Cardio versus cardio: The best cardio to melt away fat

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Getting rid of fat may not be as easy as you think, but it's not impossible.

Like most getting ready for summer, your fat loss journey usually begins with slipping on your runners and heading out at either dawn or dusk for a moderately paced jog, upwards of 40 minutes, maybe more if you’re feeling good today.

Or perhaps the great indoors, pacing on the notorious treadmill, elliptical, bike, rowing machine, or even the devilishly painful stair master.

In short, you’ve seen it, and I’ve seen it. A great majority of people – including me – seem to have this intimate tie with being attracted to steady state cardio.

You know, the type of cardio where you keep roughly the same pace for pretty much your whole cardio workout.

What is it about steady state that makes it so popular? And are there better ways to burn fat?

The answers actually lie within your unique physiology.

Now, I’ll stop prematurely before this becomes a scholarly journal. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

What we will look at together is the type of fats abundant in men and women, which cardio workouts are most effective at targeting these types of fats, and a competitive comparison between steady state cardio and high intensity interval training or HIIT cardio for short.

Hopefully by the end, this information will be one of your secret ingredients in making you look your best this summer.

Men versus Women

When it comes to fat storage, there are obvious differentiations in where men and women store the most fat.

Men’s problem areas are typically in the torso region – with the chest, midsection (gut), love handles, and the lower and upper back storing the greatest fat.

On the other hand, men tend not to have issue with arms and legs provided they are not severely overweight.

Women’s main areas of concern are mostly in the triceps, hips (muffin top), thighs, calves, and the butt.

Whereas the least troubled areas are midsection and chest.

Keep in mind, there is good reason for this.

The driving factors are decided by the ratios of hormones we both carry.

We all have testosterone and estrogen, but we know testosterone to be the more male dominant hormone, as estrogen is the female dominant.

This means, the reason men often protrude from the gut is largely due to the hormone testosterone.

Much of the fat stored, again, ruled by testosterone is stored as visceral fat.

This fat is formed around internal organs in the abdominal cavity – visceral fat is also a more serious and dangerous fat.

Women however, carry more subcutaneous fat – the fat that is right underneath our skin.

As a result, the dimpled appearance of the fat is often visible, more commonly known as cellulite.

Don’t forget, I did mention that men and women both have testosterone and estrogen. This also means that both have visceral and subcutaneous fat. And, this is not a comparison between apples and oranges, but the differences are references to what is to come below.

Burning Visceral versus Burning Subcutaneous Fats

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.

Should I say it again?

If we are talking solely about fat loss, the direct and most appropriate method is nutrition.

There are no shortcuts, or creams, or electrodes, or magical 6-pack belts that will melt away stubborn fat – and that’s a fact.

Although, there are ways to activate certain adipose tissues while training to optimize fat loss – because, summer is around the corner and I already know you have a great diet, right?

Men Versus Women – Round 2

This is a continuation of the last part, but it ties back to what we talked about earlier too.

Women actually have a better time here when it comes to responding to training and fat loss.

Since women carry lower levels of lean muscle mass, most responses to working out are typically beneficial.

Steady state cardio here can create enough of a resistance in most cases that it is able to develop some lean muscle mass tissue – increasing insulin sensitivity and a higher metabolic rate.

So, does that mean cardio is the only thing to burn fat? The answer is, and outstanding, no. Women actually respond best to weight training, if you are watching your diet, the fear of getting big and bulky are about as realistic as riding an ostrich to school – Don’t actually do that just to prove me wrong.

Guys, my biggest pet peeve, and I tell all my male friends who I see doing this, is those who walk or lightly jog on the treadmill, or half-assed peddling on the bikes for an hour-or-so.

You’re wasting your time.

Not that it’s my business what you do with it. But, if the focus is fat loss, the change of your physical appearance, this is not the way to do it.

Men are better off weight training to increase lean muscle mass and will benefit the same as females.

Mind you, yes, there are cardiovascular benefits to walking and cycling even at low speeds. However, studies have shown for fat loss in men, this is not an efficient method.

Cardio is a great way to supplement your workout to burn additional calories and fat.

Steady State Cardio vs. HIIT Cardio

Steady state cardio has been around for a long time, and for good reason.

Steady state can produce a hypocaloric effect which can help burn fat throughout the day. It also has the ability to burn up to 50 per cent of calories from fat stores from overall calories burned during training.

HIIT on the other side, is composed of short high intensity bursts of energy followed immediately by a rest period, usually double the length of the exertion, then the cycle repeats.

Much of the popularity behind HIIT cardio developed around the efficiency of the exercise, most HIIT routines are between 20 to 30 minutes. Whereas steady state progresses upwards of 60 minutes or more depending on the individual (but not advised).

Compared to steady state, HIIT has been shown to only burn about 35 per cent of fat calories from overall calories burned.

So, I understand if right now there is confusion. How is that even a comparison?

Well, research shows that an adult at walking pace burns about 235 to 250 calories in 60 minutes. That means, 117.5 to125 calories were burned from fat.

This is the interesting bit.

HIIT cardio was shown to burn 320 to 380 calories in 20 minutes, the result using the metric above are 112-133 calories burned from fat, making HIIT the more efficient fat-burning cardio workout.

In the end, a good diet, weight training, and cardio are crucial components to transforming your body. No singular method will do this as effectively as having good balance in all.