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What Should My Heart Rate Be While Working Out?

By Amanda Reck / April 10, 2018

Training with a heart rate monitor offers many benefits – it ensures your workouts are intense enough, that you’re taking adequate rest between exercises/circuits, helps you train in different zones of intensity, and enables you to track your fitness progress over time. Training with a heart rate monitor can help you take your fitness to a new level, but it can also be confusing territory to navigate. We answer your questions about heart rate training and more in this week’s Q&A Roundup.

  1. What should my heart rate be at when I’m working out?
  2. Some times during the month I’m hungrier than others. Why?
  3. Can I workout with lower back disc problems?
  4. Does cooking temperature affect the protein in meat?
  5. Is working out everyday bad for me?

Question #1 – What should my heart rate be at when I’m working out?

Question: Hello. First of all, thanks for your program. I just jumped into it, and we can bet that I will be one who you will be proud of. I have a question about heart rate, and don’t know where to ask it. I’m 25, so my max rate should be 195. I have been working out in the gym for last 6months, but before that I was kickboxing. I have heart monitor and the numbers are shocking. I start to feel like I’m “working out” only when my heart rate hits 170-180. I mean, if I need to be at ~75% (146bpm) heart rate, I will not sweat at all…How should I train? Should I keep my rate at those +-75%? Will my body respond to that as it should in normal circumstances? Or should I push it until I start to “feel” that I’m working out? Hope you understand what I’m asking. – Karlis
Answer: Hey Karlis, sorry for not answering this sooner! In the future, as a customer, please use our contact form here to get your questions answered typically within 24 hours => http://www.builtlean.com/contact/.

I totally understand your question, which is a very good one. First, I think wearing a heart rate monitor while you exercise is a smart idea because it can be very motivating. I only require clients over 60 years old and beginners to wear them during training sessions, but they are equally as effective for those like yourself in great shape.

As I explained in detail in my article about Max Heart Rate, there are many different ranges of max heart rate. I had one client who couldn’t get his heart rate above 150 and he was an exceptional athlete in great shape – and only 23 years old! My heart rate can go up to the high 190’s to low 200’s when I’m pushing myself to the max, so it sounds like you are more like me. The current max heart rate formula is based on statistical averages, so there are deviations from that average. The article explains this concept in more detail.
Good luck and hope that’s helpful!

Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

Question #2 – Some times during the month I’m hungrier than others. Why?

Question: A very nice article, thanks for sharing. From my own experience I know that female hormones also can trigger hunger.Some days in the month I’m hungry all the time. I do not specifically crave sweets, but it’s like my body tells me it needs more energy. And on these days this hunger is almost impossible to control. Really annoying. In a way it announces my period, often this is the first signal. And then it works as an excuse on other days as well, as I tend to think that perhaps that time of the month comes up. I’d love to get a better understanding of this phenomenon, and learn how to control this. – Maya
Answer: Estrogen is a funny hormone and can both increase hunger and increase satiety. With that said, there’s a lot going on a couple of days before the onset of the period, including increased progesterone levels. I’ve advised many women clients to eat more carbs (a total of about 150 grams a day) during that time, as neurotransmitter imbalances also tend to wreak more havoc. The hope is to stabilize serotonin levels by increasing your carb intake. If you’re hungry “all the time” then I would experiment with eating more protein and healthy fats as that should help to stabilize your blood sugar, while also doing things to decrease your cortisol levels. This includes drinking enough water, getting more sleep, taking 5 minutes of “quiet time” (better known as meditating or focusing on your breathing), and working out (but not excessively so). Hope that helps.

John ( John Leyva, CSCS, CPT)

Question #3 – Can I workout with lower back disc problems?

Question: Marc, I came across your website yesterday and was impressed to read about your program. I saw that you say you have overcome lower back issues and hoped you could elaborate. I have been battling lower back disk problems since I had surgery on a disk 8 years ago. My back has been my biggest difficulty that keeps me from working out. Whenever I run or stretch, I’m often in pain for a few days after. I am 27 and would do ANYTHING to get my body in shape and if possible eliminate these disk problems. – Jonathan
Answer: Hey Jonathan, I did overcome lower back issues, which was a difficult time in my life.

Through a combination of lack of stretching and improper hip mobility, I herniated a disk (L4-L5) in my lower back while deadlifting. I decided to get surgery. I had a microdiscectamy where they take a piece of the disk out. I was a 21 year old college athlete walking around with a cane for 2 weeks post-surgery. I wondered if I would ever be able to play sports competitively again.

To make a long story short, by focusing on correcting my weaknesses (stretching/foam rolling my quads, hips, calves etc.) and most importantly by exercising my legs with basic squat movements (exercise ball squats), lunges, and step up exercises, I was able to get my back to around 95%. For years, I had issues post surgery because I didn’t properly workout my legs, so my body was very out of balance.

First word of advice – don’t run, or stretch a certain way if it hurts your back. Secondly, if you can find a personal trainer, or physical therapist who can do a full body movement/postural assessment, that can be helpful. They can identify your areas of weakness and give you a few exercises that can help rid you of your weaknesses. Find compound leg and upper body exercises that don’t hurt your back and get stronger and better at them. In time, a combination of all the above should help you. Of course, be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes to your exercise regimen. I can write many pages on this topic, but hope that was helpful!

Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

Question #4 – Does cooking temperature affect the protein in meat?

Question: Hey BuiltLean! Thank you for putting together some great resources and guides. I have been getting great results from the tips and advice you and your team put forth. One quick question about nutrition, though. Do you know if the meat temperature (i.e. medium rare to medium well) affects the nutritional value and protein breakdown of a cut of meat? If so, which side of the spectrum is better for building muscle? – Russ
Answer: “There seems to be an inverse relationship between increased cooking temperature, and amount of soluble protein (See: Effect of Meat Temperature on Proteins, Texture, and Cook Loss for Ground Chicken Breast Patties). The amount of soluble protein lost appears to be around 10% when cooking, so not very substantial.

Kwesi (Kwesi Peters, CPT, Community Manager)

Question #5 – Is working out everyday bad for me?

Question: I was just wondering– I’ve read in many places that doing simple stuff like pull-ups and pushups everyday is bad for you, as you need time for your muscles to rest. But my friends always do full workouts everyday and they think I’m crazy by suggesting that maybe we should just workout every other day. Is working out everyday bad for you? Even if I alternate between proper workouts and just some pullups/pushups? I’d be grateful for any response. Thanks – Freddie
Answer: Whether you are doing more work than your body can handle depends on several factors including your fitness level, the intensity of the exercises, weights you use, and volume (See: Muscle Soreness). Rest is one of the most important components of a workout program. It’s when you rest that your body makes the necessary repairs to your muscles, and without adequate rest you’re just in a continual cycle of breaking down muscle tissue. It’s a good way to overtrain and lose strength. I would recommend lifting 3 (maybe 4) days per week, and doing 2-3 days of HIIT, or cross training. If your lifting sessions are intense enough, you won’t want to workout every day. Check out the free Get Lean Guide for more tips.

– Kristin (Kristin, CPT, CHC)


  • Christian says:

    I agree with the motivating factor of using a heart rate monitor. I started using one about 6 months ago, and it has given me something more tangible to work with. And the results have been amazing and I finally think that a marathon is within reach for the first time in my life.