Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Exercise, Fitness and Health, Issues

Getting The Most Out Of Your Exercise

Author: Dr. Pierre DuBois

treadmill-heart-rate-200-300Finding the body’s target heart rate (THR) is essential for those interested in maximizing the effectiveness of their workouts and training programs and reducing the risk of overexertion.

The Simple Method For Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

There is an easy method for determining your THR: Start by subtracting your age from 220 (226 for women); this will provide your estimated maximum heart rate (MHR). Multiply your MHR by the percentages listed for the appropriate exercise zone from the list below.

  • Healthy Heart – For low-intensity exercises and warm ups. The THR for this zone is 50%-60% of the MHR.
  • Fitness – For more intense but generally low to moderate effort exercises. The THR for this zone is 60%-70% of the MHR.
  • Aerobic – This zone helps build endurance and increases the strength and size of your heart. It also improves your cardiovascular and respiratory system. The THR for this zone is 70%-80% of the MHR.
  • Anaerobic – For performance training. This zone increases the amount of oxygen you can consume during physical exertion. The THR for this zone is 80%-90% of the MHR.
  • Red Line – For maximum intensity exercises that burn the most calories. The THR for this zone is 90%-100% of the MHR. This level should only be attempted by those in excellent shape who have been cleared by a physician or qualified medical examiner.

So, for example, a 40-year-old woman who wishes to find her THR for a fitness zone program would use the following equation: (226 – 40) X 60% = 111 (low end) and (226 – 40) X 70% = 130 (high end). Therefore, as long as she maintains her heart rate between 111 beats per minute (bpm) and 130 bpm, the woman is at the proper target heart rate for maximum exercise efficiency and safety.

A More Accurate Method

A more accurate method for determining your THR is the Karvonen formula, but this requires that you determine your resting heart rate (RHR) and your heart rate reserve (HRR). Measure your resting pulse (your heart rate just as you wake up) three mornings in a row. Your RHR is the average of these three readings (add the readings and divide by three). Your HRR is your MHR minus your RHR. Once you have calculated your HRR, multiply it by the percentages for the zone you want to target for and add the RHR. The equations are as follows:

MHR = 220 (or 226 for women) – age (in years)
RHR = average resting heart rate (average of 3 readings)
HRR = MHR – RHR
THR = (HRR * target zone percentage) + RHR

So for our hypothetical 40-year-old woman targeting a fitness zone…

MHR = 226 – 40 = 186.
RHR = (64 + 62 + 63)/3 = 63
HRR = 186 – 63 = 123
THR = (123 * 60%) + 63 = 137 (for the low end) and (123 * 70%) + 63 = 149 (for the high end)

If you have any doubts or questions about the proper method for determining your THR, ask your chiropractor, physical therapist or doctor for help.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Comments (3)

  • Cindy H

    |

    Thank you for posting this. Very valuable information as I am approaching training for a challenging fitness goal. Thank you!

    Reply

  • Teresa R.

    |

    Dr. Dubois, is one of these zones best for burning fat? Seems like a few years ago we were being encouraged to exercise in one of the less intense zones in order to burn more fat. Should we do that or simply try to burn the most calories we can during our workout? Thanks.

    -Teresa

    Reply

    • sysadmin_htftp

      |

      Dear Teresa,
      To keep things simple, it is important to understand that during exercise your body gets energy from primarily two places: fat stores, or glycogen stores. Glycogen is stored carbohydrates in your muscles and liver, and fat in the fatty cells. At lower exercise intensity (50% max HR), more fat is burned relative to glycogen(50%Max HR=605fat/40% Glycogen, 75%max HR, 35%fat/65%glycogen and so on).

      Studies showed that for a 30 minutes low vs high intensity work out, the total calories burnt are 200 for a low intensity group, vs 400 for a high intensity group. But out of the 200 cal of the low intensity, 120 were from fat and 80 from glycogen, and out of 400 cal of the high intensity group, 140 were from fat, and 260 from glycogen.

      You can immediately see that increasing from 50 to 75% of the max HR only increase the fat mobilization by 20 cal, which is not very efficient. Furthermore, when somebody starts exercising and is not used to it, pushing them rapidly into the 75-80% MHR will have them crash early. They will stop the exercise before the 30 mins. and therefore end up burning even less fat.

      But as their fitness level increases, it is in my opinion a good idea to go into higher % of the MHR because of the following reason: If you exercise at a 50% MHR, when you stop it is the end of it. If you exercise at a higher level, there is a metabolic disturbance that burns calories after the workout is completed: it is the after burn effect (exercise speeds up the metabolism and keeps that accelerated rate going even after you’ve completed your routine. This “after-burn” effect can last from 15 minutes to 48 hours, depending on how hard you exercise).

