Fitness Blog

Fat Burning Workout VS Cardio Workout

Fat burning and cardio zones have been highlighted more than ever recently due to the growing popularity of fitness trackers. You may also have noticed the cardio and fat burning zone charts on your gym equipment.

These pieces of equipment suggest that working your heart slightly less harder, means you will burn more fat than if you work your heart hard, into the cardio zone. Fat burning is typically 55%-65% of your maximum heart rate, and cardio is 75%-85% of your maximum heart rate. This claim of fat burning is slightly misleading.


When we exercise in our fat burning zone, stored fat will be the primary energy source, thus fat burning. However, when we exercise in the cardio zone, glycogen or stored carbohydrates will be the primary energy source, therefore resulting in less fat stores being used. However, calories burned will be greater, therefore meaning more weight will be lost during a cardio workout. Calorie deficit is what we aim for when trying to lose weight. Our body needs to burn more calories than we are consuming.

In addition to burning more calories during a cardio workout, you are also likely to experience an increase in metabolism, and your body will continue to burn calories for hours after you have finished working out. Fat burning does not have the same effect.

To know which zone you are in, you will need to determine your maximum heart rate. A general formula for this is to subtract your age from 220. From here, multiply this number by .55 or .65 to get your target heart rate for fat burning. Multiply the initial result by ..75 or .85 to get your target cardio zone heart rate. Alternatively, fitness trackers and exercise equipment does a calculation for you and tells you when you are in each zone.

Ideally, to lose weight, the harder you work, the faster you will see results. HIIT and sprint intervals are great workouts to improve your fitness levels and burn the maximum amount of calories in the shortest amount of time.

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