The word both elicits feelings of utter revulsion and ecstasy.
If you’re an endurance athlete or cardio bunny, the idea of jumping on the treadmill or bike is incredibly alluring, and if you’re the traditional gym bro, the mere thought of cardio is enough to make that tasty pre workout shake start to reverse course in your GI tract.
Nevertheless, cardio does have its benefits.
It can increase daily energy expenditure, improve mood, and (obviously) promote cardiovascular health.
Despite these benefits, cardio is still something many gym rats (and ordinary individuals) struggle to execute.
One of the biggest problems is that most people think there is only one form of cardio -- slogging away for hours on end on the treadmill or jogging on the road.
However, there are multiple ways to “skin” the cardio cat.
Here is an overview of the various cardio modalities you can try, so that you can find the one that best suits your wants, needs, and desires and keeps you on track with your health, fitness, and physique goals.
Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS)
LISS is the form of cardio most often employed by bodybuilders and other physique athletes who typically fall for the belief that “cardio makes me small.”
LISS typically burns a higher percentage of energy from fat than more intense forms of cardio since body fat is the body’s primary fuel source for low-intensity activity.
However, something that’s often conflated by the uninformed (and promulgated by the charlatans of fitness) is that calories burned from fat during a workout don’t necessarily translate to losing body fat over the course of time. In order to lose body fat, you have to be in a calorie deficit. Just because you may be burning more fat during a given workout doesn’t mean you’re actually losing body fat. Your body will compensate by utilizing more carbohydrates and glucose later in the day to balance things out
Ideally, when performing LISS, you’ll want to maintain a heart rate between 50-60% of max heart rate, which “maximizes” fat burning during the workout.
The upside of LISS is that it’s easy on the joints, increases circulation and won’t impair recovery for your next resistance training session. The downside is that you have to do it for longer bouts of time to get the same amount of calorie burn as you would a HIIT workout.
Moderate-Intensity Steady State (MISS)
Moderate intensity steady state is perhaps the most common form of exercise for individuals trying to lose weight and get in shape. This manifests in the form of 30 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical at a moderate, sustainable pace.
While hopping on the treadmill or elliptical is perfectly fine, just about any form of physical activity can be used for MISS.
For instance you could hop on a cycle or even utilize bodyweight circuits.
As with LISS, the upside is that most forms of MISS are easy to recover from and learn. However, it is time-consuming, doesn’t do much to build muscle, and the repetitive nature of it may cause overuse injuries over time (especially if you’re only doing one form of exercise for MISS).
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
The last option is HIIT. Here you’ll perform short periods of all-out effort interspersed with brief bouts of rest. This helps maximize time efficiency (most calories burned per unit time spent in the gym). However, it is often the most demanding on your muscles, joints, recovery capacities, and mental faculties.
If you’re someone who loathes cardio this may be the option for you since it requires the least amount of time. However, you have to give it your all in order to fully really the benefits of HIIT. Also, due to the intense nature of HIIT, it requires greater recovery and can eat into your recovery for your weight lifting workouts, especially if you choose lots of lower body intensive plyometrics for your HIIT workouts.
Which is the Best Cardio for Me?
At the end of the day, there is no “best” form of cardio. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. You need to find the form that keeps you motivated to show up each day and give it your all. This could be just one type of cardio or a mix of the three, depending on your preferences, goals, and lifestyle.
Whatever form of cardio you engage in, be sure to use EAminoMax to aid in your recovery.