Which Form of Cardio Is Best For Fat Loss? Comparing HIIT vs. MICT

It’s time we settle this debate. It’s a battle as old as time itself. Is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Moderate Intensity Continuous Training (MICT) better for fat loss? Luckily, there was a recent meta-analysis published that provides some interesting insight on what the answer might be.

In this post, we will uncover what the met-analysis showed, what it means for you if you do cardio, recommendations on which method to do based on different circumstances and situations, and I’ll finish with putting in a case for cardiovascular training that you may have not considered. For the sake of ease, we’re going to lump HIIT and SIT (Sprint-Interval Training) together because they are similar forms of activity.

So everyone is up to speed, let’s quickly define the two terms. HIIT is typically a series of quick and intense bouts of training where an exercise is repeated either for reps or a certain amount of time while going all out and pushing near 100% with each interval. After the reps are met or time is up, you rest shortly for usually no more than a minute and then you do it again. Think of Crossfit or Tabata workouts for HIIT inspiration.

MICT, on the other hand, is your typical cardio. When people say the word ‘cardio’ you probably think of treadmills, StairMasters, and ellipticals. That’s MICT for the most part. Another part to it is that you don’t adjust the intensity of the exercise. So you stay on level 6 for 20 minutes, for example, without any significant changes.

Before we move on, I want to preface the discussion with this: Cardio is not necessary for fat loss or weight loss. If you’re doing cardio only for these reasons, you’re going to hate your gym life and make yourself miserable. There are a myriad of athletes who don’t do cardio and cut weight just fine such as powerlifters. Of course, if you’re prepping for a bodybuilding show, cardio is a bit more necessary but it’s a short-term endeavor which is more acceptable. Don’t feel pressured to do cardio to lose weight. Refer to my blog post on calories in, calories out to learn how to learn more how fat loss works and how to establish a caloric deficit to really get on track with your goals.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here we go. 

Good news is you can really pick whichever form you’d like, because the meta-analysis showed that both methods are equally effective for fat loss. An important point to note here is that the experiment was matched for energy expenditure. This means that the subjects doing HIIT burned the same amount of calories as the people doing MICT¹ during the experiment. Since each method is equally effective, then choosing which method you want to use could be based on things like the time spent on the activity, desired rigor, and personal preference.

On other important note to consider is the degree to which both methods were effective, which wasn’t a lot. Both HIIT and MICT contributed to a body fat reduction of less than 2% on their own. So yes, these methods can be used to elicit fat loss, but probably should not be used on their own. If you’re just doing cardio but not in a net calorie deficit, you won’t experience weight or fat loss. There may be some other benefits you see like improved mood, for example, but body comp. changes may not be seen. That’s why establishing a calorie deficit is nearly essential while incorporating weight training can increase the rate of loss while improving you health further and the way you look if you’re wanting to add muscle. Basically, you can’t just do cardio and not care about our diet or training and expect to shed pounds of fat. Cardio’s effect isn’t that significant!

Moving on.

For time constraints, HIIT is clearly the better option. You can knock out rigorous bouts of training using a seemingly endless variety of exercises in 5-10 minutes and then you’re done.

In addition, if your goal is to build some muscle, this is also a good method, as it may have some crossover effects. Think about it: you’re still likely lifting weights as part of HIIT, so you’re getting in some volume, although the benefit will be likely be minor, if any.

Another touted benefit of HIIT is potential appetite suppression. The meta-analysis pointed to some studies that showed there is a potential suppression of appetite when doing sprints or other forms of HIIT¹ when compared to MICT; although the research is inconclusive because other studies were cited that showed no change, so it’s still up in the air. For you, this is an excellent chance to experiment and see if that works for you or not!

One important note is that HIIT should be VERY hard. In the study, they define HIIT as “80-100% of peak heart rate or aerobic capacity”¹, meaning, this isn’t a bit of huffing and puffing, and then you’re done. HIIT is meant to very intense, so you should be bent over heaving and gasping for breath and possibly on the floor by the end of whatever you did.

