The Fat Burning Zone Heart Rate Calculator

So let’s do a flash back to about 5 years ago.  I’m studying to take my personal training exam and I come across a section that completely dumbfounded me. It was the fat burning zone.

The book, which was written by prestigious doctors and that such, said that to optimally burn fat you want to train the in the “fat burning zone” which is about 60-65% your maximum heart rate.  And after I read this I was like “what the frick?”

And I even remember seeing the little signs on the cardio equipment at the gym that had the same thing on them — I was confused if this was real or a fat burning zone myth?

Because when I train at only 65% of my maximum heart rate, I’ll BARELY be sweating and then when they tell me that when I work my butt off (getting up to 90% my maximum heart rate) I’m not burning as much fat?  Hogwash!

So I wanted to dig a little deeper and find out what REALLY is going on with this fat burning heart rate zone.  It turns out that it’s completely true…with a HUGE BUT.  The “but” is that even though you are burning more calories from fat as a percentage at that heart rate zone you’re actually not burning nearly as many overall calories that you would be from doing higher intensity workouts, and therefore you’ll burn more calories from fat.

This really struck me as kind of a scam because you see this weight loss heart rate zone junk thrown all over everywhere and you see people doing nothing but the elliptical at the gym with their headphones on and watching TV.  And you’re telling me they’re doing the best method for burning fat…yeah right.

Now the best way, I’ve been saying all along, is to do HIIT which stands for high intensity interval training.  You’ll burn 900% more fat (it’s science!) and you’ll keep burning fat long after you’re done working out.  It’s called EPOC, which stands for Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption which is basically the body burning calories while trying to recover from such a strenuous HIIT workout, and this NEVER happens when you do steady-state cardio.

When you’re doing HIIT training you’re going to want to have periods of high intensity and follow it with some recovery time.  Up until now I’ve only told you to do timed sets and the such but today I’m going to take it to the next level.

What I want you to now focus on is getting a heart rate monitor and doing periods of high intensity interval training until you’re heart rate reaches 90% of your maximum heart rate (MHR).  Once you reach it you’re going to want to recovery until your heart rate gets back down to 60% of your MHR.

When you’re recovering you can jog or just try to walk it off.  The lower intensity you go on the recovery period, the quicker you’ll recover.  And once your heart rate reaches 60% you can go right back to kicking your butt and going hardcore until you reach that 90% heart rate…and trust me it WON’T be easy.

The heart rate method isn’t perfect but it’s much more accurate then just doing timed sets.  Once you’ve been playing around with the HIIT heart zone training, you can get a feel for how long it takes you to recover and perform to get your targeted heart rates.  After you have determined the times you can go ahead and implement the timed sets into your workout (and not always have to use a heart rate monitor).

So how do you find out where your heart rate should be?  Funny you should ask because I created an easy to use fat burning zone heart rate calculator that I want to give to you for free.  All you need is Microsoft Excel or a similar program to use it.  Click the link below to download the calculator.

The Fat Burning Zone Heart Rate Calculator

***The Fat Burning Zone Heart Rate Calculator***

To find out your Resting Heart Rate just count how many times your heart beats for 60 seconds either first thing in the morning or after you’ve rested for a while.  Then just use the calculator and plug it in!

And to finish off, some thoughts on different styles of HIIT for you to consider.  Stay off the ellipticals and bikes (unless you have joint problems) and get to running, swimming, metabolic conditioning, boot camp workouts, weight training, bodyweight workouts and other much more effective methods.  This type of training is a heck of a lot more fun and you’ll CRAZY results when you start doing this stuff effectively.

Once you combine this training with an awesome nutrition program you’ll see those rapid fat loss results that you want.  You’ll get ripped fast and have a lean body quicker than you thought possible…not because of hype but because it’s science.

To your success,


P.S. – If you haven’t yet signed up for my free report “The Fat Loss Frog” with my 21 best fat loss strategies, be sure to enter your name and email on the form in the upper right hand corner or go ahead and click here to get it.

About The Author → Hi, I’m Josh. I’m a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist with a degree in Nutrition. I’ve spent the last 10 years in the fitness world as a trainer and coach. I wanted to create a site to be able to reach people all over the world with hopes it’ll bring inspiration to live a better life through nutrition and exercise. I believe we all are capable of becoming our best selves with the proper knowledge and action. To your health!
  • Reply tom January 17, 2012, 3:27 pm

    How long should someone actually workout doing the high intensity/recovery program you suggest? 30 minutes, 60 minutes?
    When do you run the risk of using muscle for energy needed to sustain thsi type of workout?

    • Reply Josh Schlottman January 30, 2012, 1:46 pm

      Hi Tom,

      If you’re doing it right you can get an awesome HIIT workout in 20 minutes.

  • Reply Russ Packard February 7, 2012, 5:46 pm

    Is it beneficial to do first thing in am, on an empty stomach

    • Reply Josh Schlottman February 20, 2012, 8:44 am

      Try to drink a half a protein shake 20-30 minutes before you workout is best in the mornings.

  • Reply Jamie October 15, 2012, 3:13 am

    I normally do a 35 min ses on full gradient using treadmill.
    5 min warmup
    2.5 min 4.5 mph jog mhr reaches 160
    2.5min 3.5mph walk mhr drops to 140 ish
    Repeat and drop the incline for last 3min

    I tried your method today 40 min full gradient
    5 warmup
    3 min 4.5mph jog
    Then this is where my problem started I had to drop the speed to 2.0mph for at least 5 min to get my mhr down to 65% couldn’t get it to 60%.
    Should I be trying to hit 90% in a quicker time ie 5.5mph to reach 90% quicker or should I carry on as I did this morning but increase the session time to maybe 1hour?
    41 years of age 2 stone overweight.

  • Reply Gee January 28, 2015, 10:34 pm

    Hi Josh
    If we are running on a treadmill and are doing a HIIT, how long are we suppose to stay at the 80% or 90% HRT? and How long are we suppose to stay in the 65%HR??

    • Reply Josh Schlottman May 12, 2015, 8:50 pm

      Hi Gee,

      This really depends on your current fitness level, but starting off I would stay at the higher elevated heart rate for 30 to 60 seconds and then allow your heart rate to go back down to 65% before you crank up the intensity again. Varying up your workout routines with different times in different heart rate zones is going to be key towards progressing to your goals.

  • Reply CDub May 20, 2015, 8:42 am

    Josh, I have been exercising regularly 5 days/week for 2 years now and have hit a plateau in my fat loss and wanted to try heart rate monitoring for a more effective fat burn. For someone like me, how long should the intervals of 90% and 60% be?

    • Reply Josh Schlottman May 23, 2015, 10:34 am

      Hi CDub,

      It’s hard to give you a definitive answer without knowing more information, but I would start at 30-60 seconds of 90% and then go for a 1:2 ratio for the 60%. Do this for at least 20 minutes. Then I’d gauge where your conditioning is, and then make adjustments accordingly. If not intense enough then simply go longer in the 90% zone and less in the 60% zone.

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