The Best Cardio for Fat Loss

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.

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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.

Fat Burning HIIT Workout

Health and happiness,


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Hi and welcome to Life in Spandex! I'm Emily, a personal trainer who believes there should be no secrets standing in your way to getting fit. I am sharing my knowledge here on this blog in order to help you reach your goals. Fitness should be fun, eating healthy should taste good, and feeling your absolute best is the ultimate goal. Let's get fit together!
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  4. […] The Best Cardio for Fat Loss by Life in Spandex […]

  5. lately, i have been doing different workouts and seems like it is working effectively. love variety vs steady personally.

  6. Sounds like such a killer! Love quick and effective workouts like this!

    1. Thanks Jessica! It definitely will get you sweating in minimal time πŸ™‚

  7. Haha, I actually LOVE steady state cardio. There’s something about a 1-2 hour bike ride or run that I really enjoy. I have a much harder time fitting in the HIIT, but I know I need to include it regularly! πŸ™‚

  8. I love HIIT workouts because they get my heart rate going, but don’t take a long time so they’re perfect for busy days. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes any workout that I can squeeze in on a hectic day is a winner in my book too! Especially if it burns more calories after I’m done ?

  9. Thank you for this chart!! I honestly never thought of turning my everyday treadmill or elliptical into a HIT workout (I just tended to use interval training DVDs on those days). Pinned.

    1. You’re so welcome! Really?? Oh I love it. I also like this one for the stairmill

  10. I really need to get my butt into gear and exercise. I do find short sharp bursts far easier to maintain than long exercises! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Do it girl!! You won’t regret it. The longer you put it off the harder the transition will be. Let me know what else you’d like to see on the blog to help motivate and educate you!??

  11. Changing things up is one of my go to for personal training clients.

    1. Yes keeping things interesting is so important! If someone gets bored they’re way more likely to give up

  12. I’m not going to lie… I am a cardio hater. I love pilates and yoga, but I just can’t love cardio! When I was in the best shape of my life I did love kickboxing, but I just can’t get back into it.
    HIIT is actually easier for me personally because I just have to kick myself into gear enough to get through the short goals.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hahaha well maybe this routine will help you stand it…. a little. Maybe???

  13. Great post. It explains a lot to me. I’ve always been so confused about that cardio exercise. I don’t like much HIIT but I can see myself doing workout you just suggested. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m so happy to hear you like it! Trust me, it makes your cardio session go by so much quicker

  14. love love love HIIT! Thanks for the workout πŸ™‚

    1. Right?! It gives you the best post workout glow hehe. You’re welcome Gina!!

  15. What a cool workout. I can see how shaking things up like that would do the best work.

  16. I like switching up workouts for the benefits and boredom factor. I try and do a HIIT workout once or twice a week too!

    1. Totally get that, Kelly. HIIT twice a week is perfect πŸ™‚

  17. I like to switch up my workouts a lot so I will definitely have to check out your HIIT exercises! Thanks for the information πŸ™‚

    1. You’re so welcome, Abbey! Let me know how it goes. Hopefully it kicks butt, in the best way possible hehe.

  18. I agree that mixing it up like that is most effective for me. I can definitely find myself in the place of diminishing returns with my workouts

  19. Wooow, great article! I can use this right now πŸ™‚

    1. Yay! You’re so welcome. Check back in with me when you’re done ?

  20. Love the detail in this post! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Thank you, Erica! I hope it helped you learn more about fitness ?

  21. I love how HIIT is a timesaver. One of the hurdles to consistently doing cardio is that it can be a bit of a time sink.

    1. Yes definitely! Sometimes, well most times, I don’t have an extra 40 minutes to spend doing cardio

  22. Is there a workout for Bubble Butts?

  23. Great explanation Emily. HIIT is certainly a fab get burner for those who can do it safely. I like that you explained it’s a combination of cardio, strength and nutrition that’s really going to get results.

    1. Thank you, Elly! Yes doing it safely and taking enough rest is very important

  24. Thanks for this and the detail. Cardio/fat loss has so many ways to achieve it. I like HIIT training over low intensity. And I love going to the local track for sprints and running the stairs.

    1. No problem, Atim. Yyaaasss track workouts are the best.

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