The relationship between exercise and fat burning is confusing, especially with the mass of conflicting information available. While a lot of personal trainers are die-hard disciples of the school of interval training, others still contend that low intensity, steady-state cardio is the best for fat loss. While each type of exercise has its advantages in terms of burning fat, neither does the job with flawless efficiency. A well-designed fat burning exercise program takes advantage of the benefits of both types of cardio.
The Fat Burning Benefits of Steady-State Cardio
For years trainers have touted the benefits of working out in the “fat burning zone.” This refers to an exercise intensity level that burns the highest proportion of fat. Numerous studies over the years have shown that the highest proportion of fat burning occurs during low intensity endurance exercise. Around 80% of calories burned during a gently paced workout are from fat.
Sadly, easy workouts have more significant disadvantages than the pathetic number of calories they burn. Steady-state cardio is ineffective at releasing triglycerides from fat cells, meaning that once the fat in circulation is burned, the fat burning effect of the exercise is drastically decreased. According to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, this effect is amplified as cardiovascular endurance increases. After just a few weeks of endurance training, low intensity cardio becomes much less effective at releasing fat from adipose cells.
High Intensity Interval Training and Fat Loss
Among the most celebrated methods of weight loss, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has an incredible list of benefits. Intervals burn huge numbers of calories with relatively short workouts, and quickly lead to radical improvements in cardiovascular endurance. Moreover, HIIT workouts stimulate adipose tissue to release fat into the bloodstream. This is likely caused by the intermittent sprints of interval workouts, which produce high levels of catecholamines, adrenal hormones that signal fat cells to release stored triglycerides. Despite the many advantages of HIIT, though, the elevated intensity level makes slow burning fat difficult to use as an energy source. Intervals are excellent for weight loss because of their superior overall calorie burning abilities, but they are seriously flawed when it comes to focused fat loss.
Combining Intervals and Cardio to Burn Fat Quickly
The combined beneficial properties of HIIT and steady state cardio can produce an extremely effective and targeted fat burning exercise program. A brief session of intervals, whether it is on a treadmill, on an exercise bike, or through a fast-paced weight training circuit, can release a great deal of fat from adipose tissue around the body. Performing 10 to 20 minutes of HIIT releases a reasonable amount of fat into the bloodstream. Following the HIIT, doing 30 to 40 minutes of comfortably paced steady-state cardio will burn the circulating fat. This type of focused fat burning workout, when combined with healthy eating habits, can quickly shrink even the most stubborn fat stores.