Cardio For Fat Loss.
Most of us have a love/hate relationship with cardio. We love the results it brings, but hate doing it.
The two main types of cardio for fat loss are, Long Interval Steady State (LISS) like 30 minutes of walking or static bike; and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which is short bursts of maximum effort exercise followed by a period of steady exercise usually performed on a piece of cardio equipment such as a cross trainer.
Now I'm not very scientific (that's Chris's job) but I'll briefly explain in layman's terms why we do certain types of cardio at different times.
LISS is a brilliant fat loss tool best performed away from your weight training session, ideally before breakfast on an empty stomach but it can also be done before your last meal at night if you train earlier in the day.
We keep this type of cardio away from weight training because it works on a different pathway to hypertrophy (muscle building), and if performed close to your weight training session can negatively affect your muscle growth and recovery.
During LISS you should aim to keep you heart rate at around 60-70% of your maximum. This can be calculated using the following basic formula:
Max heart rate = 220 - your age (we'll use my age, 37) = 183
60% = 0.6 x 183 = 110bpm 70% = 0.7 x 183 = 128bpm
So, my ideal heart rate zone for fat burning would be between 110 and 128bpm which can be monitored using a simple heart rate watch or some pieces of cardio equipment have built in monitors. I tend to keep between 120-130bpm for the entire duration of a cardio session, but obviously you may need to go a little faster at the start to get your heart rate elevated.
Training above this heart rate zone would be for fitness and cardiovascular endurance with a lesser emphasis on fat burning.
Another way of measuring exertion for LISS is using a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), this should be between 3 and 6 (if 10 is a maximum all out sprint). You should get a good sweat on but still have the ability to hold a conversation with ease and get through your cardio session with no issue.
TIP! To get an extended fat burning effect, have the meal after your cardio as protein and fats only (no carbs), e.g whey shake and 20g nuts or 2 whole eggs with 6 egg whites and veggies.
You can start your LISS by doing 20-minute sessions building up to no more than around 45 minutes at one time. If you are considering doing more than 45 minutes then it would be ideal to split this up into 2 sessions, again keeping both away from weight training.
If your only option for cardio is after training, then we would suggest doing High Intensity Intervals as they are done for very short periods of time and use fast twitch fibres similar to those that we use during our weight training session.
HIIT gives an optimum calorie burn during the workout plus continues to burn calories for hours after the session too. It does this from the Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which means that due to the high energy output used during HIIT, the body needs an increased uptake of oxygen after the session to help replenish fuel, balance hormones and repair tissue all of which requires calories – thus burning more fat AFTER the session!
We wouldn’t suggest doing HIIT fasted (on an empty stomach), before breakfast as it favours carbs as a source of energy opposed to LISS which favours fat. If you do HIIT before breakfast the body would take fuel from glycogen (carbohydrates), stored in the liver and/or muscles which is not what we want or need. Also, doing HIIT for too long can also break down muscle tissue, which is why we normally keep it short and no longer than 10-15 minutes total.
An example of HIIT could be 5 lots of the following intervals performed on the cross trainer for a total of 7.5 minutes:
1 minute steady (RPE 5-6) 30 seconds fast (RPE 8-9)…
…repeat again 4 more times…
…then a short steady phase following HIIT to bring your heart rate down steadily and safely.
HIIT can be done on many different pieces of cardio equipment or even as a mini resistance-based circuit with ropes, sled push, bag work, slam balls etc.
You would then go ahead and have your normal post workout meal with carbohydrates after intervals to recover from training.
If you wanted to do HIIT instead of LISS then you would do roughly ¼ of the time. For example, if you were doing 30 mins LISS, do 7.5 mins HIIT or vice versa.
A higher step count during your day is also a great way to combat those extra lbs of stored fat, aim for at least 10k steps a day.
So now you know the main different types of cardio used for fat loss you can programme them into and around your training sessions to start improving your body composition.
Look out for the next article where I touch on clean eating: what it is, what types of foods to eat and meal timing.
Train hard and we’ll see you soon
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