Defining the difference between HIIT and steady state cardio!
Recently, I've written about the amazing benefits of HIIT training including the good, the bad and the real facts.
But, there is still confusion around which form of cardio is more beneficial and what the difference between the two is.
HIIT cardio creates an afterburn effect much like weight training does, which just happens to increase metabolism (key to long-term weight loss). EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is the amount of oxygen your body needs to return to its normal resting metabolic state. The more oxygen that is needed the more calories burned. Studies have shown HIIT training to produce an elevated fat burn for up to 21 hours post-exercise.
HIIT is equally more beneficial for preserving muscle tissue. Just compare the difference between a sprinters body to that of a distance runner. The difference in their muscle definition is profound and that's because a sprinter is way more intense in their movement recruiting the fast twitch muscle fibres. This is clearly also due to the amount of Human Growth Hormone released into the body post HIIT. HGH is quite simply an amazing get-lean hormone.
When you perform HIIT you should feel like you can't breathe, and push your body as hard as you possibly can, this is when the amazing magic formula takes place! You want to be working at 85 - 100% of your VO2 Max. To determine this minus your age from 220.
Steady state cardio or aerobic exercise can be defined as a continuous, moderate, low intensity pace. This is implemented at a fixed rate of intensity and sustained for an extended amount of time at about 55- 70% of VO2 Max.
Steady state cardio can burn calories and increase endurance but will not make significant changes to your metabolic rate. The steady state cardio does not have the ability to retain muscle as in HIIT training with the more explosive movements.
However, steady state cardio is beneficial when an individual is already implementing HIIT cardio up to three times a week for an added energy deficit. This is when you would combine both methods for further results. Equally, the steady state cardio is good for relaxation or if you are severely stressed (too much cortisol), in which case HIIT should be avoided.
Both methods of cardio have merit, but it's important to understand the facts on both to decide what kind of cardio programme is needed for your specific goals and current state of health.