An increased heart rate is due to an increased demand for oxygen by the muscles.
Sweating is the body trying to cool itself by allowing water to evaporate off your skin.
That’s it. There is nothing magical about either of these processes that illicit some sort of physiological response that one would join a gym for. Let’s use fat loss as our goal for the purpose of this post because that is the goal most often associated with getting results from sweating or elevating your heart rate.
Most people would understand if I told them that sweating or increasing their heart rate by itself wouldn’t cause fat to start melting off your body (Sadly I have to say most and not all). Think about it, if a crazy old man jumped out of your closet at night and started beating you with a cane, that would probably drastically increase your heart rate. But taking a beating is probably not going into your next exercise program (Unless your Workout of the Day calls for American Gladiator Training. Wait, it’s Navy Seal Training? Wait, it’s not actually Navy Seal Training, it’s just a bunch of random exercises in a random order? You’d be safer with the old man cane beating.).
But I digress… again.
Same goes for sweating. I just broke a sweat at Chipotle because they added a little extra hot sauce to my lunch! Does that make my double chicken with guacamole burrito bowl fat loss fuel? Probably not (Although we do have to eat SOMETHING, might as well be covered in guacamole and delicious).
So what does work for fat loss? Making better eating choices. Like having a burrito bowl with half the rice instead of say, Panera Bread (Place is bad news… I’m just saying). Or eating less in conjunction with eating better foods. But I know we want to know what works for fat loss when it comes to training. Strength training is the best type of training for fat loss. Here comes the tricky part; if we’re strength training at a high level, we’re probably going to sweat and have an increased heart rate anyway.
So we have strength training which is good for fat loss which causes us to sweat and have an increased heart rate. On the other end of the spectrum we have eating spicy foods and taking a beating. Both make us sweat or pick up our heart rate, where do we draw the line to what works for fat loss and what doesn’t? If it’s purposeful exercise does it automatically make us lose fat?
No, unfortunately our bodies don’t really care what you “want” to occur, they are just reacting to what is presented to them at that moment from a purely physiological standpoint. So sweating from walking on the stairmaster isn’t helping you lose fat. You may want it have that result, but the body is sweating because it’s hot and wants to cool off; not to indicate it’s fat burning time! Yes, your heart rate is up when you push a heavy sled, yes, pushing heavy sleds helps in fat loss, but not because your heart rate is up. The relationship just doesn’t exist.
If you take anything from the post today, try to avoid training just to break a sweat or get your heart rate up. Your end goal probably isn’t to sweat a lot, so take it off your workout goals and just let it be a side effect of a real fat loss workout! Look at your goals and train the best way possible for that. Don’t worry about heart rates, sweating or “working hardcore,” just stick to what actually works.