What’s the Best Cardio For Fat Loss: Steady-State or HIIT?

So you want to do some cardio and lose unwanted body fat – but you’re not sure how to do it. There’s a lot of opinion and debate over what method is best for fat loss: steady-state cardio (low intensity and longer duration) or high intensity interval training – shorter sessions and higher exertion levels. Let’s see what the science says.

Everything In Life Is “Goal-Dependent”

Before we can answer HOW to do something, we must first answer WHY we’re doing it. There are always multiple ways to accomplish any task – whether we’re talking business, diet, fat loss, strength training, memorization techniques or checkers.

To avoid a massive tangent and to stay on topic, I’ll be brief and blunt. “Cardio” is not the best way to lose fat/build muscle/build the body most people want.

If you enjoy running, run. If you enjoy biking, bike. If you prefer swimming, do what you enjoy. This article is examining the effectiveness of the tools in our fitness tool box at accomplishing one goal – reducing unwanted body fat. (Let’s face it, body fat is the only reason the word ‘calorie’ means anything to anyone.)

Always remember this: Form follows function. The health status, performance abilities, and appearance of our bodies reflect the tasks we repeatedly ask our bodies to perform. More on this coming up – with scientific studies as always!

What are you asking of your body?
What are you asking of your body?

DISCLAIMER: Calories Burned, n=1, and Effort

Individual results, calories burned, and perceived effort all vary from one individual to the next. We will all  experience our own truths when we apply these strategies – such is the nature of the n=1 experimentation. This is meant to serve as guideline for you – a jumping off point, so to speak – to provide you a shortcut and eliminate some of the headaches of trial and error when looking for the best fat loss protocols for your fitness routine.

Let’s look at an example… a 400 pound man will burn more calories walking up 20 flights of stairs than a 100 pound female walking right beside him. So the individual performing the exercise introduces variability into the calories burned as does the pace of the individual.

Just look at the large range of calories burned per hour at various speeds on a treadmill: (Same person, same treadmill, different speeds & inclines.)

  • 3mph WALK = 219 calories/hour
  • 3mph WALK = 518 calories/hour  **3.5 Incline**
  • 6mph JOG = 687 calories/hour
  • 8mph RUN = 897 calories/hour

As further evidence that gender, weight and pace introduce variables in calories burned, the Wisconsin Department of Health published a guide that shows running can burn anywhere from 472-1553 calories per hour – obviously depending on gender, bodyweight and speed. [W]

Bottom line: higher exertion levels result in greater energy expenditure, and ultimately more fat loss for the duration of effort.

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Energy systems – steady state vs. HIIT – performance training or fat loss

Again, I feel compelled to to repeat this – If you LIKE running or if running IS YOUR SPORT, then by all means, keep it up.

However, if running is a means to an end (less body fat, better health, etc) then you need to listen up!

Running or steady-state cardio is NOT the best way to lose body fat. In fact, it has been shown to INCREASE body fat!

  • Study 1 – Laval University (Canada)…1 group performed steady state cardio for 20 weeks while another group performed HIIT for 15 weeks. The steady state group burned an astonishing 15,000 MORE calories than their HIIT counterparts…yet the HIIT group lost significantly more bodyfat!
  • Study 2 – 2001, East Tennessee State University…an 8-week study following HIIT vs. steady state cardio found that the HIIT group lost 2% body fat in 8 weeks while the steady state group lost ZERO body fat.

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  • Study 3 -This Australian study published in the International Journey Of Obesity split 2 groups of women into steady state (40 minutes at 60% Max heart rate) and HIIT groups (20 minutes of 8 second sprints with 12 second rest periods). Yet again, the fat loss winner was HIIT…1/2 the time and 6X the body fat lost in this study!
    • The women in the steady-state exercise group actually saw an increase in trunk body fat %.

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  • Study 4 –46 overweight, college-age males completed the same 8 sec sprints with 12 seconds recovery for 20 minute sessions that the Australian women completed in the previous study. After 12 weeks, the HIIT group lost 1.5kg on the scale and 2.0kg of fat – that means they gained muscle and lost body fat at the same time! The control group saw zero change weight or body fat.
    • Interestingly the waist circumference of the HIIT group DECREASED an average of 4cm, while the waist measurement of the control group INCREASED by an average of 2cm.
  • Study 5 – A 9-year study of 12,568 runners concluded in 2006 and showed that over half of the runners GAINED body fat and increased waist circumference size over the 9 years – even if they never quit running. In fact runners who maintained or slightly increased their mileage still gained body fat. The only runners who did not gain fat were the ones who tripled their weekly mileage over the 9 years.

