The heart of the matter |

The heart of the matter

Most of the fat stored in your body is around your belly, hips and a few other prime locations.

To use that fat for fuel, your body has to transport it through your blood stream to your muscles, where it can be burned for energy. That’s harder than it seems, because your blood is mostly water and fat is fat, which doesn’t mix well in water.

So your body wraps the fat in special proteins called triglycerides, something your doctor probably mentioned at your last check-up.

Your blood carries the triglycerides to the capillaries in your muscle cells, but your capillaries can only take a trickle of triglycerides, due to their large size.

With regular aerobic exercise, your body builds vast new networks of capillaries, and your ability to burn fat significantly increases.

These extra capillaries are one of the reasons why a fit person will burn more fat than an unfit person, even though he or she is doing the exact same exercise.

The speed at which your heart beats also determines how many calories and how much fat your body will burn. To become a better fat-burning machine, you will need to measure how fast your heart is beating, and then exercise at the most effective fat-burning heart rate.

So how do you measure your heart rate? Use a heart rate monitor, which is a simple device consisting of a strap that you wear around your chest and a watch that you wear on your wrist that displays how fast your heart is beating.

The heart rate of a person 65 years old walking at a brisk pace will be about 100 beats per minute, which is approximately 65 percent of their maximum age-predicated heart rate.

At this heart rate, the person is improving his or her health, but won’t experience significant increases in fitness or fat loss.

To really accelerate fat loss and improve fitness, our sample person would need to spend some time at a higher heart rate – say, closer to 80 percent of his maximum heart rate. This would mean doing an aerobic activity at about 124 beats per minute. (Of course, if that person had a health-related reason why more vigorous activity might not be safe, then he would want to consult his doctor.)

A heart rate monitor is the only tool that accurately measures heart rate and indicates whether you are exercising at the right level to get the results you want. Many different types of heart rate monitors are available. I recommend the less-expensive models from Polar Electro that display only heart rate and time; they generally sell for about $50.

If you want to learn how to use a heart rate monitor and how to set your zones to lose fat, build strength and improve health, then plan on attending a workshop by world-renown master athlete and author Sally Edwards.

She will be conducting a Heart Zones Foundations Workshop at Monster Gym from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27. The workshop includes Edwards’ class, your personal heart zone calculations, heart rate exercise book and heart rate monitor for $99.

Sally Edwards is a master’s record-holder in the Ironman, member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame and Western States 100-mile Run winner.

She is also one of the world’s leading experts on heart rate training and author of 22 books on training and fitness. For more information or to register, call (916) 481-7283 or visit

Mike Carville is a NASM/RKC-certified personal trainer and co-owner of South Yuba Club in Nevada City ( and Monster Gym in Grass Valley ( Contact him at

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