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HIIT vs LISS – What is the best cardio for weight loss?


HIIT vs LISS – What is the best cardio for weight loss? For many people the thought of doing LISS cardio training is horrible as it evokes images of spending hours on the treadmill or cross-trainer to get fitter.

However, there are those that think of cardio training as “their time.” It’s some time to themselves to think about things, to resolve problems, or perhaps to relieve stress. Regardless of why you may do LISS it is a good way to burn fat.

The question is however, do you have to spend a lot of time doing the cardio? The short answer is no. There are a few ways to do cardio training.

What is the best cardio for weight loss then?

Over the last few years HIIT has become an alternative to low impact steady state (LISS) cardio training.

LISS and HIIT are some of the best ways to lose weight, but you do have to wonder which one is actually the best option to suit your needs.

LISS is very popular although it’s a process that requires you to spend a lot of time training, usually around 1 hour or so to burn a set amount of calories.

On the other hand, HIIT is all about offering you a high intensity workout that allows you to train in a very intense manner, but within short bursts.

This way you will have the ability to reach some incredible results in a short amount of time.

Click here for an example of what a HIIT workout looks like.

HIIT has grown in popularity over the last few years, but not many people truly do a proper HIIT workout. HIIT involves doing short bursts of intense exercise at over 95% of your maximum heart rate.

These bursts of energy can last from 10 – 60 seconds and will be followed by a period of rest.



What is HIIT and is it a good replacement for LISS ?


What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. It involves you doing short bursts of vigorous exercise for anywhere between 5-30 seconds.

After this explosive bout of exercise, you rest for either the same amount of time that you exercised for or longer.

Rest periods

1:1 rest/work ratio

  • If you rest for the same amount of time as you exercised this is known as a 1:1 rest to work ratio.
  • An example of this would be 15 seconds of exercise followed by 15 seconds of rest.

1:2 rest/work ratio

  • If you rest for double the time you exercised this is known as a 1:2 work rest ratio.
  • An example would be 15 seconds of exercise followed by 30 seconds rest.


Ideal work to rest ratios

  • HIIT training rest/work ratios can be as high as 1:4 (15 seconds exercise with 60 seconds rest).
  • The ratio you choose will depend on your fitness level.
  • If you are fit, you will choose a 1:1 ratio (30 seconds exercise followed by 30 seconds rest)
  • If you are super fit you may try  1:1/2 ratio which would be 30 seconds exercise followed by 15 seconds rest.



  • For HIIT workouts to be classed as high intensity you must be achieving a minimum of 95% of your maximum heart rate.
  • This is the same type of feeling you would feel in your chest if you were running for your life!


Benefits of HIIT training

Hormone release:

HIIT workouts stimulate the release of an important fat loss hormone known as growth hormone.

Since you will be using type 2 muscle fibres, which are the same muscle fibres that Dinah Asher-Smith uses when she runs 200 meters.

These muscle fibres will not get activated with LISS training.

What is LISS (low intensity steady state cardio)?

LISS is when you do cardio training at a low intensity for a minimum of 20 minutes. The speed of this type of training normally stays the same.

Rest periods

There are no rest periods as exercise is continuous.


LISS training is normally done at 60-70% of maximum heart rate. This type of intensity can be sustained for long durations.


Hormone release:

LISS does not stimulate any hormones, but there have been some research papers that have shown that LISS can increase cortisol production.


What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone that used in fight or flight situations alongside adrenaline.

In these situations, you can gain extra strength or have a great burst of speed in order to help you in a life or death situation.

This is a good thing and the body needs cortisol, but not too much…….

The problem occurs when the body produces too much cortisol due to always being in a stressed state.

This is because cortisol will break down glycogen (carbohydrates) in your liver, fat cells and protein from your body to use for energy.

In the long run this can lead to insulin sensitivity in your cells, which will lead to those carbohydrates being converted into fat.

Your body will also be constantly breaking down your muscle for protein which in the long term will lead to your metabolism slowing down.


LISS and cortisol

There are many people doing LISS every week in the gym and not understanding why their bodies are not changing.

LISS can increase cortisol production as it can be an extra stressor.

Types of LISS

  • Rowing
  • running
  • X-trainer
  • Swimming
  • Cycling

Types of exercise for HIIT


I would always encourage people to do HIIT workouts if they are able to do 30-40 minutes of LISS.

This is because HIIT training requires you to have good fitness levels and a good endurance base is a good starting point.

I would never encourage anyone to do exercise more strenuous then what they can handle.

It is not easy to start doing HIIT workouts and it is something to build up to, however the rewards are worth it.


LISS vs HIIT – pros and cons:


  • You do not require a high fitness level
  • You can recover in less then 24 hours after a workout
  • It is very easy to do
  • A low risk of injury
  • Improve your aerobic system



  • It is repetitive and may lead to boredom


HIIT vs LISS – pros and cons:


  • Greater calorie expenditure
  • Releases weight loss hormones
  • Shorter duration
  • Improves both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems



  • Increased risk of injury
  • Very strenuous and difficult (if you do it properly)
  • You need a good level of fitness
  • Recovery could be as long as 48 hours


Why HIIT burns more calories?

A scientific fact that is important to know when it comes to fat burning is that for every litre of air your body consumes, you will burn five calories.

