With so many different options available to you today including cardio machines, exercise classes, jogging along the beach front and many more it is difficult to pick the right cardio to help us quickly achieve our goals. If your goal was to lose body fat you should not just perform cardio, you should ask yourself what is the best cardio to burn fat?
Not only are there too many choices when it comes to picking what you would like to use to do your cardio workout there are also a lot of different types of cardio, each with a different effect on the body. Don’t get me wrong, all cardio is going to raise your body temperature, burn calories and boost your metabolism. However the way you choose to perform your cardio can make a massive difference to the way your body burns fat.
What are the different types of cardio?
Before I give my opinion on what is the best cardio to burn fat I wanted to cover the various types of cardio and the corresponding energy system used in the body when performing your exercise. It is the way energy is used in the body that will determine how much fat you will burn.
Low Intensity, Long Distance
I would say that this type of cardio is the most commonly known and is what I see most people at my local gym spending most of their time doing. It involves working at between 40% – 60% of your maximum heart rate (maximum effort) for what I would call a long duration or distance. Something between 5km – 10km is common, 40 – 60 minutes for those who prefer time.
You can walk, jog, run, swim or cycle as an activity. This is the perfect way for you to introduce yourself to cardio if you are a beginner. Adjust the intensity (speed or route) as you feel necessary and make sure to concentrate on completing the time or distance rather than killing yourself from the start. This is a good way to burn fat, especially for those who are overweight.
Medium Intensity, Medium Distance
This type of cardio requires you to push closer to your maximum heart rate aiming for around 70%. If you are exercising at the right intensity you will be breathing heavy but not so heavy that you have to stop the exercise. You should aim to complete roughly half the distance / duration of the low intensity cardio but at the same time you should be pushing yourself that much harder.
This type of training is less efficient at burning fat, you will still burn calories but you will also be training your aerobic energy systems (your ability to take oxygen into your body and utilise it to create energy).
High Intensity, Short Distance
This type of cardio is very demanding on your body. You will be working at or just below 85% of your maximum heart rate for a much shorter distance (less time for those of you who like to measure your training that way).
Without getting too technical exercising above 85% of your maximum heart rate forces your body to start using the anaerobic energy system which is pretty much useless at burning fat. Due to the speed at which the anaerobic system is designed to work and the lack of ability to sustain the intensity for any prolonged period means that fat can’t be used as an energy source.
Exercise for between 100 metres and 400 metres, 1 – 5 minutes depending on your fitness level. You should look to increase the intensity or speed rather than distance or time as you get fitter.
So what is the best cardio to burn fat?
In my personal opinion I prefer a combination of two of the above which is called High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT for short. This type of cardio combines the low intensity and high intensity styles together to get the best results as quickly as possible.
HIIT Training Examples
Typically HIIT training revolves around a period of all-out effort, above 85% of your maximum heart rate working with the anaerobic energy systems and then a rest period in the low intensity zone to allow your body to recover. What this unique HIIT combination achieves is your body burning it’s carbohydrates during the high intensity stage and switching to burning fat during the low intensity phase as it has little choice being carbohydrate depleted.
Here is a HIIT training example that I tried myself recently at the gym. Familiarise yourself with a treadmill as you will be increasing and decreasing speed frequently during the workout. Start by running for 1 minute at a low intensity, 40% – 60% of your maximum heart rate the same as the low intensity, long distance example I talked about earlier.
Once you complete a minute at this pace you need to immediately increase the speed on the treadmill to increase the intensity, moving your body into the high intensity zone, around 85% of your maximum heart rate. Stay at this pace for between 30 seconds and a minute depending on your level of fitness. Reduce the speed dropping your workout back into the low intensity zone where you will continue running for another minute. You should use the low intensity section as a resting period.
Repeat the low intensity / high intensity periods between 3 – 10 times, again depending on your personal fitness levels. As you progress you will be able to work harder whilst keeping your heart rate lower and therefore assuming you use the heart rate percentage to calculate your intensity you will continually progress and burn fat at the same time.
Whilst answering the question “What is the best cardio to burn fat?” is always open to opinion I feel that you will get excellent results implementing what I have suggested above.