Summary: What YOU need to know

EVERYTHING IS GOAL DEPENDENT. WHY are you doing it?

  1. If you’re simply doing “cardio” for fat loss, keeping it short and going as hard as you can results in more fat lost compared to lower or moderate intensity efforts. If you can last longer than 20 minutes, you’re not going hard enough – and you’re not doing HIIT.
  2. Don’t worry about “IDEAL” or being “fast enough” when performing intervals. Start with the highest sustainable output level for YOUR CURRENT fitness level and do what you can. Over time, focus on going faster/harder and then seek to increase duration to 10, 15, even 20 minutes. Focus on progress, not perfection.
  3. Longer duration, lower intensity cardio DOES have it’s place in a balanced health and fitness plan.
  4. If you’re training for an event, running, rowing or biking for performance or pleasure, do what you enjoy.
  5. Obviously the diet consumed by everyone in these studies is a crucial factor in the fat lost or gained over time. The researchers in these studies may not have controlled that – but we’re not examining diets here, we’re examining methods of cardio for fat loss. As was shown here, regardless of dietary changes, these HIIT methods can reduce body fat.
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In PART II, we’ll examine the best cardio machines!

Resources:

  1. Tremblay, A. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8.
  2. King, Jeffrey Warren, “A Comparison of the Effects of Interval Training vs. Continuous Training on Weight Loss and Body Composition in Obese Pre-Menopausal Women.” (2001). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 123. http://dc.etsu.edu/etd/123
  3. Trapp EG, 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: 684–691.
  4. Heydari M, et al. The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males. Journal of Obesity, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/480467
  5. Williams, P. Wood, P. The effects of changing exercise levels on weight and age-related weight gain. International Journal of Obesity (2006) 30, 543–551. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803172

Why BDNF Is Miracle-Gro For Your Brain And 7 Ways To Increase BDNF Naturally

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor – or BDNF for short – is a naturally occuring growth hormone that is responsible for neurogenesis: the creation of new neurons. Higher levels of BDNF are associated with increased intelligence, mood, productivity, and memory along with decreased risks of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s. Keep reading to see why expert scientists call BDNF “Miracle-Gro for the brain” and to learn 7 easy ways you can increase BDNF naturally.

Read moreWhy BDNF Is Miracle-Gro For Your Brain And 7 Ways To Increase BDNF Naturally

How To Get More Out Of Your Nootropics

Coloured MRI Scan Of Human Brain

Nootropics are enjoying their day in the sun.

Bradley Cooper’s Limitless experience in 2011 was enough to make plenty of people think twice. ScarJo’s Lucy took it to a whole new level. What if you could access a much greater part of your brain, and become rich, good looking and multilingual in a handful of days?

The possibilities really would be limitless.

Except that Limitless and Lucy were were movies. Entertaining, certainly, and good food for thought, but fiction. There’s no drug on Earth that will do for you what NZT-48 did for Cooper. And no blue goo is going to send you into manic intellectual overdrive like it did to Lucy.

There are, however, plenty of drugs that will help you hone an edge. The kind of edge that can indeed help you get ahead. Nootropics sharpen your existing capabilities and keep you focused on what needs to get done. They help you feel motivated, clear-headed, and able to hold more information than you might otherwise.

And there are ways you can make those results even more significant.

You might be surprised how simple these steps are.

How To Get More Out of Your Nootropics

Many of the smartest people in the nootropics field will tell you to start with the low-hanging fruit – small, easy wins that will get you started on the road to optimizing your body and brain’s performance.

Foremost among these early adjustments are getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and getting outside and active enough.

If you’re wondering if you’ve accidentally started reading a health blog, I won’t blame you. I will blame you though if you stop reading, and then wonder why your stack isn’t turning you genius.

See, your body and brain are two parts of one system.

You can’t expect to treat one part badly, and have the other function at its best. How you treat your body has a direct impact on your brain, and vice versa.

That’s why treating your body like it is the most valuable thing in the world is vital for seeing top-level mental performance.

So let’s break it down a bit.

Why You Need To Stop Skimping on Sleep

How many times have you had a project or piece of work that needed to be done, and stayed up late to finish it, instead of getting up early?

Or stayed out socializing, even though you had a full day booked tomorrow?

Or gamed, read, or procrastinated until the wee hours of the morning for no reason other than you could?

