There is a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to the best cardio for fat loss. Some lifters believe HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the best cardio for fat loss due to its brutal metabolic nature and the mythical afterburn, while others point to LISS (Low Intensity Steady State Cardio) as a more sustainable and effective method to deepen your caloric deficit.
The only way to lose fat is to be in a prolonged caloric deficit. Think of fat loss as a bodily accounting adjustment: if calories out > calories in, you will be in a caloric deficit. Your body will dip into fat storages around your body as fuel — signifying fat loss.
In the past, we have strongly recommended readers to do cardio while losing fat as it will enable the dieter to consume more calories while attempting to lose fat.
For those who have attempted to diet in a prolonged caloric deficit, you will know that if you reduce your calories too steeply, that you will feel tired, low energy, irritable, and almost ill at times.
Cardio allows you to avoid feeling the above symptoms while entering similar caloric deficits — and it would be foolish to not do cardio while losing fat.
The Best Cardio For Fat Loss
When examining the best form of cardio for fat loss, we need to consider the following criteria:
- post-exercise recovery
- psychological barriers
Although some forms of cardio such as long distance running can burn a ton of calories, the fact that heavier dieters might suffer from shin and joint pain as well as feel psychologically challenged by it being a painstaking endeavor, overall, can make long distance running a less desirable form of cardio for fat loss than other less impactful alternatives.
When I used to do long distance running in my teenage years, planning a long run could become daunting or overwhelming to the point where the run itself was significantly shortened or called off altogether.
Psychological barriers to cardio can wreak havoc on its sustainability as your primary cardio of choice.
Long distance running can also interfere with recovery if you train your lower body hard. If you want to build muscle or increase your squat and deadlift, long distance running can significantly reduce your potential.
Playing sports can be hard to keep up on a regular basis — especially in later adulthood as you will struggle to find team players and you will be more prone to strains, niggles, and injuries — and, don’t kid yourself; your recovery time won’t be what it used to be.
I love playing sports such as soccer, rugby, tennis, squash, etc., but they become a treat over time, with age. Finding a more sustainable form of cardio which can be performed on a near daily basis will become key to your success.
Even though more demanding forms of cardio such as HIIT and sports can burn more calories in a timed window, it is far more preferable to elect a form of cardio that can be done on a daily basis and even complements post-workout recovery when in a caloric deficit.
A Brief Word on HIIT
Despite the fact that HIIT can burn a ton of cardio , have your ever tried to do HIIT every single day when in a deep caloric deficit? It is very difficult to do. Over time, you might become less and less inclined to do HIIT.
HIIT has enjoyed a lot of hype in recent years, with the help of fitness gurus. The celebrated “Afterburn Effect” which is simply Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC can give rise to a slight spike in one’s metabolic rate — but simply not enough to elicit the calorie-burning effect it has been inflated to achieve.
In fact, as many HIIT sessions last around 10-20 minutes, you would be better off going for a long walk instead.
Some publications have advocated for a combination of HIIT followed by LISS; for example, hill sprints followed by a walk. The logic behind this advice is to mobilize fat stores through HIIT, then utilize those stores to fuel the following LISS to equal a greater aggregate fat loss.
HIIT, despite all its fanfare, still has its place; if you have a busy schedule or are currently stuck in lockdown, HIIT is a decent choice in cardio to “get it done” given the circumstances.
However, what will ultimately inform your fat loss is a caloric deficit. If you attempt the above method, but remain in a caloric surplus, you won’t lose fat.
Why Walking is The Best Form of Cardio For Fat Loss
We maintain that walking is the best form of cardio for fat loss for the following reasons:
- It can be done every day
- It can help you recover faster after training
- Walking can help with reducing stress
- Walking can help with organizing your thoughts
- Walking can be an escape from the day-to-do
- You can walk alone or in a group
- You can walk almost anywhere
When you’re in a caloric deficit, you won’t be recovering as quickly or have the same energy levels to perform vigorous exercise as frequently.
One of the biggest reasons why walking is the best forms of cardio for fat loss is because practically anyone able-bodied can do it.
In spite of burning fewer calories than other forms of cardio, walking meets all of the criteria we set above:
- post-exercise recovery
- psychological barriers
Walking is something that you can do every day; walking assists with post-exercise recovery, increasing blood flow to affected areas; a good walk can be replicated on a regular basis; you’re far likelier to baulk at a 10k run than a 5k leisurely stroll; a 5k leisurely stroll will have fewer psychological barriers than a long run; and it works!
Walking is the best form of cardio for fat loss.
Note: Despite walking being the best form of cardio for fat loss, we urge that some common sense be applied. If you prefer cycling, that’s up to you. If you can’t walk for whatever reason, that’s also up to you, but we urge you to do at least some form of cardio in its stead.
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