For effective weight loss, one diet can not do. Thus regular sessions of cardio burn fat more effectively. They help to avoid the return of lost kilograms. However, many people do not play sports or do it irregularly, citing a lack of time.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends those losing weight to do moderate-intensity cardio-respiratory exercises, giving them at least 150 minutes a week (5 days for half an hour). Moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) consists of relatively easy exercises, for example, fast walking or jogging, performed for a long time, and without a break, half an hour is the minimum.
Those who find it difficult to make time – HIIT is recommended, where large short-term loads alternate with relaxation.
The question is, can one type of training replace another? Comparison of the effects of MICT and HIIT has been the subject of much research. They show, in particular, that HIIT has a more beneficial effect on the health of the cardio-respiratory system and endurance than MICT, but it remained unclear how effectively these exercises help to lose fat. Such studies were also carried out repeatedly, but with a small number of participants, which did not allow us to draw reliable conclusions.
Jeff Coombes and his staff combined the well-known data on the comparative effectiveness of the two training methods for fat loss, thus obtaining a sufficiently large sample, and analyzed the results.
What was researched?
Scientists included in their analysis controlled studies that compared HIIT (as an option for such training – interval sprint) and MICT. Efficiency was evaluated by changing the mass of fat and the proportion of fat. For analysis, studies were selected with a duration of at least four weeks and corresponding conditions.
Interval sprint is a run to exhaustion lasting 8-30 seconds, which is interspersed with less intense recovery periods. VO2 max, in this case, exceeds 100%. (VO2 max – the maximum volume of oxygen per kilogram of weight, assimilated per minute at maximum physical activity, is measured in milliliters). Intensive interval training is a submaximal burst of physical activity (80-100% VO2 max), during which activity is alternated with less intense recovery periods. And, finally, a moderate-intensity continuous training is a standard cardio workout performed continuously for 20-60 minutes with an average intensity of 40-59% VO2 max or a heart rate of 55-69% of the maximum.
What cardio burns fat better?
The researchers did not find a significant difference between these types of training. However, moderate-intensity continuous training can reduce fat mass more effectively if it leads to greater energy expenditures than intensive interval loads.
HIIT did not exceed interval running in effectiveness. The classes had the same effect on women and men. The results did not depend on the duration of the studies, gender, age, and physique of the participants.
What conclusions can we make?
First of all, it turned out that neither cardio burns fat, nor the training regimen (high-intensity interval or continuous medium intensity), but the number of calories spent at the same time was important for fat loss. The more energy a person spends, the more fat would be lost.
In addition, the analysis confirmed that in the case of a shortage of time, intensive interval training could indeed serve as an alternative to longer continuous training, if they provide for the consumption of a sufficient number of calories. In other words, interval training will help attract people to physical activity in the face of a lack of time as the main obstacle to sports. What exactly to choose, HIIT, or running, it does not matter. They are equally effective, and in choosing a program, you can be guided by personal tastes.
The analysis also showed that any training in isolation from the diet alone is ineffective for losing weight, and overweight patients lose no more fat than people of the normal physique. Therefore, physical activity must be combined with diet.
The low effectiveness of the training can be explained by the fact that many researchers did not control the diet and physical activity of the participants outside the training. Several years ago, scientists from Canada and Columbia showed that people have different attitudes to different modes of physical activity. The researchers conducted ten controlled training sessions for patients with prediabetes, HIIT, or MICT, and then asked the subjects to continue their studies for four weeks, three times a week. Among people involved in HIIT, this recommendation was fulfilled by 89% of the subjects, and among those who studied MICT – only 71%. Researchers claim that HIIT is more inspiring for patients with prediabetes.
Another serious problem is the compensatory food intake. Some people lose their appetite after training, while others believe that they deserve their piece of cake with hard work, and this piece makes up for the calories lost during class.
There is no evidence that the result was influenced by the quality of the study (a characteristic evaluating its objectivity), gender, or the age of participants. But people can react differently to jogging or sprinting for other reasons, for example, because of a lifestyle, diet, or general physical fitness. To understand how different types of exercises fit together with these factors, further research is needed based on the personal preferences of the participants. It may be possible to detect biochemical, physiological, or psychological parameters that will allow you to predict exactly how a particular person will respond to certain exercises.
The general picture on what cardio burns fat better
So, exercises in themselves contribute little to fat loss. Undoubtedly, it is necessary to get rid of it – especially for those who have something to lose. However, exercise is needed not only to lose weight. They improve overall well-being, and this is sufficient reason to exercise regularly.
Some researchers believe that overweight people may feel good based on the fact that exhaustion does not contribute to health. And to improve their well-being, training helps. Excess fat causes chronic inflammation and disrupts metabolism, while training increases the cells’ susceptibility to anabolic hormones and insulin signals, normalizes metabolism, improves the state of the cardiovascular system, and stimulates the secretion of anti-inflammatory molecules.
However, different types of exercises have different effects on well-being. Recently, James Clark, a researcher at Manchester College, has summarized data from 66 studies on the effects of diet and exercise on various health indicators for overweight and obesity. It turned out that strength training is much more effective than endurance exercises, increase muscle mass, and intensive training lower insulin levels, lipids, and markers of inflammation in the blood more effectively than exercises with low intensity. Perhaps interval endurance exercises will have a better effect on overall health than continuous ones, even if they do not lead to a significant loss of fat.
So, if the exercises do not allow you to say goodbye to fat, they will significantly improve health. Therefore, physical activity is necessary in any case. Muscle development requires strength training. HIIT endurance effectively helps reduce inflammation and increase insulin sensitivity, and in this area, they have shown a clear advantage over MICT.
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