I’ve lost count. I bet you have too.

Most of us are ok with skipping sleep if it means we get a little dopamine reward from whatever the other activity is. And this is the first problem that is diminishing your brain’s ability to perform at a consistently high level.

Scientific American reports that on average, Americans sleep an hour less every night than most need. Over the course of a year, this accumulates to up to two weeks of lost sleep.

No wonder we have trouble staying focused.

Harvard Health recommends that most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. If you have no idea how much sleep you need to feel really rested, chances are you’ve accumulated sleep debt, and will need to ‘pay it off’  before you can really get in a good pattern.

Some tips if you’re carrying a heavy sleep debt:

  • Try to work out roughly how many hours of sleep you’ve lost in say, the last three months
  • Add an extra hour of sleep every weeknight, and an extra three to four hours over the weekend. Follow this pattern until you’ve caught up the full amount of the debt.
  • Once you’re caught up, work out roughly how much sleep you need on average. Then shape your evening and morning routines around that – if you need 8 hours, but have to be up at 6.30am, go to bed around 10pm so you can start waking up more naturally.

It’s not just the amount of time in bed that counts, either. Sleep quality is extremely important. If you toss and turn most nights, or don’t feel refreshed when you wake up, try adding MagTech and PreBiotic+ to your evening routine. These two will help you calm down, relax and fall into a deep and restorative sleep.

That brings us to the next consideration.

You Are What You Eat

Want your nootropics to work? Eat your vegetables!

(And protein and fiber and essential fats.)

Vitamins and minerals are responsible for literally thousands of chemical processes in your body. Essential fats ensure that neurons in your brain function properly. Protein allows your cells to regenerate at a sufficient pace to keep up with the demands you put on your body. Fiber helps regulate energy and boosts nutrient uptake (including the active ingredients in your nootropics).

Your food intake is critical to your brain function.

Like sleep, everyone’s needs vary a bit, but there are good guidelines to help you work out what works best for you. Precision Nutrition makes the following recommendations:

For Men:

  • 2 palm-sized serves of protein dense foods at each meal
  • 2 fists of vegetables at each meal
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at most meals
  • 2 thumb-sized serves of fat dense foods at most meals.

For Women:

  • 1 palm-sized serve of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables at each meal
  • 1 cupped handful of carb dense foods at most meals
  • 1 thumb-sized serve of fat dense foods at most meals.

Makes it simple enough, right? And if you have trouble with that much protein-based food, you can always bump your intake up with Natural Protein.

Move It!

Exercise, be it intense or very gentle, has a profound impact on brain behaviour.

Exercise increases brain plasticity, and in as short a period as six months, can increase the size of the hippocampus – the brain center for learning and memory. This allows your brain to function faster and more efficiently, while also improving mood and social ability.

This makes it easier for you to work consistently and effectively, particularly when other people are involved and you need to be on your A-game.

Exercise doesn’t need to be complicated or even exhausting. A walk is enough to get blood moving around your body and improving its oxygenation. Find the style of movement you like, and do it regularly. Be it running, weightlifting, swimming, chasing your dog around a park – whatever, just do it often. Every day or two if you can.

And finally, one more thing you can do to make sure your nootropics are as effective as possible.

Stack Smart

It’s tempting to go full throttle when you get started with nootropics and stack up everything you can get your hands on.

Yeah… Don’t do that.

When nootropics are used sensibly, they’re safe and yield effective results. If you take a massive dose, or mix a large number of ingredients, you run significantly more risk – and most likely reduce the efficacy of each ingredient.

Do your research on which nootropics mix safely and effectively.

Don’t mix lots of stimulants.

Make sure you try each ingredient individually, adjusting carefully for your personal tolerance, so that you can identify which ingredients are effective for your personal biochemistry.

(This will also help you to avoid mixing ingredients that cancel each other out, or whose effects undo the benefit of another.)

If you start feeling nauseous, anxious or jittery, dial it way back. If you start feeling like you could land a jump between two skyscrapers, dial it way back. If you feel nothing and are as distracted as ever, try incrementally increasing your dosage or trying out new ingredients or combinations of two to three other nootropics.

Start with CILTEP. Once you’re used to that, you can try adding Smart Caffeine. Then build from there, one piece at a time.

Remember: Your body and brain are two parts of one system. Treat them both with respect and care, and you’ll eventually see the results you’re looking for.

Now, we’d like to hear from you. How do you increase the effectiveness of your stacks? Share your tips for getting the most out of your nootropics in the comments below!