      To conclude, there is no “one size fits all” way to look at it. But based on the science we have on hand, we want to try to exercise as hard as we can for as long as possible without hurting ourselves. But the work out must be increased gradually in time and intensity, and associated with a well organized recovery time to insure the capacity to burn fat for a long time.

      Probably a lot more than what you hoped for…but as you know very little is black or white.

      Have a great day,

      Pierre

      Reply

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High Protein Diets and Weight Loss

Posted October 16, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do High Protein Diets Reduce Fat And Preserve Muscle?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Healthy Diet food group, proteins, include meat (chicken or turkAre high protein diets your secret to healthy weight loss? There are lots of diets out there – high fat, low fat, Paleolithic, blood type, exotic juices, magic pills and potions. But recently, high protein diets are getting a lot of press. The word is that they preserve muscle mass and preferentially decrease fat mass.

If high protein diets actually did that, it would be huge because:

  • It’s the fat – not the pounds – that causes most of the health problems.
  • Muscle burns more calories than fat, so preserving muscle mass helps keep your metabolic rate high without dangerous herbs or stimulants – and keeping your metabolic rate high helps prevent both the plateau and yo-yo (weight regain) characteristic of so many diets.
  • When you lose fat and retain muscle you are reshaping your body – and that’s why most people are dieting to begin with.

So let’s look more carefully at the recent study that has been generating all the headlines (Pasiakos et al, The FASEB Journal, 27: 3837-3847, 2013).

The Study Design:

This was a randomized control study with 39 young (21), healthy and fit men and women who were only borderline overweight (BMI = 25). These volunteers were put on a 21 day weight loss program in which calories were reduced by 30% and exercise was increased by 10%. They were divided into 3 groups:

  • One group was assigned a diet containing the RDA for protein (about 14% of calories in this study design).
  • The second group’s diet contained 2X the RDA for protein (28% of calories)
  • The third group’s diet contained 3X the RDA for protein (42% of calories)

In the RDA protein group carbohydrate was 56% of calories, and fat was 30% of calories. In the other two groups the carbohydrate and fat content of the diets was decreased proportionally.

Feet_On_ScaleWhat Did The Study Show?

  • Weight loss (7 pounds in 21 days) was the same on all 3 diets.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused almost 2X more fat loss (5 pounds versus 2.8 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused 2X less muscle loss (2.1 pounds versus 4.2 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • In case you didn’t notice, there was no difference in overall results between the 28% (2X the RDA) and 42% (3X the RDA) diets.

Pros And Cons Of The Study:

  • The con is fairly obvious. The participants in this study were all young, healthy and were not seriously overweight. If this were the only study of this type one might seriously question whether the results were applicable to middle aged, overweight coach potatoes. However, there have been several other studies with older, more overweight volunteers that have come to the same conclusion – namely that high protein diets preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss.
  • The value of this study is that it defines for the first time the upper limit for how much protein is required to preserve muscle mass in a weight loss regimen. 28% of calories is sufficient, and there appear to be no benefit from increasing protein further. I would add the caveat that there are studies suggesting that protein requirements for preserving muscle mass may be greater in adults 50 and older.

The Bottom Line:

1)    Forget the high fat diets, low fat diets, pills and potions. High protein diets (~2X the RDA or 28% of calories) do appear to be the safest, most effective way to preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss in a weight loss regimen.

2)     That’s not a lot of protein, by the way. The average American consumes almost 2X the RDA for protein on a daily basis. However, it is significantly more protein than the average American consumes when they are trying to lose weight. Salads and carrot sticks are great diet foods, but they don’t contain much protein.

3)     Higher protein intake does not appear to offer any additional benefit – at least in young adults.

4)     Not all high protein diets are created equal. What some people call high protein diets are laden with saturated fats or devoid of carbohydrate. The diet in this study, which is what I recommend, had 43% healthy carbohydrates and 30% healthy fats.

5)    These diets were designed to give 7 pounds of weight loss in 21 days – which is what the experts recommend. There are diets out there promising faster weight loss but they severely restrict calories and/or rely heavily on stimulants, they do not preserve muscle mass, and they often are not safe. In addition they are usually temporary.  I do not recommend them.

6)    This level of protein intake is safe for almost everyone. The major exception would be people with kidney disease, who should always check with their doctor before increasing protein intake. The only other caveat is that protein metabolism creates a lot of nitrogenous waste, so you should drink plenty of water to flush that waste out of your system. But, water is always a good idea.

7)     The high protein diets minimized, but did not completely prevent, muscle loss. Other studies suggest that adding the amino acid leucine to a high protein diet can give 100% retention of muscle mass in a weight loss regimen – but that’s another story for another day.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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