Cardio protocols are typically split into two subcategories, HIIT and LISS. The ongoing debate is which is better for reducing body fat? …….. and it depends.
Low Intensity Steady State is a cardio workout performed for a duration at a low intensity, with the goal of trying to keep the heart rate between a range for example 110 beats per minute (bpm) to 130bpm.
The benefit for a low intensity cardio include improved blood flow, reduce stress, and lowers risk of heart diseases. During a LISS workout the body uses fats for energy, this is why bodybuilders can be typically found using this protocol pre competition as it has a far lower potential to use hard earned muscle for energy unlike HIIT.
The principle for LISS is quite clear. Spend 30 to 45 minutes performing cardio and ensure your heart rate stays within the 110bpm to 130bpm range (not as easy to track on a bicycle). Walking or cycling to work can be good choices of LISS workouts, however it’s not limited to these forms of exercise the key is keeping the heart rate within the range.
LISS is low impact, low risk, easy to perform and takes little time to recover from so it shouldn’t interfere with your weight training sessions. If you are new to training then this may be the protocol we recommend.
High Intensity Interval Training or HITT for short is one of the fitness industries most popular classes. You can find studios across any major city offering classes claiming you have the ability to burn up to 1000 calories following their HITT group exercise program. As a result it is an attractive proposition, work shorter with a quicker return on investment, opposed to other forms of exercise such as LISS or resistance training. HITT involves working at max effort producing a high level of output (VO2 max) and short rest periods. The resulting adaptation from this cardio training protocol when performed correctly is improved body composition.
However the issue lies with executing HITT workouts with high intensity. Unfortunately the fact is most individual don’t possess the necessary work capacity to produce the correct output to elicit the desired response. A true HITT workout will having you feeling close to death. The “Tabata” study and protocol is detailed in this article by the Guardian.
What you typically find in gyms is some sort of interval workout. For example at the Cut you will find us using Sprint Interval Training (SIT), this is based off the science of HITT but adapted for our clientele. We use SIT as our preferred cardio protocol
to assist in fat loss for our clients using the sled, however unlike HITT the rest period for sprint interval training allows clients to get increased rest which helps to prevent a drop off in performance, or feeling close to death. We find HIIT (LISS usually doesn’t) can interfere with weight training intensity if performed too regularly or close to a resistance training session.
HITT is a tool just as is LISS or Modified Strength training. The chosen protocol should be dependent on where an individual is now in regards to their health and fitness, their goal and current physical ability.
So, which cardio protocol is “better”?
It depends. If you can maintain a high output of workout from the start until the end of your session and fat loss is your goal HIIT or SIT would a good time efficient option, however if you’re an individual who doesn’t have the work capacity LISS would probably give you a better return on investment initially and you could potentially progress to HIIT.
Article by William Nkrumah