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  1. #1
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    Weight Loss & Heart Rate Training Levels

    I recently bought a road bike in order to achieve some weight loss. Im wondering what heart rate levels people recommend for greatest success. From everything I have read people recommend exercising at at roughly 60% of your max heart rate since you burn the highest percentage of calories from fat in this "fat burning zone." I always had thought that people recommend this because you are able to sustain say, a 140bpm for a LONG time. However, if someone is able to sustain say, 170 for roughly the same amount of time, wouldn't that person burn more calories total and in turn more calories from fat?

    Im just wondering because I have exercised fairly regularly throughout my life but have always struggled to lose weight. Im sure most of this is diet related but even times when Ive really cleaned up my diet, I have still struggled to drop lbs. The only reason I can think of is that I am always working out above the "fat burning zone." I always have trained with a HR monitor just to see what my HR is and Im usually working out around 155-160bpm.

    Now the next interesting point to this is I have usually just worked out by running. Whenever I would go for runs my HR would be around the 155-160. If I tried to push a little harder and get my HR up to 170-180 I would only be able to sustain this for a few minutes. However, when Im on the bike, I can ride for 1 hour or more with my HR around 170. Im not really sure why this is.

    So 155ish is comfortable for me to workout at but I have struggled to lose weight in the past. Should I try working out at a lower HR for longer time periods, like 2 hours? Or should I try working out at the higher HR for the same amount of time as my comfortable 155ish workouts. Or the higher HR for longer time periods, like 2 hours?

    Hopefully this isn't too much gibberish and someone can figure out this novel I just wrote, lol. Thanks for the help

  2. #2
    Senior Member 3 circles's Avatar
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    A Couple Q's.

    Are you weight lifting in addition to your cardio?
    Are you still maintaining a "clean" diet?

    THis is just my .02 but you can spin your lil' heart out and unless you are lifting &/or doing interval training your body starts to plateu. You've gotta shock it so it isn't comfortable. Riding 1 hr everyday at a "comfortable" pace isn't gonna shed the pounds... you have let your HR increase and decrease instead of staying at a constant. Sprints are awesome...they spank your bottom but they definitely get the blood pumping. --

    Also, WT is huge for maintaining a metabolism boost. It's also know for burning more calories throughout the day. Plus, it will increase your performance when you ride, if you are strengthening your muscles and cross training.

    They also say diet is 80% of the equation and 20% is physical activity. -- Your diet HAS to be in check. -- Im not sure what the exact HR zone is but there is a certain zone where you just burn sugar and not fat...I think it's on the higher curve. So, you can be sweating your a** off and not see any real weight loss... Eating right, cross training, and interval work in my opinion would help your efforts significantly!

    I'm not sure if this helps, but it's just a few thoughts. -- Good Luck to you!!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3 circles View Post
    Are you weight lifting in addition to your cardio?
    Are you still maintaining a "clean" diet?
    Im not currently lifting. I had lifted off and on but recently had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Im am fully "healed" but am scared of re-injuring my shoulder. I basically have fairly good strength back in my shoulder for normal everyday activities/lifting but I have read a lot about people who have also had torn labrums and they say you should avoid any overhead or shoulder height weight lifting. This pretty much eliminates upper body lifting so I have just stayed away from lifting all together. Im afraid if I even attempted a pull up I would rip my shoulder out of its socket, lol. Maybe someone here has experience with my type of shoulder predicament and can advise on lifting.

    As far as the diet....it could def use some improvement.

  4. #4
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    OK, this is both complicated and debatable.

    If you have the time, LSD (long steady distance) riding is a good strategy for weight loss. Note that it is steady, not slow, somewhere around 60% of MHR, and goes on for a while - more than two hours per ride. At that rate I am going to be burning between 500 and 600kcal per hour, and most of that is coming directly from fat stores. The latter is important, because in my experience this means I am less likely to be starving at the end of the ride - I don't have to replenish my glycogen stores, and therefore I am less likely to succumb to uncontrolled eating.

    That this strategy works is evidenced by my experiences while touring. I'll be on the bike for about 5 or 6 hours a day at very moderate levels of effort, I'll eat as much as I want (but stick to a healthy diet - keep off the refined carbs) and lose about a kilo a week.

    However, most people don't have the time for this. They have to rack up the intensity. Riding for an hour at roughly my threshold, i.e. the maximum consistent effort I can maintain for that time, I might burn 800 kcal in that hour. That is a bigger bang for my exercise buck, but because more of the calories are coming from my glycogen stores I am more likely to feel the urge to replenish those stores. As a result, if I am exercising more intensively but for shorter periods I shall have to work much harder at maintaining discipline with regard to what I eat and drink.

    As far as riding is concerned, I'd suggest mixing it up. LSD rides some of the time,more intense stuff on other days. This is a good idea as far as training is concerned and may also help keep your metabolism from adjusting to accommodate what you are doing and "plateauing". I'd also suggest whole body exercise when you are off the bike. Forget the weights, do bodyweight squats, squat thrusts, push-ups, that sort of stuff. They are strenuous, they burn calories and build muscle, and really help with weight loss ime.

    But managing your diet is key. You'll hear a lot of people say that you can't out-train a bad diet, and they are pretty much right. If, as you say, your diet needs some improvement, that's where you need to look. If you are training hard you can eat pretty much all the meat, fish, fruit and green vegetables that you want. Bt once you start adding sugars, fries and booze to the mix it starts being very very easy to eat more than you're burning off.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  5. #5
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    Find a gym that can offer a metabolic assessment - we do ours at our Lifetime Fitness. We can do it on a treadmill, spin bike, or our own bike (so I've lugged the trainer up to the second floor along with our single bikes). $50 one-time for mask plus $95 (I think) per test, and you get a report of YOUR heart rate zones along with YOUR percentage of fat burn in each zone. I burn more fat in Z1 than any other, so I have to think about my goals very carefully. Consider also a resting metabolic assessment - this helps you determine your baseline caloric intake, so you can manage the dietary stuff around a personalized value.

