In addition, discussions regularly flare up about HIIT versus LISS. In this article with its follow-up article, I want to get to the bottom of this topic.
THE FINISHING TOUCHES
What might be good to mention first is that anyway a calorie deficit is necessary for fat loss. As I have mentioned with you in previous articles, however, it is important in this context in which time frame you view this story. Per hour? Per day? Weekly? I can bunk a lot 2 days a week and still have a deep calorie deficit over the whole week.
Apart from the total calorie deficit, we can of course tweak and look for methods for maximum progression, but if the basis is not right (the calorie deficit), the other tricks do not make sense!
For exactly the same reason, such methods are of little interest to people who just want to lose some weight, just want to get a bit fitter or just want to achieve some results. Do you belong to this group (which is certainly nothing wrong with) then this is not the article through which you will see enormous changes in your physically. Of course you are more than welcome to read on, but you prefer to focus on sufficient protein, sufficient healthy food, nutrition that is well saturated and sufficient exercise.
However, do you want to squeeze that last bit of result out of your physique and your workouts and see how far you can get and are you willing to go the extra mile for that little bit extra? Be sure to read on! In these 2 articles you will read how you not only use your cardio optimally for fat loss, but also what else it can serve.
WHAT DOES SCIENCE SAY ABOUT CARDIO?
Earlier I wrote an article about the problems with scientific research .
Research about training methods, diet methods or the effect of different types of cardio has come up against exactly these problems. Studies cost a lot of money, research groups are small, studies do not correct or correct badly for diet and other activity for the rest of the day, studies do not correct for stress or inflammation, etc.
It is absolutely good to keep scientific research as the basis of your approach and vision, but dare to look further and be critical. If a study says that there is no difference between fasted or fed cardio, that does not necessarily always apply in all cases. If a study does not find a difference between HIIT or LISS, it does not mean that there is only a difference in energy consumption per unit of time.
HIIT OR NOT?
Another question I see and get a lot is what is a better form of cardio: HIIT or steady state (also known as LISS)?
Again context is very important in this story; first try to answer the question what the purpose of the cardio is and also what the context is in which that cardio is performed. HIIT will be more efficient per unit of time, but what about recovery capacity? How are your training courses structured at the moment? For example, HIIT has a greater effect on growth hormone production than steady state cardio, but if you are currently running a metabolic training block, the effect of HIIT will be proportionately less than if you are running a neuro-block.
Perhaps adding HIIT in the first case even causes inflammation through the overlap, especially when you are in the deeper stages of a cut. In this case, adding HIIT may actually have a completely different effect from what you’re trying to achieve; recovery through the gutter, fluid retention through inflammation, deterioration in strength, fatigue build-up and over-consumption of glycogen.
Recovery is often better at the beginning of a cut phase and nutritional and carbohydrate intake is higher than at the end of it. This would mean that HIIT has potentially fewer negative effects here.
Because HIIT will put a lot more pressure on your recovery than LISS, it is wise to schedule high-intensity cardio earlier in the cut phase as described, but another shorter-term focus is where you schedule your HIIT sessions during the week. If Tuesday is leg day, a tough HIIT session on Monday may not be wise. Furthermore, you can of course also choose to only do concentric work as HIIT, such as pushing a sled, or sprinting on a bicycle. This will limit muscle damage, potentially reducing the need for recovery.
FASTED VS FED CARDIO
As mentioned, I want to delve a little further into fasted cardio versus fed cardio. Typically, people do their fasted cardio at low intensity.
As mentioned earlier in this article, according to studies, it makes little difference whether you fasted cardio or not; the total energy deficit per day is all that matters. However, we have also briefly discussed the problems with research and we also know that when a study does not find any additional effect from a particular approach, this does not necessarily apply in all circumstances. The absence of clear outcomes often means that if there are differences, these differences will not be large. If fasted cardio was really much better for fat loss, several studies had shown this by now.
Are we completely writing off fasted cardio with that? No, not that fast. After all, we are not dealing with robots or machines, but with people. Results are always greatly influenced by emotion; placebo effect is extremely strong in humans.
A perfectly written training schedule that remains in the closet will provide less good results than a ‘3/10 would not hit’ schedule that you run neatly week after week. The most important thing for training and diet progression is sticking to it, sticking to it, and working regularly. Compliance in English.
So let’s first say that if you prefer fasted cardio, you should keep doing this. Because what I just said applies both ways; research does not show that fasted cardio is much better for fat loss, but certainly not much worse for muscle loss.
OPTIMIZE FASTED CARDIO
One method that is sometimes used because it would offer the best of both worlds is to take some protein or BCAAS and nothing else before starting your cardio. This would not provide enough energy to complete the cardio, but it would protect muscle mass against breakdown. However, I assume for the sake of convenience that you want to lose weight in this context. In that case, your glycogen stores are not fully filled and your liver may even be busy making glucose from amino acids. In that case, giving your liver another task will probably lead to more stress in the system.
Glycogen is very anti-catabolic and works well against muscle breakdown. In this context, it would be more sensible to do your fasted cardio when the muscles that perform the cardio have at least some glycogen in stock and certainly also the liver has a reserve of glycogen. If you want to do fasted cardio, taking some fruit before bed may be a good idea.
SUPPRESS THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS
We have now described a number of scenarios in which (more) cardio is counterproductive. However, we can certainly take steps to suppress these negative effects. I’ve already mentioned adding some fruit for bed. We can also take a few grams of BCAAS / EAAs and some fast carbohydrates during cardio to put stress on the system and limit the chance that the liver has to trigger gluconeogenesis. However, nothing is free, including these adjustments. The steps that I describe here all take up some space in your limited kcal budget, while you do the cardio to increase your calorie budget. Finding a sweet spot between these 2 is therefore important.
I think you now have a fairly complete picture of which forms of cardio and are because of this article in combination with the 2 previous ones. We also looked at which factors you should take into account when you apply HIIT cardio or prefer LISS cardio.
I want to write 1 more follow-up article to complete the story. Here I want to discuss the further effects that cardio has on our body, how to best periodize cardio and which factors in life are important for the considerations you have to make in this area.