Now that we are deep into the diet season, most of us are either right in the middle or close to the end of our cut.
More than likely, you have hit one or two plateaus as well. This can come in many forms, from stalled weight loss to stalled fat loss (there is a difference), to even a plateau of how low your calories can go.
For natural athletes this is a common issue and, when dieting hard enough, it will happen to all of us eventually. Our calories can only hit rock bottom on a diet once while remaining somewhat healthy, and lowering them below this amount will more than likely cause us to become deficient in nutrients as well as burn more muscle than fat.
The solution to this? Cardio of course! Ideally, we shouldn’t have to add cardio into our diet until our calories fall below this sustainable level for fat loss, but that doesn’t always happen.
Often we usually start adding in cardio relatively early into a cut, allowing us to eat more and remain satiated for longer. When we do eventually add cardio to our diet, ideally it will be fast and effective to maximize calorie/fat burning and minimize muscle loss (except for a few situations we will discuss).
The most effective form of cardio that we know of to accomplish this is one you probably have heard of before: HIIT (high intensity interval training). In this article we will be talking about one form of HIIT using a machine that everybody on a diet should try at least once: the elliptical.
Why Use The Elliptical For Fat Loss?
There are so many forms of cardio out there, but sometimes we either prefer one form over another or certain health limitations restrict which forms of cardio we can do.
For most of us, HIIT running is the go-to way to burn the most calories, but there is one major downside. Our joints can only take so much of a beating before we start to experience constant pain and injuries. Especially in a calorie restricted diet, our recovery is hampered and these issues as a result of overtraining can develop quite easily.
Since we shouldn’t lessen our weight training volume too much so we can preserve muscle mass, we have one other option to give our joints a break during our diet. Low impact cardio is the name of the game, and the players are swimming, biking, and the elliptical to name a few.
Since not all gyms have stationary bikes or a full swimming pool, ellipticals are going to be the favorable HIIT cardio form for most individuals that doesn’t place strain and pressure on the joints.
But – Is The Hype For HIIT Justified?
With low-intensity cardio being the easiest way to burn a couple hundred calories over the span of half an hour to an hour, HIIT might seem foreign and weird.
Don’t be intimidated though, as you can perform HIIT at any skill level as long as you are pushing yourself and not leaving anything in the tank. When done right, it can be extremely effective and time sparing.
For those of you who are still confused about what HIIT is, the premise is really quite simple and straightforward. As the name suggests, you will be doing intervals of high-intensity cardio, followed by a (usually longer) period of low-intensity cardio to recover partially, followed by another bout of high intensity, until you are hopefully completely out of juice by the end.
A common ratio of high to low intensity is 2:1 or 4:1 depending on your endurance level. The 2:1 ratio means, for example, 30 seconds of high-intensity work followed by 1 minute of low-intensity cardio or rest. While the 4:1 could be 30 seconds (or even 15 seconds or a minute, it’s up to you), followed by two minutes of rest if that’s how much you need to be able to perform another round of the high-intensity work.
A beginner might do 5-10 rounds, lasting 15-20 minutes, while those with more endurance might be able to do 15-20 rounds with less rest and more high-intensity work.
Applying this principle to elliptical training is also quite easy as you can choose the difficulty setting on the machine for your own abilities, and use the clock to make sure you are hitting your time marks.
While this machine will take it easy on your joints, you should be aware that it will still work your upper and lower body muscles until you fatigue. What this means is that an elliptical HIIT workout might not be the best idea before a weight-lifting session. Try to keep your high-intensity cardio session eight hours before a lifting session (applies more for lower body), to let you recover effectively and limit the chances of injury.
Besides all that, this workout will burn between 100-150 calories every ten minutes when you are pushing yourself as hard as physically possible and should never last longer than 30 minutes.
Take Home Message
At the end of the day, all forms of cardio are going to help you burn calories, but it is up to you to tailor it to your needs and time constraints.
If you have just finished an intense weights sessions and want to finish off with some cardio, a calm low-intensity treadmill walk will probably be best for you. However, if you only have 30 minutes to spare for a workout or you are recovering from a heavy weight-lifting session from the day before but you’re still feeling energized, a HIIT elliptical workout will be right down your alley!
No matter what you choose to do, just remember the harder you work the more calories you burn, and there is always an option out there whether you want high intensity, low intensity, can stand higher impact or require no impact.