It’s not a walk in the park. It’s more like a sprint in the park because a bear is chasing you and is right on your ass. This is a great transition to talk about the cons of HIIT, because there definitely are some!

HIIT is not for everyone. People who never trained before and overweight and obese individuals are perfectly capable of doing some form of HIIT, but it may not be the best option initially because it can come with an increased susceptibility to injury. For an obese person, the quick movements at near-maximal effort, jumping, etc. can be especially burdensome since they carry around a lot of extra weight, damaging their joints and/or bones. For a newbie, it’s a lot of extremely intense work hat they’re not used to, potentially scaring the person away from any form of exercise if you throw them in the deep end at the beginning.

Last con is that cardio is not weight training, and so precautions should be taken if you are weight training to ensure that your HIIT is not interfering with your lifting performance. Some people get very sore from HIIT, which could hinder their lifts. Plan accordingly and give yourself enough time to recover from HIIT if you also plan on lifting weights.

This is not to say no obese person or newbie should never start with HIIT. Some people enjoy the challenge and feeling the burn in their lungs from the get-go and can do it safely; others need to ease into it. Either one is fine, the safety is what’s ultimately important, so you don’t bust your ass trying to do a kettlebell swing.

We can quickly breeze over MICT because it’s bascially warranted whenever HIIT isn’t appropriate as mentioned in the previous paragraphs above.

MICT is the better option if you simply enjoy it more and don’t have time contraints. If you don’t like feeling like you’re about to die (exaggeration) from your cardio, then HIIT probably isn’t up your alley, not to say you can’t work up to getting better a tolerating it.

MICT is also better if you’re dealing with some type of injury. If you have a back injury that prevents you from bending over or causes pain with rotating your torso, MICT has plenty of ways where you can still do cardio without those problems arising.

If you’re overweight, obese, or are new to the gym/cardio, I recommend MICT because it’s a great way to ease into exercise without overloading to dangerous levels of work.

I don’t recommend MICT-or any form of cardio for that matter-if you think that it’s the only way to lose weight, by running on a treadmill for hours. As mentioned before, cardio is not necessary for fat loss. All these reasons for cardio should be supported by the fact you enjoy the training, not because you think cardio is the only way to lose weight.

In short, HIIT and MICT have both been equally shown to influence fat and weight loss (to a small degree). Cardio-however you do it-is simply another tool in your fitness tool belt. You can decide to use it or not. HIIT is good for time constraints, augmenting your lifting, and possibly for appetite suppression. MICT is effective for beginners or overweight and obese people, those concerned that HIIT may interfere with their weight-training sessions, and those who just enjoy getting in some movement without feeling like death.

Have some thoughts on cardio? Comment below and tell me what you think!

References

¹Keating, S. E., Johnson, N. A., Mielke, G. I., and Coombes, J. S. (2017A systematic review and meta‐analysis of interval training versus moderate‐intensity continuous training on body adiposityObesity Reviews18: 943–964. doi: 10.1111/obr.12536.

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3 Types Of Misinformation + How To Protect Yourself From The BS Part 2

Welcome back! I’m glad you’re interested in checkin’ yourself before you wreck yourself! Let’s jump right into it. A lot of what I discuss here is mostly just personal experience and observations, so it may be a bit more informal than usual. LET’S DO THIS.

If you don’t have the time to read the full article, summary points are at the bottom of the page

Protecting Yourself From The Interweb Snake Oil Salesman

Too Good To Be True?

My personal favorite screening process to do when I come across something questionable is this: Ask yourself if the claim you’re seeing is too good to be true. “Lose 20 pounds in a week, eh? This seems too good to be true.” If an analysis like that goes through your head, It’s very likely that the claim/product doesn’t work and the company or person is just trying to make money to no benefit for you.

