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  1. #1
    Sasquatch Crossing mycoatl's Avatar
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    HRM for weight loss and training?

    I'm considering getting a heart rate monitor and wondered how useful it is for weight loss? My plan is to use it on workouts to do the following, and I'd like your feedback on whether an HRM is helpful for weight loss, or just a needless extra.

    I plan to use an HRM to check the following:
    (1) make sure I'm exercising in the right zone without overdoing it, and to make sure I'm pushing myself hard enough (so in terms of HRM features, I would probably use zone alarms)
    (2) use it to calculate calories burned during workouts so I can enter semi-accurate counts into myfitnesspal, where I'm tracking my food and exercise. Here's the equation I've found online:
    [(-55.0969 + (.6309 x heart rate in beats per minute) + (.1988 x weight in kilograms) + (.2017 x age)] / 4.184 multiplied by number of minutes

    With that said, if you think an HRM is worthwhile, I'd like to hear your recommendations for a decent, affordable, clyde-friendly HRM. I've searched the forums and found lots of recommendations for Garmin 305s, but frankly I don't know if I'd use enough of the features to make it worthwhile, and think I might start with something cheaper (unless you convince me it really is worth it). Ideally, I'd like to stay below $150, but I'd go higher for quality/reliability/durability/features that are truly helpful and not just superfluous. Oh, and in terms of activities, I'd be using it primarily for walking/running, cycling, and cross-training workouts, and the occasional hike or snowshoe.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I have a Garmin (Edge 800) and HRM. I don't wear the HRM very often, for a few reasons. After a while, you get a fairly good sense of how to "map" perceived effort to what zone you're in. It's obviously a lot less accurate and precise, but it's often enough to do the job. Also, a (partially) plastic strap around the chest isn't terribly comfortable. It's not too tight, it's just plastic against the skin.

    The Garmin is nice, and it can yell at you when your heart rate is too high or low, based on what zones you'd like to stay in. I wouldn't recommend limiting yourself to the fat burning zone; while more of what you burn is from fat here, I believe you burn more energy overall in aerobic and anaerobic.

    It's probably worthwhile to have an HRM. I'd suggest thinking about whether the GPS will be useful for you in the long term; it would be a bummer to invest in a cheaper HRM and decide you want GPS down the line. Personally, I find the maps I can generate later help motivate me. I've got a desktop app (SportTracks) that shoes me a map of my region, and puts a red square everywhere I've started a bike ride, hike, kayak trip, or whatever ... and watching my map fill in is nice.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mycoatl View Post
    I'm considering getting a heart rate monitor and wondered how useful it is for weight loss? My plan is to use it on workouts to do the following, and I'd like your feedback on whether an HRM is helpful for weight loss, or just a needless extra.

    I plan to use an HRM to check the following:
    (1) make sure I'm exercising in the right zone without overdoing it, and to make sure I'm pushing myself hard enough (so in terms of HRM features, I would probably use zone alarms)
    Perceived exertion can be lower than reality when you're starting an interval so you accumulate too much lactate to finish well and higher when you're not fresh so heart rate is better. It works fairly well for steady aerobic efforts although the zones need to be derived from field tests instead of formula.

    The 220 - age formula and zones based on it are completely worthless. It's an average with a standard deviation of 12 so there's only a 34% chance that a 40 year old's real maximum (180 from the formula) would be somewhere between 180 and 192, 14% for 192 to 216, and 2% for 216 to 228. In the other direction it's 34% likely to be 168-180, 14% 156-168, and 2% 144-156.

    180 could be not breaking a sweat, throwing up, or not possible unless you're having a cardiac event.

    Lactate threshold (approximately the effort you can sustain for an hour) typically varies from 80-90% of maximum heart rate but is trainable. Fractions of it (that can be sustained for longer times) also vary.

    The gold standard for calibration is the average over an all-out one hour effort although that's psychologically and logistically difficult; so the average over the last 20 minutes of a 30 minute all out effort is often used to approximate lactate heart rate and Carmichael defines zones using numbers from a test protocol involving an 8 minute effort.

    (2) use it to calculate calories burned during workouts so I can enter semi-accurate counts into myfitnesspal, where I'm tracking my food and exercise. Here's the equation I've found online:
    [(-55.0969 + (.6309 x heart rate in beats per minute) + (.1988 x weight in kilograms) + (.2017 x age)] / 4.184 multiplied by number of minutes
    Heart rate is worthless for estimating calories burned unless you can correlate it with actual measured energy expenditure.

    Your formula can over-estimate by 100% or more.

    Pulling up a power meter file for a 1:39:38 ride of which 1:28:51 actually had the wheels turning I get 833 kilojoules of energy at the rear wheel. 1 Calorie = 4.2 kilojoules, but cycling metabolic efficiency varies from 20-25% so 1kj = .95 to 1.18 C (most people just use 1kj = 1C as an approximation) for a range of 791 - 982 Calories.

