Interval Training vs. Steady State Cardio

December 13th, 2009 by

Ok so we now know what interval training is, but the big question is, is it really superior to traditional steady state cardio when it comes to fat loss? What about the fact that everyone in the gym seems to do steady state cardio? Well, look around. How many people do you see slaving on the elliptical for an hour every time you’re in the gym … and yet they never look any different. Pretty common observation isn’t it? Here’s the problem with an over reliance on steady state cardio for fat loss. Besides the fact that it’s boring and time consuming, one of the biggest problems is that the more you do, the more you have to do. As you become more aerobically fit, you’ll become a more efficient fat burner. Sounds good doesn’t it? How much fuel does a fuel-efficient car burn? Not much. It gets a lot of output (mileage) for little input (fuel). Same with us. The more efficient we become, whether aerobically or biomechanically, the less energy our bodies have to expend for a given amount of activity.

Efficiency sure sounds good, but when we’re trying to lose fat, we want to be inefficient fat burners. Look at a lot of physique competitors – they start off with 30 minutes of cardio three to four times a week and by the time they’re done dieting, they’re up to 60 minutes twice a day and even more in some cases. Did the 30 minutes four times per week stop producing results? Did they become more efficient?

But what about the often heralded fat-burning zone? I’m afraid to say that the fat-burning zone is completely overrated. Did you know that as you sit here reading this article, you are in the fat-burning zone? Do you think you’re burning lots of fat and getting ripped? The whole idea behind the fat-burning zone is that you use a greater proportion of fat as a fuel source with lower intensity work. As exercise intensity climbs, there’s a decreasing reliance on fat and an increasing reliance on stored carbohydrate in the form of glycogen to fuel activity. However, research supports the fact that the predominant fuel source used during exercise is not what is important for fat loss. Total daily energy expenditure is more important for fat loss than the major fuel used during exercise. So whether you burn fat or carbohydrate during your exercise session is not what determines your results; it’s how many calories you burned. So basically the strikes against slow cardio would be that it’s mind-numbingly boring, it’s time consuming, for a given quantity it produces less results over time, and the fat-burning zone, which is the major ’support’ for steady state cardio, is overrated and irrelevant. Read more about how Intervals Increase Overall Calorie Usage.

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