Cardio for fat loss
Steady state or high intensity?
What is cardio?
Cardio is an abbreviation for cardiovascular exercise, which by definition is ‘any activity that increases heart rate and respiration while using large muscle groups repetitively and rhythmically’. Broadly used across all forms of exercise and sports formats, cardio can be a useful tool for many people with different goals. Today we are going to concentrate on using cardio for FAT LOSS.
Cardio comes in different forms which are generally labelled as either LISS (low intensity steady state) or HIIT (high intensity interval training) which has caused a huge debate and divide in the fitness community concerning their effectiveness for fat loss.
LISS and HIIT
LISS would generally come in the form of jogging, swimming, cycling or other forms of cardiovascular exercise and will be completed at an intensity that raises the heart rate but allows you to stay at a consistent and continuous pace. Whereas an example of HIIT would be sprinting, all-out effort for a short period of time followed by sufficient rest to allow you to repeat your sprints over and over.
Which is better for fat loss?
According to most coaches HIIT is king but how true is this belief?
Well one of the main arguments you will find (and one I have used before) for HIIT being more effective, is the body composition of a high level sprinter compared to marathon runners….
So since we are talking about fat loss, the first thing I’m going to note is that both of the athletes above are lean. In fact look at any or most high level sprinters or marathon runners and one thing they will both be is lean, but they have very different physiques.
|Higher overall calorie expenditure (including EPOC)||Releases higher amount of adrenaline|
|Higher Fat Oxidisation||May blunt hunger|
|More improved Insulin sensitivity||Make people actually work|
The benefits of both, explained:
Let’s start with LISS.
Higher overall calorie expenditure, speaks for itself, the more calories used for exercise the less are going to be stored as body fat.
Higher fat oxidisation, fat oxidisation is the process in which the body uses fat for energy or simply put ‘fat burning’.
Improved insulin sensitivity, the better your insulin sensitivity, the less fat you will store.
The benefits if HIIT
Higher release of adrenaline, adrenaline helps pull free fatty acids into our blood stream to be used for energy, if this is carried out at the right time it can be extremely beneficial for fat loss.
May blunt hunger, speaks for itself. Will help reduce snacking and overeating!
Makes people work, one issue I find as a coach is definitely a lack of intensity from clients in sessions, and they simply don’t understand how to train hard. There is no hiding with HIIT because the whole basis of this system is repeated maximal effort.
So as you can see above the benefits of cardio for fat loss are vast and I have covered some but not all, but which is better?
On the whole, for the general public’s goals I would say LISS.
LISS causes more physiological changes that aid in fat loss and it creates the biggest energy expenditure. Simple.
That doesn’t mean you should only do low intensity cardio though. Why not get all of the benefits listed above and more by doing both? For example, see below
Start with HIIT and finish with LISS. Aim to sprint for a total of 5 minutes (30 seconds on, 30 seconds rest x 10) and finish with 20 mins of steady state work.
This was originally popularised by body composition expert Lyle McDonald in his Rapid fat loss handbook which you can find here