This debate has now become a classic one in that years ago before high intensity training HIT was even popular, it was commonplace to use low impact steady state cardio activity as a means of burning off stubborn fat. As new research emerged demonstrating the benefits of HIT, the climate shifted away from the overwhelming support of LISS to HIT.
Recently, there seems to be a shift back over to favouring LISS once again. It’s not quite certain as to why the most recent shift, but this makes it a fitting time to dive deep into clear up the facts.
Is There A Problem With Doing LISS Cardio In The Long Run?
Essentially LISS works at the very beginning of implementing cardio into your exercise routine. You may have even noticed that when you add LISS to your training, you are initially burning more calories in a given timeframe compared to the same timeframe weeks later. Essentially, the body is extremely intelligent and it adapts to LISS by becoming more efficient.
For instance, if you started with 10 minutes of LISS and did 10 minutes every single day it would become easier as the weeks go by. This is because the body would work more efficiently. The downfall is that your body would not burn as many calories during the 10 minutes of LISS cardio as it initially did either.
More research shows that LISS cardio also results in the loss of lean muscle mass over time. In addition, if you are intaking lower calories this issue is made worse. At the same time, for those wanting to keep losing fat, they would be left with no choice but to either decrease their calorie count further (causing more muscle loss), or simply adding more time onto the LISS cardio.
So How Do I Lose The Fat?
It is important to know what your goal is. LISS cardio will work best for those wanting to maintain their current weight compared to those needing to lose a lot of fat over time. You must make sure that you are eating nutrient-dense food options and staying away from, “Junk”, because it will hinder fat-loss and also create a lack of essential nutrients that are needed for muscles to become stronger.
Supersets and rest periods should be broken down into a science! Supersets are a great way to maximize your workouts because they allow for your body to train other muscles aside from those that were doing all of the work during the first set. This method allows for your muscles to rest while still doing work. It will cut down the time spent in the gym, boost your metabolic rate, and keep you from taking long rest breaks while distracted on your phone or simply spending too much time sitting on a machine. Remember, the key to the rest periods are to walk, stretch, or perform a superset so you are always working on your fitness level. These periods should not be spent staying stagnant.
Interval training is very useful because it serves the purpose of engaging muscles to promote lean muscle mass, but it is also extremely effective in terms of promoting fat burning. There is no need to start with extremely short intervals. This is difficult and can often turn you off of HIT very quickly. Start with 3 minute intervals and then work your way down as you keep challenging yourself and improving your endurance.
Training higher volume is extremely effective because it increases metabolic rate and studies demonstrate that it is effective as a stimulus for lean tissue development over time. High volume refers to increased numbers of sets and reps for each exercise.
Total body exercises will be your best friend if you’re looking to lose fat. If you are engaged in only isolation movement exercises then you’re simply not stimulating as much muscle tissue as you would if you were conducting total body exercises. If you focus on performing full-body exercises, the benefits of stimulating more muscle fibers work to raise your metabolic rate and actually burn more calories over time.
We have all heard the phrase, “Consistency is key”, and this could not be more true when talking about fat-loss. Staying consistent with a sound strategy is essential. Most people want quick results and then become frustrated in 2-3 weeks. The reality is that consistency over 8-12 weeks is more realistic. Ideally, Fat-loss should occur gradually while the body becomes stronger at the same time.
If fat-loss is the goal and sticking to a plan that is backed by research is your thing, then an example would look like this:
- 2-4 days of weight training with warm-up cardio and cool-down cardio
- 2 days of HIT for 25-30 minutes
- 1-2 days of LISS (which could include walking, cycling, treadmill, or an elliptical)
After reading this article now you probably understand why it is almost impossible to distinguish whether HIT or LISS is better because they are both useful and important in their own right.
For fat-loss, a combination of these two will demonstrate most effective according to the research.
Boutcher, Stephen. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity. 2011. Article ID: 868305.
Hottenrott, K., Sebastian, L., et al. Effects of High-Intensity Training and Continuous Endurance Training on Aerobic Capacity and Body Composition in Recreationally Active Runners. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 2012. 11, 483-488.
Kraemer, W., Volek, J., et al. Influence of Exercise Training on Physiological and Performance Changes with Weight Loss in Men. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1999. 31(9), 1320-1329.
Paoli, A., et al. High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training Influences Resting Energy Expenditure and Respiratory Ratio in Non-Dieting Individuals. Journal of Translational Medicine. 2012. 10(1), 237.
Schuenke, M., Mikat, R., et al. Effect of an Acute Period of Resistance Exercise on EPOC Implications for Body Mass Management. 2002. 86, 411-417.
Trapp, E., Chisholm, D., et al. The Effects of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise Training on Fat Loss and Fasting Insulin Levels of Young Women. International Journal of Obesity. 2008. 32(4), 684-691.