The Best Cardio Workout For Fat Loss
The question of what cardio burns the most fat is not entirely a straightforward one. There are multiple variables that need to be considered when prescribing the appropriate exercise for fat loss. Many different types of exercise and cardio help promote fat loss, but the primary question is which of these is the best cardio workout for maximal fat loss.
If you want to know what the absolute best cardio workout for fat loss is, you need to read this article…
As previously mentioned, many forms of exercise and cardio can be effective for producing fat loss. In order to determine the very best when specifically looking at cardio, we need to review the two main types of cardio one can perform, steady state and high intensity interval training.
Steady State Cardio
Nearly every piece of cardio equipment has a chart telling you where the fat burning zone is, which is roughly somewhere between 50-70% of your maximum intensity.
This is the classical view of fat burning because when speaking about the actual exercise, fat oxidation is at its highest during lower intensity exercise.
As exercise intensity progresses, there is an increasing demand for faster metabolizing fuel and carbohydrates begin to take over as the dominant source of energy.
Once exercising at maximum intensity there is absolutely no fat oxidation taking place at all. In terms of maximal fat oxidation relative to the amount of energy consumed, moderate intensity exercise is the most efficient way to burn fat.
With chronic training at this intensity, maximum capacity will increase, and 65% of your maximum will represent more and more energy resulting in higher fat oxidation rates.
We all have those days where energy and motivation levels are low. During those days when you still want to get a productive fat burning workout, steady state cardio will suffice.
However, caloric efficiency isn’t always the best strategy for weight loss or fat loss. On days when you really want to get the most out of your training, perhaps on days when you have more energy in the tank, you’re going to want to take advantage of another style of cardio.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT cardio may not be the most efficient use of your energy but it certainly is more effective to achieve the chiseled physique you desire. It is also the most efficient use of your time as well.
HIIT training uses very high intensity exercise followed by frequent rest intervals to recover. This style of exercise burns more calories than an entire steady state cardio workout in less than 30 minutes.
As already mentioned however, high-intensity exercise burns predominantly carbohydrates as its source of fuel, so you may be wondering how it can be effective for fat loss.
There are several reason why HIIT cardio can still result in a lot of fat oxidation, let me explain:
1. High-intensity Exercise is an Anaerobic Activity.
This means the carbohydrates are not completely being burned (burning requires oxygen). Instead, high-intensity exercise causes a lot of cellular disruption to the muscles. This includes the rapid accumulation of hydrogen ions, lactate and other exercise metabolites.
When these metabolites gets too concentrated, exercise becomes too painful to continue. When the activity stops, the body has to work hard to clear these metabolites out of the muscle to recover for the next set. In fact, this recovery process is quite energy consuming.
For example, a metabolic process called the Cori cycle is what clears the excess lactate out of the muscle. It actually takes 3 times as much energy to clear lactate out of the muscle than it did when creating the lactate during the exercise.
This means that during the rest intervals, you are still burning calories, except now the exercise intensity is low. Since the intensity is low at this point, the energy required to reset the muscle cells during the rest intervals need not be from carbohydrates. This is where enhanced fat oxidation can take place.
2. HIIT Creates A lot of Muscle Damage That Needs to be Repaired.
Unlike steady state cardio where the energetics of the exercise are the primary factors involved, the high-intensity nature of HIIT cardio stimulates the muscle in a similar fashion that resistance exercise does.
This means, not only does the recovery phase focus on replenishing nutrients to the active muscles, but similar to resistance exercise, the muscle tissue requires remodeling and structural recovery. In some cases, this recovery phase can last for up to 38 hours post-exercise, during which time the total energy expenditure must be increased for the added metabolic demand.
This phenomenon is called EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption), where oxygen consumption, and thus energy expenditure, is enhanced for several hours post-exercise.
Considering this activity is done at rest, this excess energy expenditure will mostly come from fat oxidation. This essentially means HIIT will allow you to increase fat oxidation for up to 38 hours after you finished your cardio!
3. HIIT Preserves Muscle.
Steady state cardio is actually associated with muscle loss over time. The stimulation of muscle with HIIT training keeps the muscle highly stimulated which serves to preserve muscle mass.