    Using the time with wheels turning your formula returns 1423 Calories which is high by 45 - 79%.

    With that said, if you think an HRM is worthwhile, I'd like to hear your recommendations for a decent, affordable, clyde-friendly HRM. I've searched the forums and found lots of recommendations for Garmin 305s, but frankly I don't know if I'd use enough of the features to make it worthwhile, and think I might start with something cheaper (unless you convince me it really is worth it). Ideally, I'd like to stay below $150, but I'd go higher for quality/reliability/durability/features that are truly helpful and not just superfluous.
    Polar makes some more affordable models, but they use a 5Khz EM signal that's subject to interference from things like traffic light sensors so you're sitting at an intersection with your bike computer reporting 60 MPH and a 200 BPM heart rate.

    Garmin (and other ANT+ meters) use a coded 2.4 GHz signal which is much more robust and does not produce false readings.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 02-01-12 at 01:34 PM.

  4. #4
    Watching and waiting. jethro56's Avatar
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    I have a Garmin FR 60 it's not GPS. But it's OK for what I need. For just HRM and being able to look at it while you're exercising Polar has the market there. Don't buy any of the "strapless" ones They require you to press down on the watch while holding a button and wait awhile like 10 sec. The chest band models will be able to give continous readout and are more accurate. The calories burned feature isn't something that I'd base eating decisions on. I look at it more as a unitless number that quantifies the amount of work on does. When I first got it back in July of 2010 I was not biking yet so The number it produced I called Garmin Calories. The figure it gave me was based on a profile I entered (Age weight ...ect) and the variable was Heartrate. I used it to achieve a slowly rising Garmin Calorie number per week. So if I exercised for 3000 Garmin calories one week, my goal for the next week was 3100 Garmin calories and so on. If I did long slow walks or higher intensity elipticals at the Y the numbers would add up at different rates.

    The value of the system became better when I added cycling to the program. Now I had a bike computer on my wrist. So speed,cadence distance, HR, Garmin Calories all came into one device. Now Garmin Calories needed speed and cadence along with HR to come up with a number. I also have a Bluetooth connection to my computer where I can graph the points every 20 seconds and see if I started out with a low cadence for warmup then sped up ect. I can analized the ride to see where I did good and where I could improve.

    Are you starting to see how you could spend $70 or $700 dollars on a system. It kinda depends on how much data you can turn into information.

    Now that I'm close to my desired weight I tend to use it most of the time when I'm riding and only use it for gym workout when I want to do hard workouts and intervals. It's really useful for intervals. I can tell pretty well if I'm at 90% of max HR without it. It's going above 90 % Max when I need the feedback. The higher I go the higher the recovery to work ratio needs to be otherwise I can't finish those last intervals where the most benefit comes from.
    Last edited by jethro56; 02-01-12 at 02:10 PM.

  5. #5
    fishologist cohophysh's Avatar
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    check out the polar F series
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Seve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mycoatl View Post
    I'm considering getting a heart rate monitor and wondered how useful it is for weight loss? My plan is to use it on workouts to do the following, and I'd like your feedback on whether an HRM is helpful for weight loss, or just a needless extra.

    I plan to use an HRM to check the following:
    (1) make sure I'm exercising in the right zone without overdoing it, and to make sure I'm pushing myself hard enough (so in terms of HRM features, I would probably use zone alarms)
    (2) use it to calculate calories burned during workouts so I can enter semi-accurate counts into myfitnesspal, where I'm tracking my food and exercise. Here's the equation I've found online:
    [(-55.0969 + (.6309 x heart rate in beats per minute) + (.1988 x weight in kilograms) + (.2017 x age)] / 4.184 multiplied by number of minutes
    It can be useful, but, not an absolute necessity if weight loss is your only goal.

    If you want to measurably improve your cardio and aerobic fitness, then a HRM will be a much more useful tool. You will also build muscle, lose weight and burn calories as a side effect.

    Being active is a large and often overlooked part of weight loss and to that end a basic pedometer is an inexpensive and useful tool.

    Although you can easily measure your own heart rate, I found the use of a HRM a huge asset in measuring my activity level and intensity, which helped me both understand and plan out what I had to do improve my fitness level and lose weight.

    Browse through both Polar and Suunto (two of the more popular) with affordable options.
    http://www.suunto.com/global/en
    http://www.polar.fi/en

  7. #7
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    I find a HRM helpful to keep me working in the range I want to be.

