Let me start by saying this. When anyone says to me, “I want to drop some fat”, (notice the term drop fat and not lose weight. The difference being you can lose muscle mass and that also means weight loss), the first thing we talk about is, what is the desired outcome and WHY? Is it a healthy goal or based on something or someone that could result in an unhealthy obsession with image. Once we have navigated this, the next question is about ‘lifestyle’. I encourage everyone to find a way of moving, eating and recovering that will help them achieve their goals over the long term. We want the fat loss to be sustainable and not at the expense of all the things the person enjoys in life. I am talking about extreme diets to achieve rapid fat loss. These are typically not sustainable over the long term and nor should they be!
Ok, so we have got the formal discussion out of the way. The next topic is, ‘steady state cardio vs HIIT training’. What is better for fat loss? Let’s start with ‘steady state cardio’. Firstly, let’s be very clear….doing any movement is better than doing none at all.
Steady-state cardio has multiple benefits such as improving overall cardiovascular health, aerobic endurance, and yes, it can actually assist with fat burning. The objective is to exert yourself at a consistent pace over a long period of time. Lower intensity with longer duration (for those that have attended my workshops). The downside of this form of training is that it can be a long process to begin using fat stores as fuel for energy to fuel your training. It also doesn’t provide the ‘afterburn’ effect.
BENEFITS OF THIS FORM OF TRAINING
- It can help improve overall endurance
- Shorter recovery times.
- Preserve muscle mass.
- Improve cardiovascular health.
- Less strain on joints and ligaments.
- Still can be used to burn fat over a longer period of time.
So let’s look at HIIT training. Ok, simple, this is better for burning fat! Hitting about 50% – 75% of your maximum possible effort for a shorter period of time.
An example of this style of training is 1 min work, 1 min rest for 5 – 10 rounds depending on your level of fitness. You can improve on this as your fitness improves over time. What this also provides is the ‘afterburn’, which is the fat burning that continues post training. Also, the time commitment to this training is much less, making it a more achievable style of training for many. What is the best movement type? Well, lifting weights is amazing, but under a HIIT structure, this may come as you advance in fitness and strength. Evidence now shows the best movement is the sprint. Completing your maximum effort sprint for 30 sec – 1 min and then rest. Brutal!!!
Now hang on….have we missed something here? Is there a fat burning tool that we have forgotten? NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. These are the activities you do or could perform each day that consume energy and burn calories. Some examples:
- Walking around the office or the city (aim for 10k steps a day)
- Walking around the supermarket
- If you are in an airport, don’t just sit, walk around and explore
- Mowing lawns & gardening
- Standing at your desk and not sitting all day
Activities that can form part of your daily routine and will actually elevate your heart rate beyond its resting rate and we utilise stored energy reserves. So in conclusion, HIIT is perfect, but the added bonus for fat loss, is to JUST MOVE!!!