The age old question plaguing bodybuilders and fitness fanatics to this day still has conflicting views and opinions on the best way to utilize cardio for fat loss. The answer always seems to be the form of cardio you aren’t doing! Some believe low intensity steady state (or LISS for short) cardio is superior because it minimizes muscle loss, while others preach high intensity interval training (or HIIT) to maximize fat loss and preserve muscle because it can be done in a relatively short period of time.
Who is right? In some ways both sides are right, and wrong. Understand that there is a certain time to do one or the other, and sometimes a time to do neither.
When To Do HIIT Cardio
HIIT cardio has become quite popular in the past decade among fitness lovers as the choice fat loss tool. It’s very simple in its design and execution, most HIIT workouts involve 15-30 minutes of alternating all out bursts of energy for about 30 second followed by a rest period of about 60 seconds and is designed to get the heart rate up very high and letting it recover between each burst. This form of anaerobic cardio is very effective at burning a lot of calories in a short period of time and should be implemented by anybody looking to get an effective form of cardio in.
There are some things to keep in mind first though. Because of the amount of energy your body needs to produce I recommend avoiding this form of cardio if you are in a fasted state. Without the required amount of glucose in your body it will resort to burning other things such as muscle which is what you want to avoid. Instead preform HIIT workouts a few hours after a carbohydrate and protein rich meal (and can be performed after an upper body weightlifting session). The other time you would want to avoid a taxing HIIT workout is 24 hours before or after a lower body workout.
HIIT workouts take a while for your body to recover from and trying to do heavy squats the next day could lead to injury even if you don’t feel sore. On the flip side you don’t want to do sprints with noodle legs that can barely walk up stairs, which is why you should do…
When To Do LISS Cardio
Low intensity cardio is a very valuable addition to your fat loss arsenal for a few reasons and shouldn’t be written off as “less effective than HIIT for fat loss” because both have a purpose that is superior to the other. While HIIT is great for the carb-fueled, sweat-inducting, heart-pounding, Eminem’s “Til’ I Collapse” type workouts, LISS is more of a recharging and recovery type of workout, not only for the body, but for the mind.
Low intensity aerobic workouts can include anything from walking your dog, to hiking, to the elliptical machine in your gym. These workouts usually last longer from 30-60 minutes and shouldn’t get your heart rate up too intensely. Unlike HIIT you can perform a LISS workout in a fasted state (and with the supplementation of BCAA’s) can actually be quite effective at burning body fat while sparing muscle. And although it might hurt (like, a lot) you can do LISS workouts the day after leg day and the movement of a light jog can actually help recovery and lessen DOMS.
The take away from this article to remember is that there is no right or wrong/more or less effective cardio workout for an individual looking to burn body fat, because at the end of the day it comes down to making sure you’re eating in a calorie deficit (otherwise you will not lose any fat). Cardio is simply a tool to increase your daily calorie deficit making it easier to stay in that deficit.
The trick is to find the cardio right for you in the moment and in the end, the best form a cardio is the cardio you can stick to and use effectively to help you reach your goals!