    As an example I get my rate up and keep it up easily on the elliptical at the gym or in a spin class.
    On my real Nordic track in the garage...I find I am at the lowend or not even where I want to be so i use the HRM to push myself.
    On bike rides, I use it mostly for the avg HR as i find on my road bike I generally in the lower end of the zone I want.
    i don't bother with an HRM for swimming or commuting/utility rides.
    I divide the calories burned by 2 and figure that is close to reality.
    Last edited by squirtdad; 02-02-12 at 01:30 PM. Reason: clarrity
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  8. #8
    2nd Amendment Cyclist RichardGlover's Avatar
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    I picked up a Sigma BC1909 wireless computer for my newish bike; it comes with a chest strap heart rate monitor.

    I've discovered that the HRM is a good tool to compare yourself against... yourself. If you normally ride a particular route with an average heart rate of, say, 140, and one day your course average jumps to 160... something's not right. Maybe you're sick; maybe you've overtrained... but it's time to stop and reflect.


    I've also figured out that the recommended zone settings for my age are pretty far off. Haven't found the 'right' zone values yet; Tried getting a cardio treadmill exertion test last year; the doctor ended it before I got exhausted, and wrote down as my maximum heart rate the generic 220-age value. Not happy, but I suppose that's what you get when you and the doctor have two different goals. He figured I hit that point without getting exhausted, I was 'healthy'; I wanted to know HOW healthy. Won't give him any more of my business.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member jmccain's Avatar
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    I've had success with the Omron HR-100C Heart Rate Monitor. It's remarkably good for a very reasonable price (in my opinion).

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardGlover View Post
    I've also figured out that the recommended zone settings for my age are pretty far off. Haven't found the 'right' zone values yet; Tried getting a cardio treadmill exertion test last year; the doctor ended it before I got exhausted, and wrote down as my maximum heart rate the generic 220-age value.
    Zones based on maximum heart rate are worthless because even when you have an accurate maximum (you keep going harder until your heart rate stops increasing) sustainable intensities vary too much between individuals as a percentage of that.

    Lets assume your actual maximum heart rate is 190. 150 at 79% of that might be close to your lactate threshold and something that would be painful to sustain for an hour but possible with enough motivation or just 75% of that power which is merely a fast endurance pace that you might use for a century.

    You want to calibrate based on an effort you can sustain. Carmichael's 8 minute test protocol from _The Time Crunched Cyclist: Fit, Fast, and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week_ and Friel's average over the last 20 minutes of a 30 minute effort are reasonable and popular methods for cyclists to set heart-rate based zones.

  11. #11
    Sasquatch Crossing mycoatl's Avatar
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    Thanks for all of the excellent information and advice. My head almost exploded a few threads back, but I think I followed everyone's comments, and you've given me a lot to chew on.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Seve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
    Zones based on maximum heart rate are worthless because even when you have an accurate maximum (you keep going harder until your heart rate stops increasing) sustainable intensities vary too much between individuals as a percentage of that.
    The conclusion that heart rate zones are worthless simply does not hold up to scrutiny. However, if you mean, starting from an "assumed generic" maximum HR to determine those zones, then I agree.

    Setting that aside, knowing your HR zones are not necessary to exercise effectively. A RPE scale of 10 is more than adequate.

    To safely and accurately find out what an individual's maximum heart rate is, a properly run and medically supervised exercise stress test is required.

    From there, one's heart rate zones can be established, which provide an accurate guide for how much intensity is needed for effective exercise. Even exercise machines at your local gym have warnings to ""Consult a physician before starting an exercise program.""

    People also need to realize that their HR measurements can and do change over time due to increase fitness, age, disease, blood pressure, medication etc. and as such need to be reassessed from time to time.

    As a practical matter not everyone is going to seek out an exercise stress test so other means are available.

    e.g.
    Many HRM have self contained software that will eventually determine your max and zones based on your personal history of wearing it over a period of time. Using that in conjunction with a RPE scale of 10 will provide anyone with an adequate knowledge of their own zones for effective exercising.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seve View Post
    The conclusion that heart rate zones are worthless simply does not hold up to scrutiny.
    That's not what I said.

    Zones based on _maximum heart rate_ are worthless.

    Hop on a trainer, pedal at a comfortable 200W, and add 20W/minute until your heart rate stops increasing and they'll suck less than using some generic formula but still not be usable (but don't try this at home).

    80% of maximum heart rate could fall anywhere between a nice endurance pace (try it for a century) or lactate threshold (an hour is possible with motivation but 20 minutes at a shot with five easy minutes between efforts is a lot more pleasant)

    100% of LTHR is 100% of LTHR whether that's happening at 80% of MHR or 90% of MHR.

    Setting that aside, knowing your HR zones are not necessary to exercise effectively.
    Skipping RPE too is still going to be better than sitting on the couch.

