The final question will remain, hiit or steady state cardio for weight loss?
People will line up to the death for each side debating which is better for weight loss.
The purpose of this article is not to fight, nor is it to make a point for which is better so I can sell you my cardio program to burn fat!
My sole purpose of writing this article is to simply lay out the facts when it comes to hiit or steady state cardio for weight loss.
No gimmicks. No selling. Just pure information.
Sound like something you can get down with?
I sure hope so because I am tired of the arguing back and forth.
Be sure to read the entire article in order to leave this knowing all of the facts.
Not only for yourself, but so you can be equipped with ammo if either side of the camp tends to come at you.
Let’s jump in.
Hiit Or Steady State Cardio For Weight Loss
Why Are You Doing Cardio?
Before we get any farther, let’s first lay out some guidelines.
First off, why are you doing cardio? What is the purpose behind you spending your valuable time to do some cardio.
Well kind of like the article says, you are probably looking to lose weight.
Here is the only issue with that. You solely relying on cardio to lose weight is futile. It is never going to work.
I am sure even as you read this article you may be thinking “I am doing all of this cardio but can’t seem to drop any weight”.
This is because losing weight comes down to one thing and one thing only, being in a calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit simply just means you are intaking less calories than you are burning.
Emphasis on intaking less calories, aka eating eating less calories.
It takes you 50 minutes to burn 500 calories.
Yet it takes you 5 minutes to eat 500 calories.
Therefore unless you intend to do hours upon hours of cardio each and every day, it is going to be futile.
You can never out train a bad diet.
On top of that, the tracker you are using to track how many calories you burned during your cardio session is anywhere from 27-93% inaccurate.
Therefore worrying about how many calories you burn through exercise, when most devices are not accurate to begin with, is not the most strategic approach when it comes to weight loss.
For the scope of this article, I am going to keep things on topic of whether you should do hiit or steady state cardio for weight loss.
I will link my calorie deficit calculator HERE that tells you exactly how many calories you should eat to lose weight.
Also I will link another article I did HERE on the best tips I can give you for staying full and not being hungry on a calorie deficit.
Finally, I will link a podcast I did HERE breaking down exactly what a calorie deficit is and how to make sure you are in one so you can see weight loss progress.
Now, with all of that being said, cardio can absolutely be a tool to help in your weight loss journey.
Which is better though? Hiit or steady state?
Let’s first define what each one is.
Hiit Or Steady State Cardio For Weight Loss
High Intensity Interval Training Cardio, refers to the type of cardio done with very short duration, but very high intensity.
An example of hiit cardio could be hopping on a stationary bike at the gym, peddling as fast as you can for 15 seconds, then resting for 60 seconds.
Another example could be sprinting for 10 seconds as hard as you can, then walking for 45 seconds.
In this style of training, your heart rate normally gets elevated quickly and exponentially, sometimes reaching 70-90% of your target heart rate.
Benefits Of Hiit
Higher Calorie Burn
One of the major benefits of hiit cardio people try to argue is that it leads to more body fat reduction.
Each study concludes that when it comes to hiit or steady state cardio for weight loss there is no real advantage one way or the other when it comes to body composition changes, aka body fat loss.
More Time Efficient
There is also some belief that hiit cardio can be more time efficient and give you more bang for your buck.
This means in a shorter amount of time you can get more done. I would then raise the question of what are you trying to accomplish?
Again, I will refer back to the reviews and analysis I mentioned above that proved there was no real advantage to hiit cardio vs steady state cardio in terms of being more time efficient for weight loss.
Actually, in this systematic review it was actually shown that it favored steady state cardio for lowering body fat with a lower time commitment.
On the other hand, if you are looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness, this meta analysis showed that hiit cardio, for a lower time commitment, has been shown to increase cardiovascular fitness more so than steady state.
In my opinion, I do believe it is a more time efficient way to burn calories.
Now, with that being said, you have to use it wisely.
When you implement a HIIT cardio routine, this is very taxing on your body and nervous system.
If used improperly, it can actually backfire and slow down results, especially if trying to mix with a proper strength training program.
Think about it.
If you are lifting weights for say 6-15 reps, that truly isn’t that long of a time period right?
Maybe 20-45 seconds, max.
During those 20-45 seconds you are pushing hard and using your max effort to lift that weight, then you rest, and do it again.
Well when you do hiit cardio, you are doing the same exact thing, using the same exact energy system.
Therefore when you are on your rest day from strength training and you still do hiit cardio, you aren’t actually really resting due to you using the same energy system as strength training.
