HIIT vs Steady state cardio for fat loss

HIIT vs Steady state cardio for fat loss

HIIT cardio seems to be all the hype in regards to cardio for fat loss these days, and with good reason too.

Although, like anything, there are pros and cons. Just as there are pros and cons for steady state cardio. In this article I am going to share with you both the benefits and disadvantages for both, this will allow you to decide which style of training suits you best, or maybe it’s a mixture of both, you’re about to find out!

HIIT = High intensity interval training

LISS or MISS = Low/moderate intensity steady state cardio

What is HIIT cardio?

High intensity interval training is exactly as the name suggests. Short bursts of high intensity work intervals (lasting anywhere from 5-20 seconds) followed by either low intensity recovery or complete rest (usually lasting 30-60 seconds). A HIIT session typically lasts anywhere from 5-15 sets.

Example: A 10 second all out sprint at 100% intensity (everything you’ve got) followed by 60 seconds complete rest or walk for a total of 12 sets.



-Very time-efficient (typically anywhere from 5-20 minutes)

-Increases metabolism due to an increase in EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which is the body’s natural ability to return to normal after exercise meaning you will burn calories even after you’ve completed the session

-Improves VO2 max which is the body’s ability to provide oxygen to the working muscles around the body

-You need little to no equipment to perform HIIT, there are endless amounts of exercises you can put together to make up a session

-It’s exciting! Due to the short bursts of effort you can allow yourself to really push hard knowing you will get a rest afterwards

-Reduces viceral fat

-Increases aerobic power and fat free mass

-Depletes glycogen stores in the muscles leading to more fat loss


-It takes a lot more effort than steady state cardio to perform HIIT, making it a little harder to mentally prepare for, especially after a long day at work etc

-It takes a longer period of time to recover from due to the breakdown of muscle tissue and the amount of muscle fibres and energy required to complete the session

-Can be very high impact (sprinting etc) which puts a lot of stress on joints and tendons

-High risk of injury

-Isn’t ideal for beginners

-Can hinder performance on the following day’s training

Sports and/or athletes that utilise this style of training

Sprinters, field based sports, short distance swimmers, power athletes, even endurance or middle distance athletes can benefit from HIIT.

What is steady state cardio? (LISS/MISS)

Steady state or LISS/MISS cardio is performed by reaching a certain heart rate (typically 50-70% of your max heart rate) and maintaining that level of effort over an extended period of time.

Example: Going for a long run/jog or swimming laps at a comfortable pace in the pool for 30-45 minutes.



-Can be very therapeutic, a lot of people use long steady state cardio as a way of relieving stress or as time to think

-Increases aerobic capacity

-Increases VO2 max

-Releases endorphins

-Increases endurance in given activity

-Will likely burn more calories during the actual exercise than HIIT

-Can be performed more often due to the low intensity, meaning recovery rate is a lot faster

-Is perfect for beginners


-You won’t build any strength or power

-Can cause overuse injuries in joints and tendons (typically runners have this problem most often)

-Can be very boring

-Excessive amounts can lead to muscle loss

-Time consuming

-The body adapts very quickly

Sports and/or athletes that utilise this style of training

Marathon runners, triathletes, swimmers, basically any sport or event that performs an exercise over an extended period of time at a very similar pace.

Summary + my opinion

To summarise what you’ve read above, there is a time and place for both HIIT and steady state cardio. For people that are short on time or live a busy lifestyle then HIIT training may be a more effective method, along with athletes that complete high intensity repeat efforts during their chosen sport. For people that enjoy getting out and exercising without any time constraints or those who simply are looking to build their endurance, then long steady state cardio may be the choice for them.

In my opinion I think it’s beneficial to keep a mix of both methods in your training regime, especially if you’re simply completing cardio for general health and well-being.

For example, each week I aim to complete at least 2 HIIT sessions lasting anywhere from 10-15 minutes along with 1-2 longer runs at about 70% of my max heart rate as I enjoy running. So as you can see it all comes down to personal preference but at least now you know the benefits of both methods.

Important note

Remember fat loss will NOT happen unless you are in a calorie deficit (coming from either your nutrition or calories burnt from exercises or both). Check out my article on how to set yourself up for a successful fat loss phase or my FREE Ultimate guide to fat loss

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