    If you're going to go through the trouble of buying, wearing, and downloading from a heart rate monitor it makes sense to spend 1 out of the 150+ hours you'll be riding this year on approximating your LTHR (or doing the Coggan field test to arrive at its derivative zones, or finding critical power with power measurement and software/accepting that it will be close to threshold power/and approximating LTHR with an effort at critical power until heart rate stabilizes after 10-20 minutes).

    That'll let you know when it feels tough but you can dig deeper (where RPE fails) and track training stress so you know when you should.

    It doesn't help as much on the front end where RPE lags because heart rate does too (although heart rate catches up sooner).

    To safely and accurately find out what an individual's maximum heart rate is, a properly run and medically supervised exercise stress test is required.
    LTHR works better for aerobic efforts, is less stressful, and is the basis for training zones enumerated in The Cyclist's Training Bible by Joe Friel for non-power meter users.

    Many HRM have self contained software that will eventually determine your max and zones based on your personal history of wearing it over a period of time. Using that in conjunction with a RPE scale of 10 will provide anyone with an adequate knowledge of their own zones for effective exercising.
    Studies have found that people can manage their power output within about 10% without instrumentation which sounds OK until you realize that around lactate threshold that can net 46% more accumulation than you'd expect.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 02-02-12 at 03:25 AM.

  14. #14
    Commuter & cyclotourist brianogilvie's Avatar
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    Drew and others have given you a lot to think about. FWIW, I have found Joe Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible to be one of the three most useful books on training that I have found (the others being Edmund Burke and Ed Pavelka's book on long-distance cycling and Tim Noakes's Lore of Running).

    One practical suggestion: if you get a Garmin HRM or GPS/HRM, I highly recommend getting the "premium" soft strap. It's much more comfortable than the standard part plastic strap.

  15. #15
    Watching and waiting. jethro56's Avatar
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    Drew And Seve: The guy doesn't even have a HRM yet. He doesn't have any data to interpret yet. I think helping him find a useful device should be the focus here.

  16. #16
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    I have a simple Polar heart rate monitor that I bought for about $65 on Amazon. I think it is a good starter device. http://www.amazon.com/Polar-Womens-H...8190433&sr=1-1

    I am not going to be getting a power meter and haven't had a stress test for a few years. Just judging from doing some intervals with a trainer and talking to my doctor I think that the 220/age formula for maximum hear rate is pretty close for me. The monitor does help keep me in the aerobic zone as I have a tendency to go slow. But I only wear it rarely. Biking is still mostly for fun for me. I do wear it more when running because running is new to me and I have a poor feel for effort when I run.

    I don't trust the calories at all for any sort of monitor or counter. I just watch the calories in and watch my weight and get a very rough idea of how much I can eat. Which is about 300 more a day than I could allow myself a year ago. A year ago I weighed a lot more (so had more body to support) and my exercise was not aerobic, just walking and standing, but was on a 500 calorie a week deficit for weight loss. That extra 300 calories is precious to me.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Ken_onabike's Avatar
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    When I purchased my bike a couple of months ago, a HRM was a must. About 4 years ago I had a few chest pain incidents that the local GP was convinced were "extremely serious" to the point where he prescribed a nitroglycerin spay and a few other things. A subsequent myocardial perfusion scan by a Cardiologist completely refuted the original diagnosis and concluded that other guy had got it all wrong. Probably explains why the nitroglycerin spray did nothing, however this was more than a little bit scary, so I decided that if I was going to be pushing myself around on a bike it would be a good idea to know just how hard I was pushing.

    I started with a Polar CS100 which, although it worked OK had a smaller display than I really wanted so I subsequently replaced it with a Node 2 which is ANT+. It displays current, average, and maximum heart rate. While I find the current figure nice to know and always have it displayed, I find the average value much more useful as I'm finding that I can do the same ride I did a week or so ago, in about the same time, but at a lower average heart rate. It's a nice "relative progress" indicator. If I'm on the bike I use the HRM.

    I take the kCalories burned value with a grain of salt however.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jethro56 View Post
    Drew And Seve: The guy doesn't even have a HRM yet. He doesn't have any data to interpret yet. I think helping him find a useful device should be the focus here.
    I think the important point is that the 220-Age formula just doesn't work. If you're going to buy a heart rate monitor, you need to be prepared to do some research and, at the very least, complete one of the simplified field tests in order to determine your heart rate zones. From there, you have to be prepared to periodically analyze the data from the HR monitor and repeat the field test. If you're not going to do those things, the HR monitor is just wasted money.

    Having said that, I've owned several heart rate monitors (2 x Polar, 1 x PowerTap). I don't find them terribly useful, I don't use them regularly, and I wouldn't buy another. If you want to improve your training (and weight loss!), start saving for a power meter...

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