Cardio for fat loss? I don’t think so. Do THIS instead…

It’s time to put to bed a myth that’s been around since the 80’s:  The best way to burn fat is long sessions of low-intensity aerobic exercise aka “cardio”.  This idea has been an unquestioned “fact” the likes of which has not been seen since saying the world was flat before the 1400’s.

But they were wrong too.

The leanest, sexiest Olympians are the swimmers, sprinters and beach volleyball players (why does anyone watch beach volleyball anyway?).   Do you think these athletes train by running for hours on a treadmill or an elliptical?  Of course not.  Short, hard bursts of energy is how they train and look so good.

High Intensity Interval Training (“HIIT”)

One hour of “cardio” burns more calories than a 30 minute HIIT workout… or does it?   When you do your regular 60 minute low-intensity cardio workout you will burn more calories than a 30 minute HIIT workout…  but then what happens?

Studies show that with regular cardio your metabolism (your #1 fat burner) stays elevated for 10-15 hours after your workout.  Not bad.   But that’s where the good news ends.   With regular cardio you not only burn away fat, you burn away some of your lean muscle.  Muscle is your main calorie-burner.  The more muscle you have the more calories you burn 24/7.  If you shrink your muscle then you burn less calories.  This means to keep losing fat you have to either a) eat less, or b) workout more.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like either of those choices.

Now let’s look at an HIIT workout.

After an intense HIIT workout your metabolism stays elevated for up to 38 hours!  Now THAT’S a big bang for your buck!  Plus, because it’s intense your body holds onto your lean muscle so it’s ready for your next HIIT workout.  It knows it needs that muscle to do the work.  More muscle = more calorie burning.

Okay, but what about FAT loss?

In a landmark study done at Laval University in Quebec, scientists compared twenty weeks of steady state endurance training (cardio) with fifteen weeks of interval training.

They found that the low-intensity group burned a total of  28,661 calories while the interval group only burned 13, 614 calories.  Which is not surprising since the endurance group did more work.

However, the researchers did discover that the interval group showed NINE TIMES greater fat loss for every calorie burned during training.  This means for every calorie you burn doing intervals you get a nine-times increase in actual fat loss.

Shorter workouts, more fat loss.  I like that.

But there are problems with doing “regular” intervals too, including repetitive stress, what do with de-conditioned clients and what does a good HIIT workout look like?   Most personal training certifications don’t include anything about intervals so trainers would have to learn it on their own.

Good trainers spend time and money to learn proper methods.  Others, which means “most” trainers hear that intervals are good for fat loss, look up intervals on the web (it’s free) and drop them into their workouts without understanding  the why, what, who or how… and that’s dangerous.  Which can give intervals a bad name.

If you’re a client at Punch Gym then you know what intervals are all about.  If you’re not, and your trainer is using intervals ask them how they learned about them and what successes they’ve had with clients.  If they can’t answer those questions pretty quickly, or just stare at you blankly – get a new trainer – fast before you get hurt!