An ever-changing life inspired by the pneuma


Training at Your Maximum Heart Rate, Building Muscle, and Losing fat


I was just reading a friend’s blog (you know who you are!) and it occurred to me, people may wonder how I am able to gain muscle mass yet still trim my body – is it really just genetics? Or am I just doing something right? It’s simple, really, it is.

First off, everyone should know about their maximum heart and why anyone should train at their maximum heart rate. The main reason is that training at your maximum heart rate means you are in great shape. (Elite athletes can train past their maximum heart rate, but I’ll get to that in a bit). If you can train at your maximum heart rate at a regular basis, over time your body will naturally tone itself and you will not only look, but most importantly, FEEL good inside. This is the key to staying healthy your whole life (also proper diet, but will get to that in a bit too).

How does one train at their maximum heart rate? First, you need to find out what is your maximum. There are some standard calculations for this. This is a good online calculator – Once you figure out your maximum heart rate (for example, mine works out to 195), you can easily adjust the intensity of your cardio workout. Intensity of your workout is stated as a percentage of your maximum heart rate (100% being at your maximum heart rate). Your target heart rate zone is between 55% and 100% of your maximum. When exercising, it is ideal to reach this zone. Over time, you can increase the intensity of your workout until you are training at your maximum heart rate. Elites athletes can train past their maximum heart rate (over 100%) because they have trained consistently and built up to that level of training. It is highly recommended that people just starting to exercise build up gradually and not try to push their heart too much too soon (going past 100%). Here is a good article on intensity of exercise – As stated the calculations for maximum heart rate are guidelines for purposes of determining intensity of exercise, which is why elite athletes and some people can go beyond 100% of maximum heart rate. (I’m pretty sure I train at 100% or more of my maximum heart rate. An easy 10 minutes of cardio at the gym has shown me going past 195.)

Many people exercise for the wrong reasons. Many people exercise because they want to “lose weight” – bad reason. People should know that muscle weighs more than fatty tissue. So, when people lose weight, are they sure they are losing the right weight?? Often not, which is why most weight loss programs don’t work. Approaching exercise with the objective of losing weight is frankly just the wrong focus. (Throw away the scale if you have to!) Then, there are those who exercise because they want to look good, nothing terribly wrong with that. We all want to look good, but there’s a point between a normal desire to look good and narcissistic obssession. Exercise because it’s guaranteed to make you FEEL better inside and about yourself. Exercise is about health, plain and simple. Looking good just happens to come with a proper fitness regimen, like having your cake and eating it too. (Oh, and please don’t have too many of those. Bad idea, if you aren’t in top shape yet!)

So now, what should be the focus of your exercise regimen. Primarily, to stay healthy and fit. This means body toning and building up cardio, and this can be quite easy if you know what you are doing and are patient. Body toning will come naturally with a regular (try at least 3 times a week or more) intense (training at your maximum heart rate) cardio workout, a proper weight training program, and TIME (it took me about a year after surgery on my knee and physiotherapy to get back to the level I was at before I hurt it and now I’m actually stronger than I was pre-surgery). Ultimately, to get in shape and to stay in shape, one has to keep at it on a regular basis and be willing to “go hard or go home” (to be frank). Trust me this does work. Try what I suggest for a year and see what the results are, but you really have to keep it up and don’t be afraid to increase the intensity of your cardio workout when it gets too easy. A proper workout should never be TOO easy and you should always feel just slightly tired, but energized after a good workout.

Let’s get back to that issue about muscle and fat weight. As stated, muscle weighs more than fat, so when one is properly exercising and weight training chances are you won’t be losing alot of weight. In fact, you’ll gain it. BUT this is GOOD! If you’ve been doing a proper fitness regimen, you should be gaining muscle weight and dropping the fatty tissue. But there’s more to staying healthy than just exercise.

For those of you who are concerned you aren’t losing the fat and aren’t quite getting the body toning you want, you need to get beyond the exercise regimen and also look at your diet. Now, just because I said “diet”, don’t go rushing off cutting out those carbohydrates (besides I’m talking about nutrition here), you need them to help you work out, carbs help fuel your body when exercising. Here’s an article,, that confirms what I always suspected, those carbs are great for you! You do not need to eliminate carbs, just manage them. The article above suggests doing what I normally do (because I’ve been listening to my body), which is to reduce the amount of carbs on my non-exercise days and increase it on the exercise days. Alternatively, I also could have carbs the night before and then exercise the next day feeling great (this is what some taekwondo athletes do for a competition, eat carbohydrates the night before and then they are kicking at their fastest the next day). Basically, the article is stating that a low-carb diet is NOT what your body needs with exercise. “The end result (of a low-carb diet with exercise) is increased muscle fatigue, decreased muscle power, which leads to poor athletic performance.” If anything, your body will need carbohydrates (to fuel your body for exercising). After exercising, your body will need protein to help rebuild your muscles. As for fat, it’s really the saturated fat you have to worry about. Unsaturated fats don’t harm you. Regarding calories, you need those too. Remember calories are just how we measure energy. You need energy to exercise. The problem some people might be having is that the calorie intake is higher than the calorie burning, so the body starts storing the extra calories. Overall, I suggest not worrying about calories (i.e., counting them), because you will burn them if you are exercising to the point where you feel slightly tired. Besides, if you exercise regularly some calories stored up one day can be used the next day. So, what about your diet (still talking about nutrition here)? Well, for one thing, keep it balanced and make sure your body IS getting what it NEEDS. This means no eliminating of any important nutrients, especially carbohydrates and protein. The other thing to keep in mind too is to keep your diet the same, changing your diet constantly is guaranteed to confuse your body. Once you start getting balanced nutrition, maintain it – just like you maintain your exercise regimen. It’s easy, once you get used to it. Your body tells you what to eat.

Okay, so how is it that I manage to gain muscle weight and still trim my body? I exercise regularly at my maximum heart rate (or higher), follow a proper weight training routine, eat what my body tells me I need and ensure I get balanced nutrition. Perhaps a small part of it is genetics, but frankly I got the bad end of that deal because I need to take vitamins regularly to maintain my health. I just can’t eat enough in one day to ensure I get all my nutrients (my stomach is only so big).

See, I said it was simple.

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