 

“All-or-nothing-ers”

Next up is the “All-or-nothing-ers”. What I mean by this is if someone tells you that a certain Thing A delivers Result B 100% of the time or that Result B ALWAYS happens, run away. Almost nothing in any field of science (nutrition and exercise included) is absolute. Even that previous statement wasn’t absolute! This means that there is always an exception to the rules in science.

For example, when someone says “All sugar is bad and sugar will make you fat rah rah rah!”. That’s a statement that falsely encompasses all foods containing sugar as “bad”, whatever that means. If someone can say that an entire nutrient is harmful, they better have some damn good evidence to support it. HINT: They won’t because they don’t know what they’re talking about.

To summarize, words like “always, never, it’s proven that.., believe, every time”. Anything that boxes your choices down to “this or that” is likely a red flag. There’s over 7 billion people on the planet, I can’t think of anything that can be narrowed down to just two options that would categorize everyone in the world properly.

The mark of a credible (and sometimes frustrating) source are key phrases like “may, could, potentially, theory, likely, etc.”. The difference here lies in the degree of certainty in each word. The only thing we can be certain of is our uncertainty! Feel free to use that quote. I said frustrating because we just want a precise answer, but credible, no BS people know that that usually isn’t the case, unfortunately.

If you are unsure of the source, claim, whatever it may be, ask the person pushing the product or idea why this thing is effective. Ask them to provide evidence in the form of peer-reviewed research, the creme-de-la creme of credibility!

Now, not all credible things or people are supported with science 100% of the time. There’s that exception again! It’s your job to make an informed decision on who and what to trust. One thing you could to is to look at past clients or users of a product/service and ask them if they liked it and found it effective. If you’re still unsure, that’s probably a sign from your intuition that it isn’t the right choice for you.

Fear not! That doesn’t mean you should stop your fitness journey! This information should arm you with knowledge to help me wage war on the internet gurus and BS people of the world. That’s what I feel like I’m here to do.

Anyway, back to the goodness.

My Way Or The Highway

This person is closely related to the “all-or-nothing-er” in that they believe the “schools” of nutrition and/or exercise they ascribe to are the only righteous way to train/eat. If you go against them, you are wrong and stupid.

If a person is very close-minded about other ideas and viewpoints, especially when presented evidence that goes against their ideas, run away from them.

Fear Mongering

This one makes me sick. This is where people prey on the lack of knowledge of someone and make them feel like they need a certain product or service in order to be healthy, lose weight, not get cancer, whatever it may be. It’s very sad because not everyone has the time to study nutrition, so it’s up to those who do to provide the correct information. Rather, these assholes exploit that lack of information for financial gain.

If someone is trying to scare you into buying/doing something, it’s likely BS and they just want money.

Cookie Cutter BS

Next on this list of BS-I apologize in advance if this web page smells whenever you open it because of all the BS-is cookie cutter programs! It’s very easy to be a fitness/nutrition coach nowadays, just look good and people will ask how you got there! Often, the person doesn’t actually know, so they just hand out programs based on “what worked for me” or they just put together some quick list of exercises or foods and want $200.

Don’t fall for the trap. If they’re an online coach and it seems like they always have spots open, that likely means that people are dropping them and/or they’re taking on WAY more people than they can adequately coach, lowering the quality of the service.

Proprietary Blends

Another red flag is what is known as a proprietary blend. Typically, you will find this term on supplement labels. A proprietary blend is a special chemical formula that a supplement company will use to create products.

The problem with these blends is that the company can put whatever quantity of ingredient they want without making it clear the amount per serving. For example, a pre-workout may contain caffeine, a common ingredient in this supplement that stimulates and increases focus in many people. If the product is a proprietary blend, they can put either 500mg or 5mg of caffeine. You’ll feel 500mg while the 5mg likely won’t affect you at all. But, they don’t have to tell you how much is contained per serving because of the “proprietary blend”.

My advice? Just don’t buy products that hide behind this label.