Looking for some evidence? Take a look at the physique of different athletes.
Take endurance athletes, like long distance runners and compare their physique to that of a sprinter, for example.
Steady state endurance training does in fact promote muscle loss because excess muscle actually reduces the exercise economy. To become an elite long distance runner, the body adapts to maintain only the minimal amount of muscle (similar to the engine size of a car you would want to take on a road trip).
This allows more fuel, oxygen and nutrients to be utilized more efficiently instead of wasted with excess muscle mass.
On the other hand, sprint activity at very high-intensity, activates all muscle fibers of the working muscle. Larger muscles are required to generate maximal levels of muscular power and HIIT training ensures that these muscles are maintained.
Thus combining HIIT training in a resistance exercise program is the optimal training strategy to build muscle and burn fat.
Diminishing Returns and Plateau Breaks
Like many aspects of health, doing the same thing over time returns diminishing results. Fat burning exercises are no different.
There are many possible reasons for fat loss plateaus, most of which are likely from the diet. However, a possible contributor may be the constant stress of overworking the system.
The hormone cortisol can be responsible for water retention and even leptin resistance. Chronic exercise and constant caloric restriction is associated with increased cortisol levels and has been shown to inhibit fat loss progress over time.
Taking a break from the grind will allow for the cortisol levels to return to baseline and aid in fat loss. Even cardio training needs variation to further adaptation.
As discussed earlier, instead of trying to push through HIIT cardio when you’re truly not up for it, try actually taking a break, or simply a day of steady state cardio and give your body a rest so that your next HIIT session can be more effective.
Bottom Line on Cardio and Fat Loss
The bottom line on the best cardio workout for fat loss is that even though steady state cardio is the most efficient way to achieve the highest amount of fat oxidation relative to the amount of your energy output, HIIT reigns supreme as the best cardio workout for total fat loss.
Because HIIT creates a greater energy and EPOC demand, elevates fat oxidation for up to 38 hours post-cardio and helps preserve lean muscle mass, the net total amount of fat loss achieved from HIIT cardio is far greater than steady state.
Additionally HIIT cardio workouts can be performed in less than half the time of traditional steady state cardio making it the quickest and most effective way to burn fat.
However, as with everything in life, the law of diminishing returns comes into play when consistently repeating the same exercise stimulus over extended periods of time.
So in order to avoid or break through a fat loss plateau it’s important to take occasional rest periods to allow for more effective cardio workouts and results in the future.
How To Perform HIIT Cardio For Maximum Fat Loss
Now that you fully understand the power of HIIT cardio workouts and why they’re so effective for fat loss, it’s time to put this knowledge to action.
If you’re just getting started with HIIT cardio, you’ll want to ease yourself into it and gradually build up as you become more experienced.
To perform a HIIT cardio workout, you’ll want to hop on an exercise bike, elliptical, or some form of cardio equipment you can control and quickly adjust the speed/intensity of.
Once you’ve warmed up for a few minutes, you’re going to give MAX effort, all out for about 30 seconds, or a short amount of time you can handle, followed by about the same amount of time at a lower intensity.
You’ll repeat this, all out, followed by rest, all out, followed by rest for about 15-30 minutes tops.
As you get better, you can gradually increase your time by adding more intervals, or increase your intensity to make it more challenging.
Because this becomes more and more demanding and the law of diminishing returns starts to come into effect, you’ll want to take a week for a break or some lower intensity when you start to feel a bit over-worked or overly worn down (generally somewhere between 4-8 weeks).
After that you can get right back at it and get back to the grindstone.
This is exactly why in our CHISELED365™ training program, we ONLY have HIIT cardio sessions, so you get the most out of each and every work out and stop wasting so much time and effort spinning your wheels. Plus it adapts to your daily progress and tells you exactly when to crank things up, and when you’re due for a break so you can avoid plateaus and keep getting the best results possible.
If you want to check out CHISELED365, click the next page button below, you can start up a free 28-day trial and see how the program adapts to your daily progress and ensures you’re getting the most out of every single training session, every time.