It seems like not that long ago when cardio was just cardio – there weren’t endless debates on what the best type was or when you should do it.
Over the last few years we’ve seen the rise in popularity of high intensity interval training or HIIT for short. This is what a lot of the pros are recommending citing its increased effectiveness compared with traditional steady state cardio when it comes to losing fat.
Today we are going to break down the two types of cardio, give you the benefits and drawbacks of each and help you determine which one will help you reach your fat loss goals.
STEADY STATE CARDIO
This type of cardio is when you get on a treadmill, bike or other piece of equipment and keep the same pace and intensity for an extended period of time.
Usually it will be 20-40 minutes of running at a moderate pace at the same incline level.
There are a number of advantages to steady state cardio.
First of all, provided you are working at a high intensity level the entire time you can actually burn more calories than with HIIT. It’s also a lot easier for newer trainees or overweight people who just don’t have the fitness level necessary to do HIIT.
Finally, you can perform this type of cardio more often than HIIT since it places a lot less stress on your central nervous system. Remember that you are keeping the same pace for an extended period of time so that can get a bit boring for some people.
HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING
Now let’s talk a bit about high intensity interval training or HIIT.
This involves short bursts of high intensity (15 seconds – 1 minute) followed up by 1-2 minutes of low intensity. You alternate between these two levels until the end of the session.
The first major advantage of HIIT cardio is that it can lead to more fat loss in a shorter period of time – despite the fact that you actually burned fewer calories. This is because it will actually fire up your system and cause you to burn more calories in the hours after your workout.
Second, HIIT has been shown to make your body more effective at using fat as fuel which really helps when you get to the lower body fat levels.
It’s also far more time efficient since most sessions last 15-20 minutes and it tends to reduce appetite following training, making it easier to limit calorie consumption. It’s also generally more fun to perform given that you are constantly changing up the pace.
There are of course some negatives to HIIT.
For those who are new or very overweight this type of training can be too intense to handle. It is also riskier since you are going at higher speeds meaning you can get injured. Since it’s a high-intensity exercise you shouldn’t perform it too many times per week.
Most recommend limiting to 2-3 sessions each week otherwise you will be putting too much strain on your system.
Finally, it’s very difficult to perform and requires you to really push yourself in order to get the full benefit. Nobody likes doing cardio, am I right? Nonetheless it’s extremely important to implement it into your training if you want to get lean faster.
Which one should you choose? HIIT or Steady state cardio?
Well, it depends on where you are at with your training. If you are just starting out then sticking to steady state cardio until you improve your overall fitness level is probably the best move. Once you do feel you are ready for HIIT you can always switch between the two or stick with the one you prefer. Some people actually prefer to do 1 or 2 HIIT sessions per week and 1-2 steady-state sessions per week.
Having said that, overall HIIT is more effective when it comes to burning fat and getting the most return from your cardio session. You just need to make sure you are constantly upping the intensity in order to make it effective – just like when you increase the weights at the gym!
When you are trying to lose fat it’s important to make sure you are eating the right foods and your diet is solid before getting on a cardio regimen.