Medical question - High intensity workouts and Beta blockers

Hi all. I just have a quick medical question. I’m not asking for a diagnosis, and I’m not ill or anything, so I think I’m still within the rules of this forum.

The situation is this: I’m a little bit tubby but otherwise in reasonably okay shape. I want to get leaner and more muscular and I’ve embarked on a program called ‘You Are Your Own Gym’, which emphasises exercise using your own body weight (push-ups etc…).

One of the key ideas behind the work out is this: If you keep your workouts short and high intensity, you will burn more fat than if you do cardio (like jogging) at a slow and steady rate. This is supported by numerous studies in the last few years and is uncontroversial among fitness enthusiasts.

However, the intensity of a workout is, as I understand it, technically measured primarily by heart rate. As far as I know, your heart rate has to get into the 150+ range (or thereabouts), otherwise it’s not high intensity. The higher your heart rate, the more intense your exercise.

Here’s where it gets complicated. I take beta blockers for panic attacks and even when exercising my heart rate doesn’t got up past about 130-140, and I have to push it for a while to get it that high. For instance, I’ve just done one of the workouts prescribed in the ‘You Are Your Own Gym’ manual and my pulse at the end of the workout was about 120, even though I was pushing myself pretty hard.

My question is, will this program work for me as advertised? If my beta-blockers don’t let my heart rate rise all that far, is it possible for me to have a “high intensity” workout? Is it the case that the beta blockers prevent me from having a high intensity workout? Or is a heart rate of 120 intense for me, in my specific instance?

Thanks in advance.

Hm, good question. A few years ago my doctor tried to prescribe beta blockers for my panic attacks and I refused them for this reason specifically (my doctor knew about my fitness schedule and warned me that it would affect my workouts). I’m not sure what the SD is, but I would guess that since you aren’t getting in to that zone, the workouts aren’t as effective. However, being active in and of itself is beneficial, even if you don’t get in to the higher intensity zone.

I plan to ask my GP but I’m not seeing him for a couple of weeks 'cos he’s on holiday and I don’t want to see anyone else. I really hope that my medication doesn’t interfere with my workouts. The beta-blockers have been an absolute Godsend and I’m much happier than I was before I started them.

On the other hand, I’m really enjoying this new workout plan. It’s sensible, very straightforward, and best of all, very efficient. One of the reasons I find it so hard to go to the gym is because I’m perennially pushed for time due to work and other commitments. With the ‘You Are Your Own Gym’ program, I can work out in my room and feel I’m getting a challenging workout in less time than it used to take me to walk to the gym!

Unfortunately, the entire program is predicated on the workouts achieving a high intensity. If I can’t do that, then, well, I’m not really doing very much. Still, hopefully one of our resident docs can come and shed a little light on the matter. It’s very important to me.

First of all you won’t burn any more fat if you’re body doesn’t go into fat burning mode.

The extra amount of fat you burn is so small it won’t make any noticeable difference. You’ll go from 155 to 153, no one can tell the difference for one or two pounds.

Third there is no one answer for everyone, it’s different, but I will show you how to get your rate

220 beats per minute is the theoretical maximum a human heart can beat and pump blood. If you go faster than that your heart won’t pump blood correctly.

So you take your age and minus 220

So I am 46 years old. My theoretical maximum is 220-46=174

Under no circumstances should I go over 174bpm

You want to shoot for 65% to 85% of YOUR theoretical maximum

So for me:

174 X .65 = 113
174 X .85 = 148

That means I need to shoot for a heart rate between 113 and 148. I am on a beta blocker too and you still need to get THIS rate.

You need to do aerobic activity constantly. You need at least 60 minutes per day, FIVE days a week. This will strengthen your heart

You need to run till you get your second wind. Have you ever noticed you run and you feel like you’re gonna drop, then suddenly you feel OK and get what’s called “your second wind.”

That is your body switching from carb burning to fat burning. Carbs have 4 calories per gram while fat has 9 calories per gram. Obviously fat is much more effiecent as a fuel.

I have six pack abs and people always want to know how to get them. You have to run or do areobics which get your heart rate UP and KEEP IT UP for at least an hour.

You won’t be able to do this right away either. It’ll take awhile to work your way up to it. But don’t worry, it took me two years, as I had bad asthma. And now my asthma is pretty much gone.

So don’t worry about hitting a specific rate, just calculate YOUR RATE RANGE and keep it between those.

Remember you can’t spot reduce, you can control how much you weigh but you don’t control where it goes on. My weight goes right into my stomach. And the first place it goes on is that last place it comes off.

I am also assuming you have no heart issues nor any metobolic issues like diabetes or thyroid. 'Cause if you have any of that, don’t do the above without first getting an OK as you will wind up hurting yourself.

Just keep up the work and it’ll come off, but don’t be in a rush, though it seems like it, you didn’t gain that weight overnight, you won’t lose it overnight either

Good luck.

PS, I used to get bored running so I know get books on tape from my library. Not only do I work out more but I get to “read” all the books I always meant to read but didn’t have enough time.

If that’s the case, this is quite good news for me. My range is 125 and 164, and I was in the 120s after this evening’s workout.

Edit: I’ve just thought of an additional question. While my heart rate was just below my target today, I’m still starting out with this program and haven’t gotten to the really challenging workouts yet. I certainly exercised enough to break a sweat. Just out of curiosity, what is your opinion on high intensity interval training?

HIIT has been shown to increase fat loss and improve VO2 Max. It’s a great option, I use it often as a training tool. BUT, it needs to be done properly to see the full benefits. Many people don’t work hard enough during the push phase.

I should also add that I disagree with Markxxx statement that you should never exceed you Max HR. Depending on your fitness level and age, it’s perfectly fine to exceed your Max HR (as based upon 220 - age).