What Type of Cardio is Best?

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If your goal is to avoid losing your hard-earned muscle and strength gains while conditioning, you need to be smart about your cardio routine.

Excessive aerobic activity can decrease testosterone levels, increase cortisol production, weaken the immune system, limit strength gains, and severely impact muscle hypertrophy. For these reasons, cardio should be used as a tool in addition to an effective resistance training program. Cardio is not necessary for fat loss to occur and is merely another way to burn calories or increase your calorie deficit, with the goal of losing fat. When it comes to which type of cardio to perform, both have their respective advantages and disadvantages. Essentially, your choice comes down to personal preference! Let’s have a closer look…

HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT)

HIIT consists of alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT exercise sessions generally consist of a warm up period, then several repetitions of high intensity exercise separated by medium intensity exercise for recovery, then a cool down period.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES?

  • Greater calorie expenditure per time
  • Results in Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which speeds your metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after your session
  • Lowered insulin resistance leading to decreased fasting blood glucose levels and weight loss
  • Can preserve muscle mass compared to steady state cardio

WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES?

  • Requires a certain degree of cardiovascular fitness to perform correctly
  • Requires more energy to perform, which can be an issue during times of depletion and exhaustion
  • Takes longer to recover from and can impact on weight training program

STEADY STATE CARDIO

Steady state cardio is simply a cardiovascular workout that is a continuous, steady effort, as opposed to an interval cardio workout where you vary your energy output. It can be defined as moderate intensity steady state (MISS) or low intensity steady state (LISS), based on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). This is a measure of how hard the exercise feels to you, with 100% being your maximal effort.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES?

  • Has minimal impact on weight training program
  • Can assist with recovery from weight training
  • Does not require high amounts of energy to perform, often making it a preferred option for competitive bodybuilders or people on low calorie diets
  • More appropriate for people who may not have the endurance, speed, experience, or mobility to do HIIT cardio
  • More appropriate for obese, pregnant, elderly or people with injuries

WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES?

  • More time consuming to burn the same amount of calories as HIIT
  • Does not result in Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)
  • Not as muscle sparing as HIIT

Remember, fat loss is all about calories IN vs calories OUT. Cardio is just another way to increase your calorie deficit. Both forms of cardio will burn calories, so choose the form that you enjoy most and that is sustainable for you, your schedule and your abilities. If you have any questions about how to include cardio into your routine – contact me today!