20 Feb Whats is the best cardio for fat loss?
What is the best cardio for fat loss?
Everyone wants a quick fix when it comes to losing weight and changing shape, and while the idea of a quick fix isn’t altogether realistic, you equally don’t want to be wasting time on exercises that aren’t actually achieving anything, right? I mean who’s got time for that?!
So, which cardio exercise is best?
If you’ve googled this, you’ve probably gone cross-eyed trying to figure out the answer. Often the debate comes down to a toss-up between steady state cardio and high intensity interval training (HIIT).
You’ll find countless articles on why one is better than the other and vice versa, so how on earth can you decide which is best?
It’s also worth bearing in mind that much of your weight loss programme starts in the kitchen because what you’re eating and, more importantly, how you’re fuelling your body for exercise, is paramount to the equation, but more on that later.
First, let’s have a look at the main features of steady state and HIIT cardio.
Steady state cardio
This is basically performing cardio workouts, such as running, swimming, cycling, elliptical training, stair climbing and so on, at a steady, challenging but manageable pace, working at around 70% of your maximum all-out capacity for 20 minutes or longer.
Steady state cardio is aerobic and relies on oxygen.
High Intensity Interval Training
HIIT workouts involve exercising vigorously, as hard as you can (90-100% capacity) for a short set time period, followed by a period of rest, before repeating. Usually this will involve something like 60 seconds going hell for leather followed by 60 seconds’ rest. The exercise itself is not as important as the high intensity bit, so you can still do running, but you’d be sprinting, then walking or resting completely, then sprinting again, rather than maintaining a steady jog.
You’ll often find that exercises such as star jumps, squat thrusts, mountain climbers and burpees are a much more common feature of HIIT.
HIIT workouts are anaerobic and don’t rely exclusively on oxygen.
Steady state cardio vs HIIT
The main reason why HIIT has grown in popularity as the best exercise for cardio is because not only does it makes you work harder, breathe harder and burn more fat, it also increases your resting metabolic rate, so you will continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished exercising.
The benefits of steady state cardio will stop as soon as you step off the treadmill as your body adjusts to the pace incredibly quickly and no longer needs to work as hard to burn the fat. As a result, you’ll probably find yourself hitting a plateau pretty quickly.
HIIT workouts for weight loss
If the overall goal is to burn more fat, then HIIT is probably the better exercise. Not only can you achieve more in a shorter workout session, you will continue to feel the benefits long after you’ve finished exercising.
However, that’s not to say you should dump the running shoes in the bin, or give up that weekly swim. You need a decent level of aerobic fitness to help return the body to a neutral state after your anaerobic workout intervals. It has also been argued that lower intensity workouts are more efficient at increasing the capacity of your heart, which in turn lowers your resting heart rate – a lower heart rate is indicative of a healthy and high-functioning cardiovascular system.
Weight training and protein for weight loss
Your cardio workout is only half of the story. You won’t get that lean, toned physique you desire from cardio alone. You need to combine this with a programme of strength training to help build muscle. Lean muscle burns even more fat and will help sculpt the body as you lose the weight. You can supercharge the process with a high protein diet, whether from protein-rich foods or supplements, depending on your preferences and time constraints. But that’s a whole other story, which you can read more about on the Protein Princess magazine pages.