Do You Really Need Cardio To lose Weight? Here’s what you should know!

I remember stepping into a gym for the first time in my life and noticing that a lot of people were working really really hard to lose weight. Of course, the one-stop-shop for all kinds of weight loss remedies is doing cardio, for hours sometimes, and popping in some fat-burning pills that help in boosting your metabolism and hence contribute to your weight loss, right?

Now that you’ve realized I wasn’t serious till this point, it’s about time we get serious and actually understand what cardio is all about and whether you need it to lose your weight or not.

What Is Cardiovascular(Cardio) Training?

Before we move any further, we should first understand what we mean by the term Cardio.

Cardio is any form of physical exercise that raises your heart rate. Cardio can be aerobic or anaerobic depending on the level of effort or intensity that is required in the exercise.

Many people tend to think of cardio as some sort of steady-state exercise like jogging but actually cardio can be anything that raises your heart rate like playing sports or kickboxing.

Aerobic Vs Anaerobic Training

Before I discuss the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training, there are certain terminologies I would like you to know about.

  • Maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max): The maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity.
  • Maximum Heart Rate: You can estimate your maximum heart rate based on your age. To estimate your maximum age-related heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, for a 20-year-old person, the estimated maximum age-related heart rate would be calculated as 220 – 20 years = 200 beats per minute (bpm).

Now that I’ve addressed the basic terminologies that you should know, lets move on to the main topic for this section.

  • Aerobic Training: Aerobic exercises requires the presence of oxygen. Aerobic exercises are generally slow to medium-paced exercises that can be sustained for a longer duration of time like jogging or brisk walking. These train the type I muscle fibers which in turn increases the endurance and capillary size of the person. These exercises take your heart rate to about 65-75% of your maximal heart rate. For a 20-year-old person, it’ll range to about 130-150 beats per minute and VO2 max of about 50-70%.
  • Anaerobic Training: This is the exact opposite of aerobic training and better in my opinion(which I’ll address later in the article). These exercises take place in the absence of oxygen and work the type II muscle fibers which in turn increases the size and strength of the muscles. These exercises take your heart rate to about 75-90% of your Maximal Heart Rate and a VO2 Max of well over 90%.

LISS, Low Intensity Steady State cardio is aerobic activity, while HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training, is anaerobic.

Why HIIT Is Better Than LISS For Fat Loss

Now that you know something about HIIT and LISS, lets discuss which one is better for Fat Loss. If you want to learn more about how fat loss works and how should you go about building a good physique for yourself depending upon your current fitness level, I highly recommend you check these two articles out:

The mindset most people have about cardio is that good, slow, and long duration workouts are best for fat loss. But this mindset is slowly changing, with a lot of research to back it up. There are numerous studies done(which I’ll link to at the end of the article) that tell us that HIIT is way powerful than LISS for fat loss.

The primary reason for that is something called EPOC(Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). In simple terms, EPOC refers to the elevation in metabolism (the rate that calories are burned) after an exercise session ends. The increased metabolism is linked to increased consumption of oxygen, which is required to help the body restore and return to its pre-exercise state.

HIIT not only burns more calories throughout the day but also trains the type II muscle fibers which are linked to strength and size as opposed to the type I muscle fibers targeted by LISS which train the type I muscle fibers that can also hinder muscle growth.

HIIT is also less time-consuming than LISS which can be a preferred option for most individuals who don’t have a lot of time to devote to their exercise routine.

The Bottom Line

The takeaway from the discussion is that HIIT is better when it comes to burning fat but it should not be the only factor to keep in mind while designing your schedule. Let me explain.

Even though HIIT is better, if you’re a beginner then HIIT may not be the perfect option for you as you’re at a greater risk of injury with HIIT as compared to LISS. Also, HIIT can be tough on your joints so doing it daily might not be a viable option, especially for someone just starting out.

Also, if your primary goal is to lose weight then focus on HIIT but don’t leave out on strength training as it’ll help you to get stronger, shape your physique in a better manner, strengthen your bones, elevate your mood, etc.

LISS training also has benefits, including increased muscle mass in the heart, better disposal of metabolic waste, more use of fat as a fuel instead of sugar, and in fact, increased fat oxidation. LISS may not burn as much fat as HIIT, but it does the job and it provides health benefits and a little variety.

What I would recommend you do is include HIIT 1-2 times a week in your schedule and LISS 3-4 times. If you’re someone who wants to strength train and doesn’t have a lot of time then you can skip LISS and just stick to Weight Lifting and HIIT.


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Shariq Abid

Much needed information!! Thanks!!

Ubaid Ahmad

Great work! Not much people in India know this.

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