Variety is Key with the Best Cardio for Weight Loss

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Guest Blogger Post:

One of the biggest areas of debate with fitness experts is the type of cardio which is best for weight loss. You’ll hear some trainers advocating steady-state aerobic routines while others insist high-intensity interval training is the only way to go. So which type of cardio training really is best for weight loss? The answer is both! While people love to make an argument for one method being superior to the other, the reality is no one way for cardio would be optimal to do all the time. As it is with fitness in general, variety is the real secret to achieving maximum results.

The pitfall that a lot of exercisers get into is staying stuck with doing one type of cardio. A perfect example would be doing repetitive bouts of long-slow-distance, steady state routines on a treadmill or elliptical trainer. The idea is that the longer you go, the more calories you’ll burn and therefore it’s best for fat loss. This isn’t necessarily true over the long-haul. While lower-intensity aerobic routines will burn more calories during the workout, they don’t have the ability to stimulate a hormonal response like high-intensity interval training routines.

The edge that high-intensity, short-duration interval training workouts have is the release in powerful fat burning catalysts like growth hormone, adrenaline, and nor-adrenaline. When the central nervous system is stimulated with short bursts of all-out effort it triggers these hormonal responses.  This means your ability to burn fat post-workout is significantly increased.

As a certified Charleston personal trainer, I’m a big proponent of interval training routines for fat loss. But I’ll be the first to admit, it’s merely a piece of the puzzle and not the total answer. For starters, it would be extremely counter-productive to attempt high intensity interval training any more than 2-3 times a week. To do interval training correctly requires the exerciser to push him or herself with maximum effort. Recovery time would not be adequate to do interval training every day and cortisol levels would quickly rise in an over-trained state. Increased cortisol levels would negate all the benefits of interval training and bring fat loss to a halt.

Secondly, for optimal results you want to work the body across all the energy systems. There are three distinct energy systems the body uses to support physical activity: aerobic, anaerobic, and glycolytic. Without boring you with the details the body adjusts to using different energy systems depending on the intensity and length of the activity. When the body is able to bring in enough oxygen to support energy production it uses the aerobic energy system. When it can’t bring in oxygen fast enough, it uses the anaerobic or glycolytic energy systems.

The ideal cardio training routine would incorporate workouts that work all the above mentioned energy systems. This simply means you’d want to combine longer duration, steady-state aerobic routines with shorter, high-intensity interval routines. You’ll get the best of both worlds and avoid over-training or adapting to one particular workout routine.

For maximum results a balanced fitness routine would include resistance training, steady-state aerobic work, high-intensity interval training, and stretching/flexibility training.  Mix up your routines and don’t get bogged down doing the same workouts over and over. Incorporate variety and I ensure you that you won’t be disappointed with the results.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping middle age adults transform their bodies using his “Lean Code Method” fitness and nutrition strategies.

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