To summarize

  • Ask yourself if the product/claim is too good to be true. It often is
  • Proprietary blends for supplements usually mask a gimmick disguised as an exclusive formula.
  • “Always, never, it’s proven that.., believe, every time” BAD
  • “May, could, potentially, theory, likely” GOOD
  • Close-minded people don’t deserve your attention in the fitness world jut as much as they don’t in the political world.
  • Cookie cutter programs and constant open coaching spots are a big red flag for low quality

Did I miss anything? Have you come across misinformation-read:bullshit-in a different form? Share it here and help me fight the crap!

References

¹ Celiac Disease Facts and Figures-University of Chicage Medicine

 

 

Diet Types & Which Work For Weight Loss? Part 1

Low carb, low fat, ketogenic…what do these terms mean? What the hell works? Turns out most of them will work if you stick to it *gasp*. There is a lot of frustration when it comes to selecting a diet to lose weight. Oftentimes, on the internet, you’ll find some guru jackass touting the superiority of a low-carb diet or ketogenic or some other type of diet. They also will typically say that this is the only way that works to lose weight and be healthy. A recent position statement by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) begs to differ.

The ISSN is a non-profit academic organization dedicated to providing credible and evidence-based nutrition information. They’re the cream of the crop for who you can trust for accurate information. Last month, they released a comprehensive statement-that I’m still reading through-all about diets and body composition. In their statement, they present the research and their interpretation of it on an array of topics relating to diets, dieting, and body composition.

By the way, body composition refers to the literal structure or makeup of your body in terms of how much muscle, fat, water, and other “ingredients” are in your body. A bodybuilder will have a higher percentage of muscle compared to fat and vice versa for a more sedentary person, typically.

“But I don’t have time to read the statement, what does it say?

Well, things that are often great don’t come easy, so you’ll have to put in time to be great at something. But enough life lessons. I know not everyone-unfortunately-isn’t as enthusiastic about reading this stuff as I am, so here are some of the findings summed up from the position statement. In part one of this series, we are going to simply define the different diets and get familiar with them. I will also provide a quick opinion of my thoughts on why these diets work for weight loss. In part two, we will discuss the actual data and the nitty gritty of it all.

Before I begin, I want to say that all of these approaches, when performed properly, can and will lead to weight loss. It’s up to you to decide which approach you want based on your ability to stick with it and whether or not you enjoy it. Dieting shouldn’t be a hellish process, so pick what’s best for you. There’s no one single diet that works for everyone. Okay, without further adieu, Let’s go:

Low Energy Diets and Very Low Energy Diets (LED & VLED)

These two diet types are simple. Consume a small amount of calories to lose weight. LED ranges from 800-1200 calories while VLED is usually defined as 400-800 calories. To be frank, you don’t need research studies to say that these diet types will (typically) cause weight loss. Most people don’t consume such low levels of calories and will most likely begin to lose if they adopt this approach. If someone goes on a VLED diet, the majority of the calories will have to come from protein. You can read more about why that’s the case here.

Low Fat Diets and Very Low Fat Diets (LFD & VLFD)

Keep this in mind as we move forward, the rest of the low- diets do not mean low calorie. You can be low-fat or low-carb or low-whatever, and still consume a lot of calories. They’re not the same thing.

Okay!

Great. I’m glad you understand. LFD & VLFD usually mean 20-35% and 10-20%, respectively, of your total calories. Often, a low-fat diet can also be thought of as a high-carb diet because that’s usually the case. If the fat is low, the carbs will often be high to make up for the lack of energy-providing sources from fat.

My reasoning for why LFD/VLFD work is because dietary fat is very easy to consume in excess. Let’s take oils. One tiny tablespoon quickly adds up to 126 calories (14g fat x 9 calories/g of fat=126). Let’s be honest, most of us-except me-aren’t measuring their oil usage. So, you likely get a lot more calories from oil than you think you are.