If you are training at 95% of your maximum heart rate for 20 minutes, you are likely to consume more litres of oxygen and therefore burn more calories.


LISS training

The goal of LISS is obviously fat loss for most people, but you will improve your aerobic endurance in the process. We’re going to get a little bit technical for a moment:

Cardiovascular fitness is measured by the amount of oxygen your heart and lungs consume and utilise per minute of exercise. This is known as your VO2 max and can be considered your heart and lungs full capacity to exercise aerobically.

There are three energy systems that your body has and what makes these energy systems differ is how they produce energy for exercise.

The energy system that is mainly used in LISS training is the aerobic energy system.

For this energy system to work the intensity of exercise must be low for the body to get a continuous amount of oxygen to the working muscles and remove carbon dioxide. This type of training only improves the aerobic energy system.

HIIT workouts rely on the other two anaerobic energy systems. Anaerobic means that your body is predominantly working without oxygen.

When exercise becomes this intense the body cannot get enough oxygen to the working muscles, so it must get energy from other sources. This is normally from glucose in the blood and glycogen in the blood stream.

Although HIIT trains the anaerobic energy systems it also improves your aerobic system, so you are training TWO energy systems for the price of one workout.

Remember LISS only trains the aerobic system. Also, you release hormones that help you lose weight when you do HIIT.

HIIT and hormone release

Since HIIT is a type of anaerobic training it uses different muscle fibres to LISS training. It uses a muscle fibre known as type 2 muscle fibres, which are the same muscle fibres you use when you lift heavy weights.

As a result, you release growth hormone, which is a hormone responsible for muscle growth and the growth of anything in the human body. An increase in lean muscle affects metabolism and helps you burn fat for longer.

Is HIIT the best type of cardio workout?

It depends is the simple answer. If you do HIIT training, and I mean proper HIIT training it is exhausting. Your body needs time to recover from a HIIT workout. It can take up to 48 hours to recover due to the glycogen depletion.

LISS on the other hand requires very little recovery time and is the preferred choice for bodybuilders when they are trying to lose those last few pounds of body fat before competition.

At this stage they are restricting calorie intake, and this already impacts on their workout. If they were to use HIIT it would deplete their glycogen stores even more and they would not be able to lift heavy weights.


Should you avoid doing HIIT if you are restricting calorie intake?

Not necessarily, you just must make sure that you do not restrict your calories intake drastically.

Remember, that doing HIIT is a great way to burn calories and you will probably burn more calories doing 20 minutes HIIT compared to 40-60 minutes of LISS training.

Also, doing HIIT boosts your metabolism as it gives you an afterburn. This means that you can still be burning calories at an accelerated rate the next day after a HIIT workout.

The main benefit of HIIT is that it’s very efficient. It allows you to burn a lot of fat and it also helps boost the cardiovascular fitness.

Plus, it requires you to spend around 20 minutes training and then you have to take a break. But despite these benefits, HIIT will place your body under a lot of pressure.

If you are a beginner, you will end up dealing with a lot of muscle pain until your body gets used to the sheer intensity required by this workout!

Usually, the regular cardio exercises are aerobic, they need oxygen and that gets fueled by the fat in your body. On the other hand, HIIT is anaerobic in nature.

The necessary work intervals focus more on the carbs rather than the oxygen in your body.

Thanks to these two types of workouts, you will be able to improve a wide range of fitness and health markers.

Basically, you will be able to boost your metabolism, V02, the blood pressure will drop and you will be able to remove a good amount of fat as well.

The main focus of HIIT is to make you go out of breath. In case you do it using machines, make sure that you choose a resistance which challenges you.

What different ways are there to do HIIT

A good idea here is to go outside and have fun. You can do HIIT with sprints that alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 20 seconds of sprinting. Do this for 20 minutes if you can.

You can also do burpees, usually around 5 sets of 10 burpees are more than enough. Rest in between each set. You should try to go up to 10 sets and then you need to up the ante even more.

You can also do The Bear, which is a combination of power cleans, overhead press, Front Squat, Back Squad and the Behind Neck press. Repeating this 4 times would create a set.

You should 5 sets to get the best effect!

What is the best cardio for weight loss out of HIIT vs LISS?

It depends on the current state of your body. For most people that have around 30% body fat, it’s a good idea to start with LISS.

This is a much simpler workout and it will not require that much of a challenge when compared to HIIT.

You should however combine this with strength training and a healthy diet if you want to reap all possible benefits as fast as possible.

Even if LISS is not as powerful as HIIT, it still burns fat and it’s less stressful when compared to the latter.

Either one of these two workouts is more than ok, but you should try to start with LISS if you are a beginner, then build up to HIIT and go onwards from there!

To summarise

HIIT workouts are better for weight loss, but it is hard and requires you to have a good fitness level. Start with LISS training, progress to interval training and then progress to HIIT training between 90-100% of maximum heart rate.

Special Thanks

Thanks so much for joining me this week and I really look forward to getting to know you over the next few months. If you have any questions you would like me to answer or need any some extra help then please feel free to contact me at contact@slimmerfitterstronger.com

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Gerald has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise, Nutrition & Health. He is an ASA qualified swimming teacher, and a qualified personal trainer. Gerald has developed his own exclusion diet, which he uses to help his clients lose weight.