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HIIT vs Steady Pace Cardio vs Fasted Walk: Which Will Get You Six Pack Abs Faster

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Girl doing steady state cardio on beachSo how do we lose fat? It’s very simple, we must spend more calories then we eat. There are 2 ways to deal with this: we can either change our training, diet or both. You can do both but i highly recommend that you just change one, changing both diet and training might have negative impact on performance and takes years of experience to manage, and you must know your body well. If that is the case then you probably don’t have to read this, you already know what is best for your body, if not continue reading. Today i’ll focus on how we can change our training routine and incorporate different kinds of cardio workouts and what is the most effective way to get those six pack abs for you and with some insights from my personal training.

  • High intensity interval training (HIIT)

You probably read about HIIT in every magazine, website and weight loss brochure, trainers are recommending it for everyone as the most effective way of losing fat and getting fast results. You see a bunch of before – after photos, print your training routine, spend only 20 minutes and get better results then hours of cardio, so whats the catch.

Problem with HIIT training is that you have to be already in decent shape to perform it,
there’s a chance you might get injured and also what I found to be the biggest problem -recovery. After you do your leg workout, if you ddid a good job your body needs at least 72h to recover before attempting any cardio, problem is while you’r doing HIIT it delays your recovery so basically you can’t stack those 2 workouts together without sacrificing leg progress. I was faced with that problem sometimes and had to skip my entire leg workout for that week when i was doing 2 or 3 HIIT routines.

Before and After HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Also i had issues with hamstring pain and i think that too was due to recovery, once your muscles are sore they are likely to get injured, same goes for joints and tendons. Beside those negative effects HIIT is very effective, i was doing 20 minutes sprint 1 minute then rest 1 minute which gave some amazing results, you can actually feel the fat burn and your heart rate increased for entire day. Giving the ups and down of HIIT i would recommend you to do it only if you are in shape and to get to 1 digit body fat percentage, if you have above 15% body fat stay away from HIIT. Before HIIT workout you should eat a proper carbohydrate and protein meal, this type of workout uses glucose as fuel. To further avoid muscle catabolism you can also add BCAA supplements.

  • Steady pace cardio

This type of cardio is the typical runner/jogger you see in the park every day. Myth around this type of workout is that you burn extra calories from fat while ruining if you are constantly in the “Fat burn zone” which you enter when your heart beats at 60-65% of MHR (Maximum Heart rate). Workouts usually don’t last longer then 45 minutes. Down side of this workout is that you need some kind of Heart rate monitor and it takes twice as long as HIIT to burn less calories overall while boosting metabolism for just 2-3h after. I recommend my trainees to add 20 minutes of steady pace cardio on a bike machine or treadmill after every gym training.

After you done the gym workout you body has used up a lot of glucose reserves and it is more likely that energy for this steady pace cardio will come from burning fat. Compared to HIIT it does burn more fat directly but HIIT training is more effective with burning more calories in less time and also you also get the metabolism boostwhich burn fat for next 24h.

  • Fasted walking

Fasted walking is probably the best method for directly burning body fat. For maximum results it should be done upon wake up and on an empty stomach, only thing i would drink is a dose of BCAA supplement mixed with water to avoid muscle catabolism. Why is this method so effective for direct fat burning? When you wake up your body has just fasted for 7-8h, energy reserves are nearly empty and insulin level in blood is very low, this state is ideal for body to start using stored fat as energy.

If you ever done fasted walking you probably noticed how the longer you walk the more energy you seem to have, this is fat burn kicking in, body has an adaptation period in which it starts to utilize fat for fuel. When you begin walking your body uses primarily glucose as fuel  but since glucose reserves are depleted due to fasting while asleep body has no choice but to shift its metabolism and activate lyposis for fat burning.

This shift in exercise fuel choice for most individuals happens after 30-45 minutes of walking. As you can see, you need to walk at least 30 min to begin burning fat, and that is the main downside of this fat burning method, you need a minimum 2h of walking on an empty stomach to do some serious fat burn. I recommend this workout for anyone that has much spare time as its the least catabolic exercise and it’s nearly impossible to injure yourself while walking. Another benefit of this exercise is that it won’t prolong your gym recoverytime since the intensity is very low, also the stress on the joints and tendons is low so this workout.

