No matter how much it’s discussed, there’s always some confusion around the best type of cardio to be doing for fat loss. And, it makes sense. It seems like every other article you read claims a different type of cardio to be your ticket to lower body fat. In reality, a combination of proper nutrition, cardio, and strength training is the equation to a healthy body. But the question is still valid – what type of cardio is best for fat loss?
In order to understand the answer to this question, I want to give you a basis to the two types of cardio – aerobic and anaerobic.
Some research suggests that there is a certain heart rate range that burns the most fat, claiming it the “fat burning zone.” You’ll also hear it called low-intensity steady state cardio. It keeps your heart rate in a aerobic range, where oxygen still exists. Studies show that the percent of fat calories/total calories versus carb calories/total calories is higher when O2 is present.
Other studies have proven small-bursts of anaerobic cardio (without oxygen) to be more effective for burning fat. This type of cardio is called HIIT, or high intensity interval training. It takes a large amount of glucose to provide energy for this intense bursts of all-out effort, therefore, the percent of calories burned from carbs is higher than fat. HOWEVER, it’s proven that the TOTAL amount of calories you burn doing HIIT versus steady state will most likely be greater overall.
Still confused? I don’t blame you! Both forms of cardio will help you burn calories. However, our bodies are way smarter than we give them credit for. The body will adapt to whatever stressor is put on it. This means your body will eventually burn less calories doing the same 30-minutes of steady state cardio as before. To burn the same initial amount of calories, you’ll have to continually increase the amount of time you’re on the treadmill, bike, trails, Stairmill, or elliptical. Do you want to do 60+ minutes per session of the same cardio for the rest of your life? I didn’t think so.
HIIT cardio on the other hand will continually push your body to a place where you’ll experience a high-calorie burn during and post exercise. Yes, you’ll even burn 3x the amount of calories AFTER you’re done working out. As long as you continually push yourself during the short bursts of all-out effort, you won’t need to exceed 20-minute sessions. This is the main reason choosing HIIT cardio is more effective than steady state.
To help you get started, I’m sharing one of my favorite HIIT routines for burning fat and avoiding a plateau. You can do this on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, Stairmill, rowing machine, outside on your favorite trail, or any other mode of cardio you enjoy. The “sprints” are based on a 1 to 10 perceived exertion scale. With 1 being very little effort to 10 being an all-out effort you can’t maintain for more than 15 seconds.
Health and happiness,