With so many conflicting opinions and myths, what is the right sort of cardio for you

I will be doing a comparison on HIIT cardio vs LISS cardio, since these two forms of cardio are used the most. By the end of this article you will have a really good idea of what kind of cardio is right for you and how to effectively use it.

As we have all learned from numerous articles and research, cardio is not the fix all solution when it comes to body compositional changes anymore. New times have rolled in and we have tons of research studies proving that weightlifting is far more superior for fat loss and body compositional changes. But, even though we have these new findings, people still don’t get it and people still want to sit on the bikes reading magazines about Kim Kardashian’s divorce for hours and hours. Do as you please, but I know I’m one of those types of people that want to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to training. This leads me to write about what is the right type of cardio for you?

What do these Acronyms mean ?

HIIT stands for High intensity interval training, which consists of short sprint intervals coupled with low-moderate intensity work. An example of this would be a 30 second sprint followed by a 4 minute steady pace walk to cool down and bring your heart rate back to normal and then repeating it. LISS stands for Low intensity steady state cardio, which consists of purely low-moderate intensity work. An example of this would be walking on the treadmill or riding the bike and being able to hold a conversation (we tend to see a lot of this at gyms).

Lactate and Anaerobic Threshold

Why testing the lactate threshold (LT) and anaerobic threshold (AT) is a good idea? The AT and LT are extremely powerful predictors of performance in aerobic exercise (cardio). There are 2 ways that muscle can burn glucose (blood sugars) and that is through aerobic work (with air) and anaerobic work (without air). For example, long bouts of LISS cardio is considered aerobic work and weight training or HIIT cardio can be classified as anaerobic work. The AT and LT are a great test for HIIT and LIIS cardio because it gives a great predictor of which type of work produces ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is a quick burst of energy that we get in our muscles when we contract them (Ex: every time you do a bicep curl, you are getting a quick burst of ATP). HIIT produces better changes in exercise capacity as opposed to LISS cardio. High intensity training will hit the AT and LT, that’s what causes the body to make metabolic changes. When you are doing LISS, you are considered below the AT and LT.

How can you change your metabolism?

The more mitochondria you have and the more active they are the greater oxidative capacity you will have for fat loss. HIIT increases mitochondrial capacity and you actually increase the amount of mitochondria you produce. Studies show that you get greater fat loss through high intensity training because of the increase in oxidative capacity. Whereas with LISS you’re only burning calories at that precise moment, there’s no 24 hour energy expenditure (boost in metabolism) and it hurts you down the line because your body adjusts to it and you end up needing more to lose fat. With HIIT you are burning calories at the moment but you actually change the muscles metabolism and it boosts your metabolism because you increase the mitochondria density of your muscle, so you increase the muscles oxidative capacity and you really do burn more calories. What most people don’t realize is you have to put your body in an uncomfortable mode and use the max energy expenditure.

We tend to see a lot of people doing hours and hours a week of LISS and according to calculations they should be losing pounds, but they can’t lose anything because your metabolism adjusts to low intensity exercise. It just doesn’t cut it because it’s just a calorie burn at that time, not 24 hour energy expenditure. If you do LISS all the time, you’re basically trading calories in and calories out and you can cut these same calories through diet and still get the same effects.


Now I know a lot of you have gotten the hint as to why HIIT cardio is more advantageous to LISS cardio for muscle retention and fat loss and it seems as if I totally bashed LISS cardio to the ground.

But, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that LISS is useless. I’m a big believer in doing both HIIT and LISS combined. Here are the following reasons why:

  • You can’t do HIIT 5-6 days a week because eventually it will have a negative impact on your weight training and interfere with growth
  • Many people have legitimate orthopedic, cardiac, and even psychological reasons to avoid HIIT, so LISS is their only option
  • HIIT could be dangerous if not used right and could lead to injury
  • HIIT and LISS on either a combined, cyclical, or rotational basis seems to be the best formula in my opinion
  • So to sit there and say that HIIT is hands down more superior than LISS for improvement in body composition is as bad as saying that 6 reps per set is better than 20. I’m a firm believer that both HIIT and LISS cardio have unique benefits unto themselves. I feel they both should be incorporated into your routines since each have specifically different effects.

The Bottom Line

Do the type of cardio that you have a personal preference for. Whichever one fires you up the most because you’ll most likely work harder at it. HIIT is quicker, proves to be more effective for fat loss, creates metabolic changes, and helps with muscle retention but not everybody can do HIIT. LISS is safer, but takes twice as long to accomplish similar things and it still has its place for fat loss in moderate amounts, from a pure calorie burning standpoint (meaning only to burn calories & not make changes to your metabolism) HIIT  is now the "IN" thing but at the end of the day it’s up to you on what kind of cardio suits you best to achieve your goals,cardio should be boring mix it up make it fun !!!!