How to choose a fat burning exercise depending on your current schedule

I will write down some guidelines so you can choose your type of exercise

  • High intensity interval training (Intervals up to 90% Max heart rate)

    You are already in shape and just need to burn those last few percent of body fat. Recovery won’t be a problem, you are prepared to drop intensity on your leg workout if needed. Ideal for trainees with 9-12% body fat who plan on getting ripped under 8% body fat.

  • Steady state cardiovascular exercise (60-75% Max Heart Rate)

    You are not entirely out of shape but endurance is a problem, also you maybe consider doing HIIT in the future after you prepare your body with steady cardio. You also have heart rate monitor equipment and know what is your target Fat burn zone heart rate. Ideal for trainees with 12-15% body fat who are looking to get some endurance while also burning fat.

  • Fast walking (Up to 55% Max Heart Rate)

    You are out of shape, body fat levels are above 15% and you have a lot of spare time. This method is ideal for you, once you hit below 15% body fat you can do steady cardio and build up some endurance.

As you see there is no clear winner here, all depends on your goal and current physique. Choose your method wisely and good luck with getting those six pack abs.

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  • Matt

    Mario-Hey man wanted to say that I really like your blog bro, we have very similar thoughts on just about everything fitness related. One thing about this particular write up I’d like to chat about that I somewhat disagree with. When you perform morning fasted cardio at a low intensity I simply do not agree that you are burning glucose for the first 30 mins or any particular amount of time. I would assume you are referring to free floating glucose molecules in the blood stream (because you certainly aren’t using glycogen at that low of an intensity), however there really shouldn’t be much free glucose (that aren’t already mobolized fat molecules) in the blood stream immediately after waking. Can you elaborate a little bit on your thoughts on this? Since fat is mobilized as the primary energy source while sleeping, and like you mentioned insulin is low, unless you have done something to spike insulin before walking it just doesn’t make sense to me that your body would immediately switch back to using glycogen as fuel without an activity that requires it (HIIT).

    It seems like we are both pretty high on the leangains stuff. Martin literally changed my life when I came across his stuff about 2 years ago. Anyways man Hopefully we can have a good chat about this low intensity fasted cardio. It really is one of the more debated aspects of fat loss within the fitness community and I always enjoy getting new perspectives on it. Keep up the good work homie:)

    • http://shockingfit.com/ Mario

      Yea, leangains changed a lot for me in regards of lifestyle. I’m currently working on an article that will include a full workout routine to match the Leangains diet I’ve previously posted. Gonna be sweet :)

      Anyway, as for the energy utilization I’m just gonna present my understanding which I got from reading the studies and personal experience.

      So if you do an aerobic type of exercise which is doable for hours (like walking):

      - In the first minute of that type of activity ~95% energy comes from muscle glycogen.

      - After around 20 min the amount of energy from glycogen is 40%, 60% from Plasma FAA.

      - After 3h the energy usage is 99% from Plasma FAA.

      It takes some time for FFA cells to get oxidized and after sleep they will be a lot of them in the blood stream because of low insulin.

      Human body is extremely complex when it comes to utilizing an energy source, it depends on many factors like genetics, hormone secretion, enzymes, body composition, insulin sensitivity etc…

      Generally if your primary energy source for exercise is fat then the body will make sure that post-exercise energy comes mainly from carbs and the opposite works. That’s why HIIT is more efficient than other forms of “fat burning”. Also that’s one of the main reasons why people are advised to do 20 min cardio right after anaerobic exercise like weight lifting.

      Biggest down side of fasted cardio is that 11% of total caloric loss from a 60% V02 max exercise (running in the “fat burning zone”) comes from protein which makes it very hard to sustain muscle mass for natural athletes using this method.

      • Matt

        Thanks so much buddy! Very solid response. I look forward to the article on the leangains workouts:)

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