the exercise is still too light.
  • You should be able to say one short sentence without any problems.

Part 2 of 2: Implementing Fat Burning Zones Into Workouts

Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 5
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 5

Step 1. Include a variety of cardio exercises

Choose a combination of medium and high intensity cardio for best results, especially if you're aiming to lose weight.

  • Include moderate-intensity activity and get into the fat-burning zone for half the time of the workout. Activities that can be done for example: slow jogging, cycling or swimming,. However, this activity is different for everyone.
  • Also, choose cardio activities that fall into the high-intensity range. Even if you are outside your fat burning zone, you will burn more calories overall and your heart health will improve.
  • In general, you burn calories in a zone above the fat burning zone (aerobic/cardio zone) which is usually at high intensity. However, the total calories burned also depend on the duration of the exercise and training in the low-intensity fat-burning zone is easier to do.
  • Also, aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio each week.
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 6
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 6

Step 2. Add muscle strength training

Incorporate strength and resistance training into your weekly workout schedule. These exercises will build and tone muscles and increase the body's metabolism. Weight training is also very important to lose weight because you are required to increase muscle mass and lose fat mass.

  • Do weight training twice a week for at least 20 minutes.
  • Examples of strength training include: lifting weights, isometric exercises (push ups or pull ups), and Pilates.
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 7
Determine Your Fat Burning Zone Step 7

Step 3. Use the services of a personal trainer

If you are interested in knowing your fat burning zones and want to make the most of that information, hire a personal trainer to help you find your body fat burning zones and design an appropriate workout schedule based on the information obtained.

  • Talk to a personal trainer about your goals. Is it losing weight? Increase muscle mass? Your goals will determine the program the personal trainer designs.
  • Ask how to make the most of the fat burning zone.


  • Many health and fitness centers provide a VO2 max test. However, these tests usually come at a cost.
  • Keep in mind that although more calories are burned from fat via the fat burning zone, the total number of calories burned may be less because high-intensity exercise burns more calories overall.
  • Consider buying a heart rate monitor. Not only will this tool help you find your fat burning zones, it will also provide you with the tools and data to reach those zones with each workout.
  • Meet with a personal trainer to design the best workout schedule to reach your ultimate goal.


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