When you decide to go low fat, you’ll likely reduce your total caloric intake since fat is very calorie-dense. This is what will drive the weight loss, fewer calories consumed daily². Fat isn’t evil. You’re not losing weight because you’re consuming less fat, you’re losing weight because less calories are being eaten.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Low Carb Diets & Very Low Carb Diets (LCD & VLCD)

Unfortunately, there isn’t an agreed-upon definition for what a low carb diet consists of. Some think it means less than 45% of your calories comes from carbs while others think low carb is less than 50g per day. I think a safe bet would be anywhere below 45% total calories then adjust it from there based on what you prefer.

Low-carb diets, in my opinion, are the most popular form of dieting as of right now. It’s easy to do because you can usually just eat less of what you’re eating now and not have to make too dramatic of lifestyle changes.

I think the reason it works is once again, less calories being consumed overall in the diet. There isn’t any magical process that happens in your body when you consume less carbs.

I think people believe that because they may adopt healthier habits such as having fruit as a snack instead of cookies or eating more vegetables because they are actively trying to lose weight whereas before, they may not have cared as much. It’s not magic, just more whole foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The good stuff!

Ketogenic Diets (KD)

Technically, this is a form of low carb dieting; however, an interesting process occurs in your body to properly call it a ketogenic diet. KD is defined as having a max of 50g carbs in your diet daily or 10% of your total calories. 1.2-1.5 g/kg bodyweight from protein and the remainder is fat, which is roughly 60-80% of your total calories3,4. If you’re an athlete or lifter, your protein should be a bit higher than that to preserve lean mass.

In order to properly do a ketogenic diet, a process known as ketosis needs to occur. Ketosis occurs from excess fat breakdown due to glucose (carbohydrate) not being available to use. An acid known as a ketone begins to get synthesized to replace the glucose that isn’t being made quickly enough from fat; however, this is a process that can take a varying amount of time for the body and brain to adjust to. People will often complain of sluggishness or brain fog when starting a KD. Over time, your body will adjust to being in constant ketosis and you can function normally.

Side note: your body creates ketones daily, but not an amount high enough to trigger ketosis when your carbs are a primary contributor to your diet. The low intake of carbs is the only way to trigger ketosis.

Once again, ketogenic diets are not magic. They’re successful mostly because carbs are the biggest contributor to calorie consumption. When you reduce your intake drastically, coupled with a possible increase in protein (protein is very satiating), you get a net decrease in calories taken in from your diet. Hence, weight loss! Yay!

High Protein Diets (HPD)

HPD are generally defined as being at 25% of total calories or exceeding that level of intake.

There isn’t much to be said about it right now until part two, but my opinion on why they work is because protein is the most satiating macronutrient of the three. This means that protein is filling and helps with feeling full. Due to this, people don’t want to eat as much and consume less calories. Deja vu, right?

Stay tuned for part two! We’re going to look at what the research says about these diet methods and whether some are better than others and suggestions for when to use one over another!

References

1https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y

2Hooper LAA, Bunn D, Brown T, Summerbell CD, Skeaff CM. Effects of total fat intake on body weight. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;7(8):CD011834.

3Westman E, Feinman R, Mavropoulos J, Vernon M, Volek J, Wortman J, et al. Low-carbohydrate nutrition and metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(2):276–84.

4Paoli A. Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(2):2092–107.

We’re On Itunes Y’all!

Everyone (Which means probably all two of you who read my blog lolz.), we’re officially on Itunes!

Click the link here, subscribe, rate five stars, and share with your friends to help me spread the word and rid the world of misinformation!

I’m really excited to create more episodes for the podcast because I believe it’s an amazing platform to share information.

For me personally, I listen to them in the morning while I prepare my breakfast or any meal for that matter. I also will listen to them in the car, when walking to places, and even while writing articles! If I ever did cardio, I’d definitely listen to them during that as well.

There’s so many opportunities to learn with podcasts, and that’s why I’m so pumped about them. I hope you’ll give it a listen and, more importantly, learn something from it. 