  6. #6
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    Three circles is right in saying that diet is 80% and exercise is 20%. It takes a pile of miles to burn a lb of fat. I figure that it takes me at least 70 miles to burn a lb of fat and that assumes that every calorie burned is fat (and it isn't) and that I do not take in as much as 1 extra calorie as a consequence of the long ride (I do eat more when I ride distances like that). So in order to lose the weight by riding, I clearly have to ride a fair bit more than 70 miles.

    One problem I see is that people greatly over estimate the calorie burn of any exercise. They go out and do a 15 mile bike ride. Now the person feels that they can "reward" themselves for all the calories they burned by eating a mammoth hot fudge sundae.

    If you want to lose weight, you will have to pay attention to your diet. That is all there is to it. Exercise can give you an edge but that is about it.

  7. #7
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    I think chasm covered most of the relevant points. I would just add that to lose weight you need to carefully monitor your caloric intake and ensure you maintain a deficit every day.

    Regarding exercise it's best if you can be consistent and do something every day. Ideally, it would be best if you could ride 2-3 hrs every day at moderate intensity. Since most people don't have time for this you need to do what you can. If you only have an hour then it's better to ride at a higher intensity. This will burn less fat during the ride but more calories.

    Remember, at the end of the day it's 'calories in - calories out' that counts. If you happen to burn most of your fat calories during the 23 hrs you're not exercising that's fine. Also, when calculating your caloric deficit you need to periodically adjust your base number of calories as it will decrease as you lose weight.

    I think metabolic assessments are unnecessary unless you plan to go back every few months as you lose weight. It's simpler just to monitor your weight and daily caloric deficit. If you find your weight loss is plateauing then you need to adjust what you're using for your base metabolic rate and lower your intake or increase the amount of exercise.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by PatW View Post
    It takes a pile of miles to burn a lb of fat. I figure that it takes me at least 70 miles to burn a lb of fat

    One problem I see is that people greatly over estimate the calorie burn of any exercise.
    Agreed. You'd have to be riding very hard to burn 3500 Cals in 70 miles. Nearly all my workouts are between 30 and 40 Cals/mile.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by p2templin View Post
    Find a gym that can offer a metabolic assessment - we do ours at our Lifetime Fitness. We can do it on a treadmill, spin bike, or our own bike (so I've lugged the trainer up to the second floor along with our single bikes). $50 one-time for mask plus $95 (I think) per test, and you get a report of YOUR heart rate zones along with YOUR percentage of fat burn in each zone. I burn more fat in Z1 than any other, so I have to think about my goals very carefully. Consider also a resting metabolic assessment - this helps you determine your baseline caloric intake, so you can manage the dietary stuff around a personalized value.
    Ive actually already done a resting metabolic assessment as well as a metabolic assessment. Problem is, I don't really know what to do with the info. The guy I went to see basically overloaded me with tons of info and I was confused. So I have all the info available, maybe I should post it. I know what my zones are and how many calories and calories from fat I burn as well as how many calories I burn through the day based on the resting metabolic test. I was just confused if I should always go for lower hr and longer time vs a higher hr at a similar time length, maybe just a little shorter.

    Also, diet is so confusing to me. Ive tried counting calories before and just go tired of it and quit. I find it very difficult to determine how many calories are in food unless you weigh everything you put in your mouth. So I guess if I weighed everything and ate the same things everyday I could do it but Im on the go a lot so its tough for me to do this. I also get confused about the "starvation mode" and under eating.

    I basically know how many calories I should consume based on the resting metabolic test. When I was eating what I thought was that exact amount of calories to lose 1 lb a week, I wasn't losing. Then I have tried eating less, still wasn't losing weight (starvation mode?). Ive tried eating more calories and haven't gained or lost weight. I guess my body just doesn't want to give it up?

    Weight loss is just frustrating for me. I feel like if I could see ANY results, it would drive me to where I want to be. Up to this point I feel like weight loss and especially my diet is a guessing game.

  10. #10
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    OK, if counting calories is not for you, try this. Cut out bread, pasta, ice cream, soda, sugary foods and booze. Eat potatoes only in moderation - no more than two small potatoes per day. Very little cheese, unless it's cottage cheese. Then eat as much meat, fish, green vegetables and fruits as you want. But eat the fruits, don't juice them.

    If you do this and train regularly I'll pretty much guarantee you'll lose weight.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    OK, if counting calories is not for you, try this. Cut out bread, pasta, ice cream, soda, sugary foods and booze. Eat potatoes only in moderation - no more than two small potatoes per day. Very little cheese, unless it's cottage cheese. Then eat as much meat, fish, green vegetables and fruits as you want. But eat the fruits, don't juice them.

    If you do this and train regularly I'll pretty much guarantee you'll lose weight.
    This is pretty much my plan going forward. Ive never really exercised for more than 1 hour a day in the past. Im going to slowly increase my rides until I can hopefully spend 3 hours a day on the bike at a lower HR. Might be tough cause I like going fast, lol. I guess Ill have to start concentrating on racking up the hours on the bike instead of trying to rack up the mileage. Probably take me a while since Im new to biking and Im currently riding for roughly 1.5 hours, but thats my plan. Ill also probably do 1 or 2 days a week of intervals to try and mix it up a bit.

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