Learning how to monitor and maintain your heart rate is a valuable training tool to have regardless of the sport or activity. Heart rate training will help you build a healthy cardiovascular system that allows you to increase your workload in other activities such as running, weight training, and other competitive sports.
It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie to the gym trying to lose weight, or a seasoned athlete looking to take your physical conditioning to the next level, heart rate training is for everyone. The crux of heart rate training is to find your correct HR (Heart Rate) training zone that allows you to progress toward achieving your goals.
Here Are Seven Steps You Can Take to Find Your Optimal Heart Rate Zone
#1 Calculate Your Resting Heart Rate
Take your pulse when you wake up and note the reading for three days in a row, take the average of the three readings and this will be your resting HR.
#2 Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate
Use this calculation to find your maximum heart rate;
- Subtract your age from 220; this will give you your maximum heartbeats per second.
- If you are unfit, subtract 15 bpm from your calculation.
- If you are very fit, add 10bpm instead.
Another option for measuring your HR is to visit the clinic and have a physician perform a cardiovascular stress test on your heart.
#3 Heart-Rate Reserve
Subtract the resting HR from the maximum HR to find your HR reserve. For example, a person who is 40 years old should subtract 40 from 220 (180 max HR) then subtract 80 from 180, and their HR reserve is 100 bpm.
#4 Zone 1 – Aerobic Training HR Range for Fat Burning
The best HR range for burning more fat cells compared to stored carbohydrates is between 66% and 75% of your HR max. Take your HR reserve, which is 100 in our example above, and find out what 66% and 75% is of that. Take your results and add your resting heart rate back in and you have your target heart rate range, like this (100×0.66)+80 =146 for 66% and (100×0.75)+80 =155 for 75%. Therefore in our example, the best HR range for burning fat over carbohydrates would be between 146 and 155 bpm.
#5 Zone 2 – Aerobic and Anaerobic Training HR for Fitness
For burning more fat calories overall, as well as fitness and cardiovascular conditioning, you’ll require a range of between 76% and 85% of your HR reserve before adding back in your resting heart rate. In our example this would look like this, (100×0.76)+80 =156 for 76% and (100×0.85)+80 =165 for 85%. This is the best HR range for general fitness training and suits those who want to both burn extra fat and increase their fitness level for general health benefits.
This HR range is close to the upper-limit of aerobic exercise, just before exhaustive work.
#6 Zone 3 – Anaerobic Threshold HR Range
This kind of training suits competitive athletes and sports trainees that are looking to increase work rate and explosiveness. Because your heart rate is so high, between 85 and 95% of your HR max to be precise, you can burn more calories from fat overall, however, this isn’t sustainable for long periods.
If you’ve been training in zone 1 and zone 2 you can incorporate 1-minute intervals of zone 3 into your cardio training before letting your heart recover back to zone 2 or 1.
#7 Anaerobic Training HR Range
Anything above 95% of your HR max is considered the upper-limit of cardiovascular training capacity. This type of training suits intervals only as the exercise becomes purely anaerobic and very exhausting. Exercising for too long at this range is counterproductive and can result in injury.
How to Track Your Heart Rate with a Heart Rate Monitor
There are plenty of heart rate monitors on the market that not only track your heart in real time, they also help create data analytics to help you keep track of trends in your heart rate.
These heart rate monitors are typically attached to a wristlet or anklet with the option of syncing to smart devices for ease of use. Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch, Polar, and Mio are just a few brands that have heart monitor devices.
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Eating an Optimal Diet for Heart Health
If you want to improve the longevity of your cardiovascular system, you will need to pay close attention to your diet. The food we eat plays a significant role in the development and maintenance of our heart.
Choosing the right foods and ensuring that you eat a heart-healthy diet will ensure that you get the most out of your workouts. Here are some diet tips you can add to your daily routine to keep your heart happy and healthy.
Are Carbs the Enemy? It Depends
Eating too many refined carbohydrates is detrimental to your health. Research has shown that the consumption of processed carbs like sugar and flour create a myriad of health problems. Processed carbohydrates rapidly increase blood sugar levels and increase the production of bad cholesterol (LDL).
Many, even semi-processed, carbohydrates also create inflammation in the walls of the digestive tract.
This inflammation affects the health of the gut biomes living in your GI tract. The inflamed intestinal environment disrupts the biomes ability to assimilate nutrients from food. This inflammation spreads to every other biological system in the body, including the cardiovascular system where it presents symptoms of hypertension.
The best approach for optimal heart health is to eliminate processed carbs as well as other processed foods from your diet and replace them with nutrient-dense sources of fat.
The Benefits of a High-fat Diet for the Heart
Going carb-free for a period of time will dramatically improve your health. Without carbs in your diet, your body changes its fuel source from glycogen to ketones. In the absence of glycogen, the liver produces ketones in a metabolic process known as ketosis.
Eating a ketogenic diet will improve cholesterol balance by increasing the production of HDL and reducing total triglycerides in the blood. Eating foods rich in fat sources with zero carbs will lower your fasted blood sugar levels and helps overcome any feelings of anxiety or hypertension.
Fat stores in the body and dietary fat sources fuel ketone production in the liver. Therefore, if you couple a ketogenic diet with a caloric deficit, you will burn body fat at a faster rate than with carbs.
The right approach to training and diet makes it possible to master control of your heart rate. Use these tips and log your results. Remember to adjust your training strategy after a few weeks to increase the work capacity of your cardiovascular system and keep the progress moving forward.