This is an area of confusion for most people. For best fat-burning results should you do high intensity, short duration cardio or low-intensity, long duration cardio?

The concept of “fat burning” exercise has been taken way out of context from Dr. George Brooks’ landmark research at the University of California years ago. Dr. Brooks’ research using isotope tracers showed what kind of fuel human’s burn during various activities.

This research showed that the body uses mostly fat during low-intensity activities such as sitting, sleeping, reading, writing, etc. As the intensity of the activity increases so does the reliance on glucose and muscle glycogen for fuel.

Based on these findings, many “fitness experts” started proclaiming that low-intensity exercise is “fat burning” exercise, and the cardio equipment in gyms became jam-packed with the cappuccino crowd working in slow-motion for hours on end while they read their magazines. All in the mistaken belief that this was the most effective way to shift the flab. I think some of them are still at it.

However, what the fitness buffs failed to understand was that the amount of calories burnt after an exercise session is far more important and far more impacting than the scant few calories burnt during the exercise itself. Low-intensity exercise does not challenge the energy, cardiovascular and respiratory systems within the body; therefore this form of exercise does not elevate the metabolism. Sure you will burn a few calories during the exercise, but it will do nothing for your metabolic rate.

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When you exercise intensely, your energy, cardiovascular and respiratory systems are taxed heavily, thus elevating the resting metabolism for many hours following exercise. That means you burn more calories even at rest. When high-intensity exercise is performed regularly, the effect becomes cumulative and effectively reduces the amount of energy trapped in fat cells. When you combine this with a common sense diet rich in protein and fiber but low in fat, your results are rapid and continuous.

Studies conducted over the last fifteen years at Laval University show that people who work out intensely have more muscle and less fat than people who exercise at low intensities (Metabolism 43: 814-818, 1994 and Int. J. Obesity 25:332-339, 2001).

For more details on effective high-intensity cardio exercise for fat loss be sure to read the introduction to Max-OT Cardio. Max-OT Cardio maximizes training intensity to take advantage of your body’s physiological response to this intensity. By training with ultra-high intensity for shorter periods of time, you increase your body’s overall metabolic rate burning more fat 24-hours a day without sacrificing lean muscle.

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Why is high-intensity cardio better than low intensity cardio for burning fat?

by Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS. time to read: 2 min