Cardio for Weight Loss: High-Intensity vs. Low-Intensity

Cardio for Weight Loss: High-Intensity vs. Low-Intensity

Cardio is oftentimes either drastically overlooked or underlooked. Many lifting enthusiasts forget to make time for cardio, while many athletes looking for weight loss resort to heavy amounts of cardio daily.


However, there’s no need to neither avoid it entirely nor run dozens of miles a week. The solution is either High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS). With the two differing programs, you could incorporate either of them to meet your cardiovascular needs.


What’s the difference between HIIT and LISS cardio?

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT is typically more challenging than LISS. Only lasting about 20-30 minutes, HIIT consists of short spurts of maximum effort with even shorter spurts of rest. These 30-60 second intervals are sure to elevate your heart rate and burn more calories in less time.
  • Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS): LISS is an excellent stepping stone into fitness because it’s not as challenging as HIIT. Activities like jogging, walking, and light biking are all examples of LISS cardio. Usually lasting longer than HIIT, LISS activities place less strain on your body – but it takes much longer to burn the same amount of calories.


The Pros of HIIT and LISS Cardio:

  • HIIT:cardio weight loss hiit liss
  1. You burn more calories. After an effective HIIT session, your body continues to burn fat hours afterward. This is because HIIT yields higher Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) than LISS. EPOC is your body’s way of cooling down after a workout – and the more intense your workout, the more your EPOC is stimulated. This is why HIIT is well-known for boosting metabolism.
  2. It takes less time. As long as you keep your breaks to a minimum, all you need is 15-20 minutes for a killer HIIT session. This makes HIIT ideal for busy individuals who don’t have much time for exercise.
  3. It builds muscle. In the matter of 20 short minutes, you can burn fat and build muscle. HIIT often incorporates strength exercises, which prevent you from losing muscle mass. Therefore, all the calories you burn are fat.


  • LISS:cardio weight loss hiit liss
  1. It’s sustainable. Because LISS isn’t as challenging, you can keep it in your routine for however long you want. LISS should be something relatively easy and enjoyable.
  2. It’s safer. Since LISS doesn’t require bursts of muscle action, this makes it easier on your body. While HIIT can consist of plyometrics and other high-stress exercises – LISS doesn’t. You’re less likely to pull or injure yourself while doing LISS.
  3. It takes less recovery time. After you’ve established a level of endurance and muscle tone, your muscles are less likely to feel sore or exhausted after LISS. That means you can bounce back and repeat LISS workouts 5-6 days a week (be sure to take rest days).


The Cons of HIIT and LISS Cardio: 

  • HIIT:
  • It’s hard on your body. During HIIT, you’re constantly moving and doing exercises. It’s easy to get tired during HIIT and your movements may get sloppy – which may increase your chance for strain or injury. Staple HIIT movements like jumping and rowing can be taxing on your joints, as well.


  • It takes more recovery time. Unlike LISS, you’ll likely have muscle soreness after HIIT since your muscles are growing by repairing themselves. Because of this, it’s best to do HIIT only 2-3 times a week.
  • It can affect your nutrition. You may be taking advantage of how many calories you’re burning. Although it’s easy to shed 600 calories an hour (post-HIIT) – that doesn’t mean you should go splurge on fatty “comfort” foods.



  • LISS:
  1. It can shed muscle mass. Because you’re not actively gaining muscle during LISS, the calories you burn can and do include muscle. If you’re looking to settle muscular imbalances or disproportions, LISS can help. If you’re trying to bulk however, HIIT may be best.
  2. It’s less convenient. LISS can take up to an hour, even more – so LISS doesn’t have the attractive convenience of HIIT. In order for LISS to be effective and burn a decent amount of calories, an hour is recommended.
  3. It burns less calories. If quick weight loss is your goal, LISS may not be for you. There’s no EPOC effect after LISS because it’s purely aerobic exercise.


So whether you like short bursts of intense activity, or lengthy runs of predictable exercise – there’s no excuse not to get some form of cardio in. HIIT may be more suited for athletes and individuals on the tenacious side. Whatever kind of athlete you are, you need cardio for the benefits it brings to your brain, blood, muscles, weight, mood, and more.


At Thrive Fitness Atlanta, our personal trainers can help you find out which kind of cardio and workout program is best suited for your goals and lifestyle. Email today to inch one step closer toward your goal.


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