Sohee Lee: The lean, mean, psychology, macro-killing machine!

Welcome to episode #1! Technically, this was the first episode we made, but we had some complications with it, but it’s back! We’re honored to have Sohee Lee on the show! You’ll learn about why women should embrace the weights, her personal experience with eating disorders and how she overcame it, how to stand out from the crowd as an entrepreneur in the fitness world, and so much more!

Sohee Lee: The lean, mean, psychology-studying, macro-killing machine!

Welcome to episode #1! Technically, this was the first episode we made, but we had some complications with it, but it’s back! We’re honored to have Sohee Lee on the show! You’ll learn about why women should embrace the weights, her personal experience with eating disorders and how she overcame it, how to stand out from the crowd as an entrepreneur in the fitness world, and so much more!

What Even Is Nutrition? Does It Matter?

First Off!

Let me answer question #2 right off the bat: HELL YES IT DOES! Nutrition is amazing! It’s the study of food’s effect on your body! Every bit of food that you consume affects your body-for better or worse-in some unique way! It’s amazing how so much goes on inside of us at all times, especially when we eat. We have a whole system dedicated to handling the food we consume, the Gastrointestinal Tract.

Nutrition is an amazing field of science that is relatively new in terms of research and experimentation; although there is evidence of humans being aware of food’s effects on the body that date back as early as sixth century BC. In writings by Hippocrates of Cos, known as the father of clinical medicine, he outlines the need for exercise to maintain a healthy body, that food provides materials to repair worn down parts, and that food generates energy1,2.

We’ve literally been telling people to eat well and exercise since the sixth century and we’re still getting fatter (I tried to find a facepalm gif or picture, but couldn’t, so imagine someone’s palm going through their face from the sheer frustration of all of this mess).

Anyway, to put it in a way that-hopefully-gets you to care a bit more about this science is that nutrition is the study of nutrients and substances in food and how they affect the human body.

But Why Should I Care?

Glad you asked! Here’s an example: I currently work at the rec center at my university. At the time of this story, I was a Facility Manager so my job was to supervise the building and ensure no one was getting hurt or fighting someone when they got dunked on.

One night, I got a call on the radio from one of my staff telling me a patron didn’t feel well. I rush over to find a student looking scared and breathing rapidly. He told me he felt lightheaded and that he was going to pass out. I asked him if he ate anything before he came to work out to which he shook his head to say “no”. Knowing this, I was confident that his blood sugar was too low, so I asked one of my staff to bring a few cookies that we had left over from an event and some water (dehydration may have also been a culprit). After about 10 minutes of staying with him while he ate and drank, he started to feel better, move around more, and breathe more controlled. We called medical services to ensure he was okay, and sure enough, his blood sugar was low.

Had I not known that eating raises your blood sugar, I would not have known to give him something to eat, which could have turned his lightheadedness into something much worse if he fell or dropped a weight on his self while lifting. Even dropping a 2½ lb weight plate on your foot freaking hurts.

While this is a minor example, it should help you understand that nutrition is extremely important not only to your short-term health status, but also long-term.

One more example and then I’m done: Women should be concerned with proper calcium intake because their peak bone density is typically lower than males and drops sharply post-menopause. No one wants broken bones! I’ve broken three limbs jumping off the bed and doing weird spin kick things at open gym; it’s not fun.

I hope this article has inspired you to develop a sense of curiosity about nutrition because there are so many ways it affects you, and knowing about some of the substances in food and why they affect you in certain ways is invaluable not only to your health, but also the health of your loved ones.

Check back in with me frequently for information and learning regarding nutrition, exercise, and whatever else I feel like people should know like ‘Mexican’ is not a language. It’s a dialect of Spanish. Side rant, but being Costa Rican and having people ask if I speak Mexican makes me want to throw sharp objects at them.

Keep learnin’ ya’ll.

References

1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19567383

2Terrors of the Table-The Curious History of Nutrition