What Is The Best Type Of Cardio To Burn Fat Faster?
By Flavia Del Monte – RN, CPT, Precision Nutrition Certified
The simple answer to this question can boil down to a number of complicated factors, but let’s shoot straight - it really boils down to one question: Which type do you want to do?
Unless you’re stepping on stage or getting ready for a photo shoot in a few weeks then one of the key factors in determining your cardio type should be what you enjoy doing.
My husband hates doing cardio so he- would say, “I don’t have any kind of cardio I enjoy doing.” However, an easy solution for him is to listen to one of his motivational CD’s on his iPod to mask the boredom. It’s funny because he’ll tell me, “I didn’t want to stop my cardio today until I finished my audio!”
Before we dive into the science, keep in mind the “best” type of cardio is the type you’ll actually do. This is a motto I apply to my training and even nutrition for that matter. It’s often better to stick to what’s “enjoyable” rather than what’s “ideal” for long-term results.
Your Two Cardio Options
There are essentially two types of cardio: high-intensity and steady-state. Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as to how we define each of these two.
Often, when I mention high-intensity cardio to someone, they immediately say, “Yeah, the cardio I do is high-intensity.”
Then I ask them how long their intervals are and they either look at me like I’m from another planet, or they think they miss understood what I’m asking and say “I go for 30 minutes.”
Wrong answer, Private, wrong answer.
High-intensity, at least as for purposes of this article, is defined as something so intense that you couldn’t keep it up for more than 60 seconds — no matter how badly you wanted to! So even though your incline treadmill walk may feel like “high-intensity cardio,” it isn’t.
Running at 10 mph on a 10 degree incline for 10 seconds; now that is high-intensity!
Now that we’re on the same page as to the definition, you can clearly see that to do high-intensity cardio, you’d have to do it in spurts — do some, rest, then do some more, and so on. That’s exactly what we call high-intensity interval training, or HIIT (pronounced “hit”).
When most people think of cardio, they think of steady-state cardio. For that reason, I often simply refer to it as regular cardio. Since high-intensity cardio has it own, cool acronym, let’s refer to steady-state cardio as “SSC.”
Steady-state cardio is any cardio that’s done at an intensity low enough that it can be maintained for a longer period of time. While you may warm-up and cool-down, any cardio session where you keep roughly the same pace throughout your session is steady-state.
That’s right, even if you’re sweatin’ like a whore in church, it’s still not high-intensity if you can do if for more than a few minutes.
You can burn fat 2x FASTER and in HALF the time by incorporating High Intensity Training (HIT) into your exercise routine.
- Cardiovascular exercise (slow and at a steady pace) burns much fewer calories than HIT.
- Doing too much cardio is tough on your joints and ligaments.
- Too much cardio will result in burning muscle instead of fat.
When it comes to weight loss, it doesn’t matter what type of fuel (food) you use. What matters is how many calories you burn as opposed to how many calories you take in.
As already stated; In order to lose fat, you must have a negative energy expenditure. Simple!
Energy out > Energy in
The Basics of Burning Fat
Our energy comes from fat, carbs and protein. But which one our bodies utilizes depends on the kind of activity we are preforming.
Now, most people want to use fat for energy. Sounds legitimate, as we assume, the more fat we can use as fuel, the less fat we’ll have in our bodies. But using more fat doesn’t automatically lead to losing more fat.
Understanding the best way to burn fat starts with some basic facts on HOW your body gets its energy:
- The body primarily uses carbs and fats for fuel. A small amount of protein is used during exercise, but protein is mainly used to repair the muscles after exercise.
- The ratio of these fuels will shift depending on the activity you are doing.
- Given the metabolic pathways available to break down carbs for energy are more efficient than the pathways available for fat breakdown, the body will rely more on carbs for fuel than fat during HIT. This is good.
- For long, slower exercise, fat is used more for energy than carbs.
When it comes to weight loss, it doesn’t matter what type of fuel you use. What matters is how many calories you burn as opposed to how many calories you take in.
That said…..you burn WAY more calories during High Intensity Training than your standard aerobic exercise.
Think about it this way: When you sit or sleep, you’re in your prime fat-burning mode. But, you’ve probably never contemplated the idea of sleeping more to lose weight, as lovely as that thought is.
The bottom line: Just because you’re using more fat as energy doesn’t mean you’re burning more calories.
The more intense the workout, and the more muscles utilized, and the more oxygen is consumed as muscles use energy when they contract. The more oxygen is consumed, the more energy is expended; the more calories you burn!
Flavia Del Monte,
R.N., C.P.T., PN Certified (Sports and Exercise Nutrition)
P.S. Don’t forget to leave me your comments or questions below!