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How Much RED Should I Aim For?

When we are talking about the "red", what are we referring to? We are referring to the heart rate zone which is going to be, 90+ percent, of one's maximum heart rate. When using the 9Round heart rate training system, it's great, because you can just follow the colors associated with your heart rate zones. When we see the color turn to red, we know that we are 90+ percent of our maximum heart rate. One important question is this, "how much red should I aim for in a given workout?" Before we get into the discussion, let's first look at the words "high-intensity." These words have become closely associated with many individuals’ workouts. And, on the surface, it almost seems to make sense; if someone works out at a high intensity, they are going to get better results. But, it's not that simple, for many reasons. When we talk about, high intensity, it's really a subjective term, and that's why there is very little accuracy when individuals talk about themselves working out at a high intensity. And that is exactly why heart rate training is such a big key to success. We have to be able to put an objective value to it, and then, we can set ourselves up for great success. It's very much like an automobile. If we are driving a car with a manual transmission, we have to pay attention to the tachometer. And in addition, each manual transmission car may have a different redline. For example, one car may redline at 6000 RPM and another may redline at, 8000 RPM. These are very important, objective values, that we must pay attention to. Because if we don't, we could blow the engine.


When we discuss how much of the red zone we should be in, the short answer is, zero. And for this discussion, we are talking about workouts for individuals that are looking to transform their body and improve overall health and fitness and improve athletic performance. This is going to cover about 99+ percent of the population. The discussion would change if we were talking about the very well-trained, efficient, light, lean, super-fit individual. But, even with this type of individual, we are still going to limit the amount of red HR zone.  No matter what our goals, building efficiency is going to be one of the main keys to success. Simply working out harder and at a higher intensity, is not going to allow an individual to achieve the results they desire; especially those looking to transform their physique and lose body fat. For discussion purposes, let's put a heart rate value to the words "high-intensity"; we will refer to this as the red zone, 90+ % of our maximum heart rate (anaerobic metabolism). The key to success, from a workout perspective, is to switch our thinking from high intensity… To smart intensity. Because when we work out smarter, not harder, we are then going to be on the right track and set the body up for the best success possible. We want to be as productive as possible during each and every workout and get the biggest return possible on our investment of workout time. This is going to be accomplished by working out smarter, not harder.


When we increase our heart rate to this level, we can minimize the workout benefits, especially from a body transformation/body fat loss perspective. When we increase the heart rates to this zone, we increase risk of injury, overtraining and delayed recovery. When we are in the red, we are much less efficient; aerobic metabolism (green and yellow-89% of max HR and under) is much more efficient as compared to anaerobic metabolism. When we drive our heart rate up to these levels, especially early in a workout, it becomes nearly impossible to keep the heart rate down throughout the rest of the workout; thereby, reducing overall workout productivity. According to Cardiologist/Electrophysiologist, Dr. Vest, "only following perceived intensity/effort is very shortsighted because we are ignoring the most important factors that affect heart rate.” Dr. Vest mentions that oxidative stress can occur in both aerobic and anaerobic states. During anaerobic metabolism, lactic acid will damage the muscles and physiologically, this is not what we were designed to do. From a fitness and athletic performance perspective, this can result in an athlete stopping completely, acidosis, acid in the blood, lactic acid in the muscles and the inability to metabolize oxygen. Working out in the proper heart rate zones (Green & Yellow HR Zones for 9Round members) of course can prevent this from occurring.


In addition, working out at 90+ % of maximum HR, especially in those deconditioned, overweight, obese, etc., can potentially increase risk of cardiac issues such as Atrial Fibrillation. Dr. Vest mentions that working out at too high of a heart rate for too long a duration is a set up for the creation of oxidative stress and free radicals which will then bring about negative physiological effects. Does the avoidance of higher heart rates have a benefit? We do not know for sure because all we have is associations. For example, if you take 10,000 individuals and have them perform regular aerobic exercise and 10,000 individuals train for marathons (high frequency of higher intensity workouts at 90+% of max HR), the result is that the marathon group is at a higher risk for Atrial Fibrillation. And again, this is not proven causation, just association.


Lastly, exercise physiologists conducting research from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins found that aerobic intensity (Green & Yellow for the 9Round Heart Rate Training System), is the key to unlock body fat loss (working out smarter, NOT harder). Exercise physiologists Shelley Keating and Dr. Nathan Johnson from the Faculty of Health Sciences reveals regular continuous aerobic exercise (Green & Yellow) yields better fat loss results than high intensity (Red) workouts for overweight people looking to shed weight and achieve a slimmer waistline. “High Intensity bursts (90+% max HR) does not have a ‘fat furnace’ effect if you carry weight around the middle.” “High Intensity workouts are not a fast track to quick fat loss if you are overweight.” “If you want to lose weight and trim your waistline, stick with aerobic (which would be the green & yellow) to shift abdominal fat and move the scales.” "High-intensity workouts are often touted as the most efficient training method, but this doesn't mean high intensity translates to fat loss if you're overweight."


In conclusion, by no means does working our smarter mean 'easier', not even close. The key is to workout smart and eat right and build an amazingly efficient, fat burning furnace. And when you do, you will find yourself working out longer, harder and faster, at the same or lower HR. And when this happens, you will find yourself at an incredibly high fitness level. You will find yourself being able to workout at a very ‘high intensity’ and still remain in the green & yellow. Are you ready to take your body composition and fitness to the highest level possible?


Workout Smart, Eat Right, Get Results™!


Dr. Rick Kattouf II

2x Best-Selling Author

9Round Nutrition Coach

Named One of America’s PremierExperts® in Nutrition & Fitness

Named One Of The World Fitness Elite® Trainers Of The Year