HIIT vs Cardio for Weight Loss: Which is More Effective?

These days cardio is out while HIIT and strength training is in the spotlight. But for centuries, people have lost weight with simple cardio – whether it’s walking, running, or cycling.

So what is the truth about these workouts? Is cardio required for effective weight loss or is just strength training enough? Is HIIT different from cardio?

Read on to find out all you need to know about HIIT and how to use this method of exercising to boost and speed up your weight loss efforts.

What is HIIT? How is it Different from Cardio?

HIIT or High-intensity interval training workouts are quite challenging. As can be understood from its very name, it is not a constant workout such as cycling or jogging steadily for thirty minutes.

HIIT or high-intensity- an interval is a form of exercise where you increase or maximize your effort and intensity for short intervals of time with recovery phases in-between.

These intervals can vary based on your goals and capabilities. A ‘workout’ phase may be for a minute or even as short as 15 seconds. On the other hand, the recovery or resting phase may be just 15 seconds and may extend to 5 minutes or more.

HIIT training can be applied to any form of exercise you do. You can do any cardio activity like cycling, swimming, or running, but you must work in intervals of high-intensity spaced with low-intensity recuperation periods.

This helps your body get more used to the stress resulting in an increase of certain hormones such as testosterone and other anabolics. It also helps you become stronger and gain more stamina in a short period of time.

The more consistent you are in your HIIT workouts, the more you will be able to decrease the rest periods and increase the high-intensity periods resulting in you becoming a lean mean fat-burning machine.

The Advantages of HIIT Cardio Over Strength Training

The first thing I want to make clear is that I am talking about HIIT cardio in this section, not HIIT strength training.

The principle of HIIT can be applied to strength training as well. But the purpose of this article is to compare steady-state cardio with HIIT cardio. And to confirm whether there is any benefit in doing cardio in the first place!

Though strength training has plenty of benefits, cardio burns more fat per minute than strength training. Indisputably, aerobic exercisers lose more weight in less time as compared to strength trainers.

But, the major drawback of using cardio for weight loss is that most people get bored with the repetitive nature of cardiovascular workouts. They are time-consuming in nature and many people have trouble finding enough time in their day for extensive workouts.

The solution to these problems is to incorporate high-intensity- interval training into your cardio workouts. By combining short bursts of intense activity into your regular workout, you can squeeze more from your workouts and burn more calories in much less time.

Aerobic and Anaerobic States: How HIIT Really Works

The basic idea behind interval training is to condition your muscles, your nervous system, and your cardiovascular system by pushing your body to its limits.

A simple explanation is that during HIIT workouts the body switches back and forth between aerobic and anaerobic states.

During the light to moderate stages, oxygen is available to the body and our body uses glycogen and fat as fuel. You can sustain an aerobic workout for long periods.

During the anaerobic exercise phase, the body enters into a metabolic threshold and lactic acid is produced as a by-product.

The accumulating lactic acid creates a burning sensation in the muscles and leads to fatigue. This discomfort caused by lactic acid is the reason you cannot sprint for long without a break.

Anaerobic activities, though difficult to sustain, help build lean muscle.

When you switch back to the aerobic state, the body recovers and given adequate time, removes the metabolic wastes from the muscles. Now you are ready for the next round of sprinting.

How to Apply HIIT to your Workouts

A runner breaks out into a sprint and then he may walk instead of jogging or he may even stop. In HIIT workouts, the high-intensity period is alternated with an active recovery period. This means you have to maintain a moderate pace while you breathe in the oxygen and allow the body to recover.

This ensures that you switch back and forth between the aerobic and anaerobic state, but your body is prevented from recovering completely and the heart rate is kept high during the entire workout session, thus maximizing the calorie burn.

You can apply this principle to any cardio activity, not just running. If you can stick to it, HIIT workouts can yield fantastic results. Experiment and see what approach works best for you. The right approach will considerably boost both your strength and stamina while transforming your body.

Types of Interval Training

Start off with regular interval training if you are new to this. This involves short bursts of higher-intensity workouts with longer low-intensity intervals.

As you progress, you can attempt the next type of interval training which includes high-intensity workouts with moderate-intensity intervals, rather than low-intensity ones.

The Swedish interval training method

The Swedish interval training method ‘Fartleks’ involves running at full sprint until the athlete’s perceived exertion level and then jogging at a slow pace until he catches his breath. Then he sprints again and the cycle continues.

The 15 seconds recovery plan

You can also time this one by sprinting all out for a minute and then allowing recuperation for 15 seconds before sprinting again.

The major difference between HIIT workouts and regular interval training is the period of recovery. With regular interval training, the intervals are of low intensity and they tend to be for a much longer time as compared to the burst of high to moderate intensity phases.

The Benefits of Interval Training

The more intense the exercise, the better the benefits.

Reduces body fat percentage

As you alternate between extreme effort and moderate effort, your body learns to use the anaerobic system more efficiently. When your heart rate climbs higher, more energy gets used, and you burn more calories.

An effective fat-loss training program combines regular aerobic exercise and weight training with caloric restriction. These are the three cornerstones of body fat management.

Increases endurance

As the body adapts to the short aerobic intervals of low or moderate-intensity workouts, it becomes more efficient at metabolizing muscle wastes, leading to fewer muscle cramps and aches, thus increasing your endurance.

Supplies more oxygen to the body

With HIIT workouts, your body becomes more efficient in handling oxygen. You learn to breathe deeply increasing the amount of oxygen you pump into the body with each breath.

This ensures more oxygen supply to your muscles. You will eventually be able to increase the lengths of your workouts before you start feeling out of breath.

Improves cardiovascular fitness

Serious bodybuilders incorporate some form of cardio workouts into their routines for developing cardiovascular fitness.

Before you go…

The above-mentioned benefits will help you better perform any exercise you do, ensuring you reach your fitness goals more easily. But you need to be careful as this kind of intense training does involve some risks.

Don’t jump in and start straight away, you may get injured. You must begin gradually and slowly lengthen and strengthen your intense sessions as your body adapts to the increased demands. Allow a day or days of rest in between sessions, as needed.

If you have a chronic health condition, it’s always advisable to consult your doctor before embarking on any new exercise routine.

About Anju Mobin 104 Articles
The Nutritionist Wordsmith with a Chocoholic Edge! Anju is not just a writer; she's a brush-wielding, coffee-sipping, chocolate-loving wordsmith! With a Fine Arts degree in one hand and a Home Science degree in the other, she blends creativity and nutrition to craft content that truly nourishes the mind. Whether she's painting a vivid picture with words or brewing up engaging web content, she pours her heart into every project. When she's not busy whipping up articles, you'll find her nurturing orchids to bloom in her garden, baking scrumptious treats, and indulging her chocoholic tendencies with dark delights. She is the founder and managing editor of Fitness Hacks.