Steady Cardio vs HIIT for Burning Fat

By Adrianna McDonald

It is common to think that to achieve low levels of body fat one must do more cardio. Using treadmills, elliptical machines, steppers or bikes, you put in hours of training. This is what most competitors do and what most of the coaches preach to their clients. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there and did just that by myself even though science tells us otherwise.

IMG_1473There has been number of research studies in the past years proving that steady cardio is not only ineffective for burning fat but also it’s been found to deteriorate muscle tissue and decrease testosterone levels.

A recent study in The American Journal of Physiology found that steady-state cardio decreases the ability of muscles to absorb glucose after training. Doing hours of steady cardio also limits hypertrophy by shutting down one of the primary regulators of muscle growth, making you burn the same amount of muscle as you do fat.

On a good note you can also make your cardio anabolic if you do it the right way. High Intensity Interval Training, known as HIIT, has been proven by research to:

  • increase your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours
  • improve insulin sensitivity in the muscles, which helps your body better absorb and use the food you eat (rather than store it as fat)
  • increase your muscles’ ability to burn fat for energy
  • elevate growth hormone levels, which aid in fat loss
  • spike catecholamine levels, which are the chemicals that mobilize fat for burning
  • and decrease post-exercise appetite, which helps prevent overeating.


So what is high intensity interval training? HIIT simply is alternating between exercise periods of almost all-out intensity (60 and 80% of your VO2 max) followed by low-intensity (recovery). During your high-intensity bouts, you’re pushing yourself almost as hard as you can, and during your low-intensity periods, you’re trying to catch your breath in preparation for the next sprint.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that people lost more fat doing 4 to 6 30-second sprints (with 4-minute rest periods) than 60 minutes of incline treadmill walking.Simply the less cardio you do, the more muscle you’ll preserve while in a calorie deficit.

When it comes to the fat burning process, timing is everything and there are several tweaks you can throw in to enhance the process and get the fat off much faster.

The first of these tweaks applies to how you space out your workouts. Make sure to schedule your training so you complete your HIIT sessions up to an hour before you train with weights.

IMG_1495 2

While you can use HIIT principles with any type of cardio, if your goal is to preserve muscle and strength, your best choices are biking, rowing, and sprinting. It’s worth noting though that you want to adjust your speed in your training more than the resistance settings offered by various machines. The goal of HIIT is to go fast and hard.

Research shows that the type of cardio you do has a significant effect on your ability to gain strength and size through weightlifting. Start out with a 1:2 ratio between high- and low-intensity intervals. 1 minute fast, 2 minutes slow.

As you get fitter, you can work toward a 1:1 ratio. Warm up for 3-5 minutes then do 20 intervals followed by 3-5 minutes of cool-down.

Depending on which stage of prep you are on and how fast you loosing BF (body fat) you can do from 2-4 sessions a week along with 4-6 weight lifting sessions.

Another way is to do HIIT with maximum power output for 30 seconds, followed by four minutes of rest, for 4-6 rotations. Three times each week.

Both work well. Give it a try next time when you want to lean out!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s