When people talk about exercise and fat loss in the US, typically we hear people talk about adding more cardio. Your friends and family always assume going to the gym or exercising means going for walks, using the elliptical or stationary bike. As healthy as traditional cardiovascular training is for the heart and as good as it is at burning calories, cardio is not the answer! At least not the traditional version.
Typically, protocols that most people adhere to for increasing exercise or starting a cardio regime is Low Intensity Steady State cardio (LISS). LISS is great if you are a marathon runner or triathlete, or if you’re a bodybuilder trying to burn a few extra calories without adding more stress to your already very high frequency training program, but for the average, busy adult it may not be the best answer.
You really don’t get the most bang for your buck with typical cardio protocols and here is why:
Typical cardio protocols burn some calories, yes, but only those calories that are burned during that training session. This is a great addition to your program when trying to just burn some extra calories but when we talk about increasing your metabolism, strength training and high intensity cardio win every time.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will increase your metabolism because your body sees it as metabolically similar to strength training. During both of these exercise bouts you go through what is called gluconeogenesis, which basically means that you burn predominantly the carbohydrates that are stored in your muscle fiber as a source of energy. During LISS training, you burn mostly body fat. It may seem counter intuitive to choose HIIT or strength training over LISS training because most of us are interested in burning body fat. The truth is, you burn more body fat and calories over time when you increase your metabolic rate from HIIT or strength training; up to 50% more calories over the next 48 hours than you would from just doing LISS training. A typical LISS training session will take 45 minutes to an hour while having little effect on your metabolic rate, where a typical HIIT session will take 20-30 minutes and burn calories for days.
In comparison, strength sessions will take 45-75 minutes but have many added benefits. Strength training increases your metabolic rate, just like HIIT cardio, but it also builds muscle. Building muscle makes you strong which helps make normal tasks, like carrying in the groceries easier, and it gives you that fit, toned look everyone is striving for.
So next time you are looking to get back in shape, start with strength training and look into adding high intensity cardio
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