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HIIT or LISS: Which is best?

‘What type of cardio should I be doing?’, is one of the most commonly asked questions in the fitness industry.

Cardio is a subject that confuses a lot of people especially when on the pursuit for fat loss. How much is required? For how long? Fasted or fed? Before or after resistance training?

Let’s start by saying before we even look at cardio, we need to look at the objective and reverse engineer what we should be doing to achieve this.

So, in this case if the objective is fat loss there’s a few factors we need to have boxed off first before looking at cardio specifics:

  • Calorie deficit
  • Sustainable approach
  • Calorie and macro tracking (or non-tracking approach to achieve & maintain a deficit)
  • Weight training
  • Good sleep
  • Promote a good relationship with food
  • Once all of the above are airtight, we can look at the finer details like cardio, which can be a useful tool to increase energy expenditure, thus promote a greater calorie deficit for fat loss.

    Let’s say, all of the above check points are covered and now you’re looking to introduce cardio to push further towards your goals. Let’s start by defining HIIT and LISS.

    HIIT is High Intensity Interval Training

    This type of cardio is generally shorter in duration and much more demanding. Often executed in a rhythmical fashion, whereby you will work at high intensities for 30-60 seconds and then work at a much more tolerable pace for 30-60 seconds and repeat for X duration. This is a great way of increasing calorie expenditure quickly and also raising EPOC (excess post-oxygen consumption).

    LISS is Low Intensity Steady State

    This type of cardio is exactly what it says on the tin. Sustained periods of low intensity work, for example – 45 minutes at a steady pace on the Cross Trainer is LISS. An evening walk for an hour is LISS; basically, anything that elevates the HR and is low intensity over a certain period is considered as LISS.

    Which modality is right for me?

    Here’s the thing, it’s subjective. If you have a really hectic schedule, work long hours and have a family, HIIT may be the preferred tactic. It’s short, sharp and intense. It gets the job done efficiently meaning you’re in and out of the gym in a slick fashion.
    However, if you’re the type of person that has a more flexible schedule you may want to consider LISS. You can perform this form of cardio from anywhere – you may want to get a 45-minute walk in whilst listening to one of your favourite podcasts or do it on the Cross Trainer whilst watching one of your favourite Netflix series.

    Another deciding factor may be WHEN you can train. If your day is mapped out so that training in the morning works best for you and you are up against the clock to get to work on time, HIIT may work perfectly. It could be 40 minutes of weights followed by 15 minutes of HIIT to enable you to be in and out of the gym within an hour.

    The final consideration is how cardio affects your appetite. This is a hugely genetic component and is very individual. Some may find their appetite ramps up with certain exercise and others it doesn’t. If this impact on appetite forces you out of a deficit then this will prevent fat loss, therefore it is important to assess which type is most effective and doesn’t hinder you reaching your goal.

    So, in summary, there is no right or wrong answer to which type of cardio is best for you. The decision should be based on what suits you, your schedule and most importantly, your goals.

    Josh Beet

    Josh is an Online Fitness Trainer & qualified Sports & Exercise Therapist Bsc (Hons)