These days cardio is more controversial than ever before.
Cardio vs Resistance training - is cardio even necessary for weight loss, resistance training is superior, don’t do cardio it’ll burn off your gains…As a trainer I’ve heard it all.
So let’s clear up one thing first, the question of ‘is cardio necessary for weight/fat loss, or can I just do resistance training?’
The simple answer is no, cardio is not necessary for weight or fat loss, but before you all go out and rejoice read on just a little.
While cardio isn’t necessary for weight/fat loss, it will help a great deal and will accelerate your loss far beyond doing resistance training alone.
A quick explanation.
Weight/fat loss is created as a result of having a TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure) that is greater than your caloric intake, ie. you burn off more calories than you eat each day. This means you can lose weight/fat without any exercise, although it will be a slower process.
Resistance training burns calories through your training session and then continues to burn them whilst the muscles recover (up to 48 hours or so). Further more with an increase in muscle density/size your BMR (basel metabolic rate) increases meaning you burn more calories at rest than you did before. Pretty good right!
However cardio also burns calories, sometimes from fat stores in the body, and some times from carbohydrates (carbs) depending on the intensity.
So we can add to our calorie burning effect each day by eating into our fat stores doing cardio. GREAT! So we can hasten towards our weight/fat loss goals quicker than doing just resistance training alone.
So what the heck is HIIT and LISS?
Well they are both forms of training, and for the purpose of today we’ll relate them to cardio training.
LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State, this is cardio performed in the fat burning heart rate zone (think about cardio you can do that gets you out of breath but you can still hold a conversation around 65% of your maximum heart rate). It burns mainly calories from fat stores in the body and should be performed for anything over 30 minutes to get good effect.
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, this is cardio that involves training at maximal intensity for short bursts with rest/low intensity periods between them and should be performed for between 8 and 30 minutes for good effect. Made popular by Dr. Izumi Tabata in Tokyo, this training burns mainly carbs whilst being performed but burns fat for upto 48 hours after you have stopped exercising.
Ok so what’s best then? Well that depends on your time, goals, motivation and personal circumstances.
Both HIIT and LISS benefit:
LISS: better for the elderly, pregnant, injured, beginners and obese due its lower impact and less taxing heart rate zones
Fat is the main source of energy
Calorie burn is limited to the time the exercise is being performed
Recovery is quick
Uses slow twitch muscle fibres
Lower heart rate for the duration makes it easier to handle and more accessible for all
HIIT: better for those more experienced in fitness, healthy, injury free
Carbs are the main source of energy, fat is used for the recovery after the exercise
Less time consuming
Due to Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) your metabolism stays high even after work is over
Recovery is slow
Uses fast twitch muscle fibres (good for muscle density and strength)
High heart rate makes it uncomfortable to perform, tough for everyone and too much for some
In my experience HIIT training is more effective for weight/fat loss when compared to LISS, however both have their benefits and HIIT isn’t suited to everyone. I wouldn’t suggest that everyone goes out and starts HIIT training today, it should be a considered decision based on your personal circumstances, and assessed by a qualified and experienced trainer. But for those that fit the profile, it’s a great supplement to your training and fat loss goals.
Happy training Warriors