What’s the Best Type of Cardio for Weight Loss?
What’s the Best Type of Cardio for Weight Loss? Cardio is perhaps the most important form of exercise in your weight loss journey because it torches the most calories. So, it contributes the most to fat loss. You don’t see people going for 5 AM runs for nothing! However, there are different types of cardio and they are suited for different needs and goals.
Recently, there has been an insane level of buzz around HIIT cardio. It has consistently topped fitness trends since the 2010s when it first caught on. People nowadays say I don’t have time to hit the gym and there’s a really good reason why HIIT is so popular. Its proponents claim that you can burn just as many calories within a few minutes of intense activity as longer forms of cardio like running. It’s also claimed that HIIT improves insulin resistance, sleep and has a host of other health benefits.
1. What is HIIT cardio?
HIIT stands for ‘High-Intensity Interval Training’, and it involves short periods of intense physical activity alternated by slow activity intervals. The high-intensity intervals are so intense that you use 80-90% of your maximum heart rate. So, you should not be able to hold a casual conversation without running for breath.
What’s the best type of cardio for weight loss we always ask. HIIT routines can be extremely versatile. You can do a HIIT routine with running, skipping or add compound moves like jumping jacks or burpees. So, a sample routine would be, skipping as hard as you can for 2 minutes and then jog on the spot for the next minute. Repeat the sequence for about 15 minutes.
Because HIIT cardio is so physically intense, it often involves explosive moves that create heavy impact forces on your muscles and joints. So, think moves like squat jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, high knees, etc. You could also do a HIIT running routine, by alternating very intense sprint intervals with small jogging intervals.
2. How It Differs from Normal Cardio
Generally, when we think of cardio we often think of activities like jogging, moderate-paced running or cycling. These ‘normal’ cardio activities are called LISS cardio (Low-Intensity Steady State). Unlike in HIIT, you only use 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. So, you should be able to hold a casual conversation during the exercise without feeling breathless.
Other differences include:
HIIT cardio takes less time than LISS workouts, which is why it appeals to a lot of people. HIIT routines typically take around 15-20 minutes whereas LISS workouts like jogging can take 30-45 minutes.
- Different muscle types built
Most cardio workouts build some kind of muscle, but the muscle type you build depends on the activity. Because HIIT cardio is so intense, you use what’s known as fast-twitch muscles. In LISS, you use slow-twitch muscle fibres. Fast-twitch muscles are bigger than slow-twitch ones, so this is why a lot of sprinters look more muscular than skinny long-distance runners.
- Different energy systems used
There are two types of mechanisms your body uses for energy release. One relies a lot on oxygen, so it’s called aerobic. Aerobic exercises include things like running and jogging and are typically longer duration. To meet the extreme energy demand in HIIT cardio, your oxygen intake is too slow to provide energy. So, your body has to break down glucose for energy without using oxygen, and this is called anaerobic. Anaerobic exercise also builds up lactic acid, a waste product that will leave you feeling breathless towards the end.
3. Which One is Better for Fat Loss?
So, what’s the best type of cardio for weight loss? This is the million-dollar question that people want to know. Research studies around HIIT cardio and fat loss are quite promising. A lot of them show that HIIT cardio is just as effective as LISS cardio for fat loss.
The biggest appeal of HIIT is that it burns the same amount of fat as LISS cardio in half (or even one-third in some studies) of the time. This means that you don’t have to slave away for 45 minutes at a cycling class when you can do a HIIT routine at home in 5-10 minutes with the same results.
What’s even better is that HIIT elevates your resting metabolic rate up to 24 hours after your workout. So, you end up burning even more calories than usual while you’re resting or sleeping. While HIIT exercises themselves may not burn many calories, the recovery period afterwards is where you really torch the calories. A secondary effect of this is that HIIT can also improve your sleep, which is essential for your weight loss journey.
HIIT seems to provide even better results for people who are insulin resistant or diabetic. HIIT produces hormonal changes in the body that lead to lower insulin resistance. This can further help you with your weight loss goals.
4. Should you do HIIT Cardio?
If you think what you read so far about HIIT sounds too good to be true, well it kind of is. There’s no doubt that HIIT saves you a lot of time and you don’t need expensive gym memberships or fancy equipment to do it (though you do need very considerate neighbours or flatmates who tolerate your loud jumping!). However, HIIT cardio is quite physically taxing.
HIIT exercises like jump squats and burpees create very large impact forces on your body. If you have weak joints or a condition like arthritis, starting with HIIT is probably not a great idea. It’s always good to contact your physician before you try any HIIT routines.
Another downside is that HIIT has a longer recovery time than LISS workouts, so you’d feel soreness and pain for a few days after. To improve this, you can try strength training exercises like squats and lunges to strengthen your leg muscles before starting HIIT. This way, your muscles can handle the high impact forces much better.
What’s the best type of cardio for weight loss? To sum up, HIIT cardio is an amazing way to keep fit if you’re a super busy person and don’t have the time to hit the gym. It has incredible benefits for diabetic or insulin-resistant individuals and improves sleep. However, you need to weigh the potential benefits with the higher risks of injury or joint problems.