This can lead to decreased recovery and decreased workout performance in the gym, which can lead to decreased results.
My two cents would be to implement hiit cardio on a day where the next day you are not scheduled to strength train.
I know that is always not possible due to conflicting schedules, but if possible, that would be most optimal.
Steady State Cardio
Steady state cardio would be much like it states, a moderate intensity style of movement.
Something like going for a 20 minute walk, or a 30 minute bike ride.
In this style of training, your heart rate is usually at a more moderate level. I would say anywhere between 45-65% of your target heart rate, depending on the individual.
Benefits Of Steady State
While this is somewhat subjective, I will pull out some science to back this.
This study proved that steady state cardio was more enjoyable to relatively untrained healthy young adults as opposed to a hiit cardio, tabata style training.
Also, anecdotally speaking, a ton of the clients I coach on a day to day basis also tend to find more enjoyment out of steady state cardio.
I believe this is to be it is less intensive, less rigorous, and has more stress relieving qualities to it.
Imagine taking a walk through the park for 30 minutes as your cardio as opposed to hunched over and out of breath on a track sprinting.
The stress relieving factor is a huge benefit I see in a ton of my clients in which it make sense that the study also concluded so as well.
Easier To Adhere To
We all know life happens. You get busy and work calls in you early or keeps you late.
Maybe your son has a soccer game rescheduled which is going to cut into your gym time.
Whatever the case may be, if you are scheduled to do your hiit workout at the gym, sometimes it may not be an option to make it, or it may get cut short.
However with steady state cardio, normally anywhere you are you can get out and take a walk.
You are able to come home and hop on your bike and go for a quick ride.
Again, anecdotally speaking, steady state cardio seems to be easier to fit into your life leading to better adherence long term.
On top of the fact you must remember this is not just about a few weeks of training, this is a forever game.
As you continue to age, no matter how old or young you are now, you have to factor in the long term.
Which is more likely to adhere to as you get into your 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, steady state or hiit cardio?
I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but normally the answer is going to be steady state cardio.
So, What Is Better, Hiit Or Steady State Cardio For Weight Loss?
Very simply put, when it comes to hiit or steady state cardio for weight loss, it is all going to come down to which you enjoy more and can adhere to the best.
As you saw above multiple research studies, meta analysis, and systematic reviewed concluded time and time again there was no real difference in results when it comes to body fat loss between hiit or steady state cardio.
You won’t burn more fat by doing hiit, or you won’t burn more fat by doing steady state.
The way you will burn the most fat and see the best results, is something so incredibly shocking that is almost is hard to believe, is by following a style of cardio you enjoy the most.
If you enjoy doing hiit, awesome, do hiit.
If you enjoy doing steady state, perfect rock with that.
It truly won’t make a difference one way or the other. The most important aspect is that you adhere to and enjoy the style of training you are doing the most, rather than the actual style of training itself.
My Two Cents
If you want my opinion on the topic I will give it to you as well. If you don’t that is awesome too, don’t mind me wiping my tears off of my face.
My advice on whether hiit or steady state cardio for weight loss would be exactly what the research studies and data show above which is do something you enjoy and can adhere to.
In my personal opinion from working with clients for the past 4+ years now, I tend to lean more towards steady state cardio for most of the benefits I outlined earlier.
When I program exercise programs for my clients rarely ever do I include any direct cardio work other than pushing to get 8-12k steps a day.
Which, if you are getting 8-12k steps a day, you are normally falling under that steady state category.
You are getting outside and walking. This obviously helps with energy expenditure and being in a calorie deficit yet it goes beyond just that.
It helps with stress relief. If you are less stressed, you are normally going to stick to your diet better.
If you stick to your diet better you are going to see better weight loss progress, because weight loss is primarily done through diet as we stated earlier.
You are also simply going to lead a less stressful life which is a better quality of life all around, which is something I want and preach to my clients.
There you have it. Your question is answered.
When it comes to hiit or steady state cardio for weight loss, one is not better than the other.
Simply pick which one you like and be consistent as heck with it.
If you have any other questions feel free to leave me a comment below and I would love to help you out.
If you are interested in working with me, I am going to link my application for coaching HERE.
Other than that, look to talk to you soon.
https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/05/fitness-trackers-accurately-measure-heart-rate-but-not-calories-burned.html Stanford calorie tracker study
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28401638/ hiit is more time efficient
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657417/ review that no difference and tabata was less enjoyable
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28513103/ hiit or steady state showed no difference
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31401727/ hiit can improve fitness, but not body composition