Cardio For Fat Loss: Interval Training Beats Out Low Intensity!

Interval cardio is 4-6 challenges that are 60-90 second bursts of exercise with rest periods in between. Here's why you should try it.

Cardio Kills?

Low Intensity Long Durational Cardio: (aerobic - needing oxygen to supply energy) (heart rate is between 50-65 % of your maximum) aka jogging for 60-90 minutes. When you do this type of cardio work, your body gets the majority of energy it needs from fat.

Interval Cardio: (anaerobic, not needing oxygen to supply energy) (heart rate is between 90-100% of your maximum) - Four to six challenges that are 60-90 second bursts of exercise with rest periods in between.

Each progressive challenge is incrementally more intense than the last. As each challenge becomes more intense, the rest periods become longer. The goal is to be totally recovered and ready for each challenge. Example: the 100 yard sprints that you used to run for football practice.

When you do this type of cardio work, your body gets the majority of energy it needs from glucose (blood sugar) and from glycogen stored in the muscles & liver, and from ATP and creatine.

Glucose & glycogen are like gasoline (fuel) that your motor (muscles) uses to perform. Your body takes the carbs that you eat and breaks them down into glucose & glycogen.

Glucose & Glycogen

    Glucose (Glc), a monosaccharide (or simple sugar), is an important carbohydrate in biology. The living cell uses it as a source of energy and metabolic intermediate. Glucose is one of the main products of photosynthesis and starts cellular respiration in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

    Glycogen is a polysaccharide of glucose (Glc) which functions as the secondary short term energy storage in animal cells. It is made primarily by the liver and the muscles, but can also be made by the brain and stomach.

The common myth that jogging is better for fat loss, fitness, & health is a strong one that is wrong. I have competed in over 25 competitions over the last 18 years. I presently compete as a drug-free-for-life professional in the WNBF. I do interval cardio right up to a competition now. I might pull back on it the last couple weeks before a show.

Incorporating more interval cardio into my routine has not only allowed me to get leaner keeping all my hard earned muscle, but it also allows me more time for my family and friends.

The old school text books & simple minds say; "To burn fat, you must stay in the fat burning zone (heart rate between 50-65%) for 60-70 minutes". You don't start burning fat until about 20 minutes into the work-out. So if you do a 70 minute session, you will get 50 minutes of fat burning.

I am going to clear this up for you once and for all. You see for fat loss, it is not about where your body gets the energy from the workout for (slow go cardio/fat, interval/glycogen) nearly as much as it is total calories.

You see the instant that you are done with low intensity jogging, your body is done burning calories. But, do an intense set of intervals, and your body burns calories for the 2-4 hours after the workout. So the total amount of calories burned from intense intervals far exceeds that of jogging type cardio.

Another big advantage that you get with interval cardio that most do not know about is that it changes the way your body stores your calories in the future: and in a very good way. You see most of the benefits of exercise come after the exercise is completed. It is how the body adapts and changes. Tear down muscles by weight lifting, and in the 1-2 days after, the body repairs the tiny micro tears back so they are a little bigger & stronger.

Well cardio is much the same way. When you do low intensity jogging type cardio, your body says, "It's a good thing I had that fat there to supply energy for that work out". So it makes sure that it has plenty of fat there in preparation for the next "slow go cardio" session.

But when you do intense intervals, your body says, "It's a good thing I had that glycogen in the muscles for that interval cardio". So when it breaks down your future meals, it stores more of the carbs as glycogen in the muscles and the liver in preparation for the future "Interval Cardio" sessions. In essence, your gas tanks enlarge with useful energy. This is great for at least two reasons.

  1. You will have more readily available quick burning fuel (glycogen). Which means you can have more quick usable energy to do intense activities.
  2. Glycogen burns energy just sitting there it raises your BMR (basal metabolic rate). The more muscle and the bigger your glycogen gas tanks are, the more calories you will burn while you are just sitting or sleeping. That is a great thing. It is just like the difference between muscle & fat.


Basal Metabolic Rate is calculated by the Harris-Benedict equation (created in 1919).
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In fact, I believe that traditional CARDIO KILLS:

  • Your time
  • Your immune system
  • Your joints
  • Your body composition

Traditional cardio kills your time. You have to do hours upon hours to see results. The only way to progress is by going farther; which takes more time. Eventually, if you want to keep progressing, you are going to run out of time.

Traditional cardio kills your immune system. A ground breaking study of long-distance runners showed that after a workout, the condition of the blood levels got worse. They also found that prolonged running disrupted the balance of blood thinners and thickeners, elevating other factors including clotting levels - both signs of heart problems.

Traditional cardio kills your joints. No one has perfect symmetry with their bones, tendons, ligaments, flexibility, range of motion, strength, etc. When you repetitiously do the same thing (jogging stride) over and over again, the pounding of the pavement puts stress in bad places.

Consistent pounding of the body from traditional forms of cardio lead to severe injuries in your back, knees, ankles & everywhere in between. Just take a look at the Chicago Marathon; 3/4 of the runners have on knee braces.

Traditional cardio kills your body composition. Cardio does nothing to improve your lean muscle to fat ratio. In fact, most marathon runners lose muscle. Look at the difference between the physiques of an elite marathon runner and a elite sprinter. Which physique do you want? Then train like a sprinter. He does sprints.

Most marathoners go into a starvation mode; the body becomes catabolic, and burns muscle for fuel. Best case scenario is a cardio hound that starts out like a pear shape, ends up a smaller pair shape. Not my idea of progress.

Losing Weight Versus Losing Fat

One main point that needs to be made in the very beginning is that there is a big difference between "losing weight" and "losing fat" while maintaining lean muscle (or even gaining muscle).

There are a lot of ways to lose weight fast. One of them is to go grab a hack saw and cut off your arm at the shoulder. There you go, the scale dropped 15 pounds. Are you happy now that the scale hit that certain number? Of course you are not happy. You lost all kinds of things that you need.

Well that's usually what happens when someone tries to get in shape now days. I am sure it is because we have lost the art of delayed gratification, and working hard and being patient. With all the technology of today, we can have everything, yesterday. So when it comes to our health, fitness, & vitality, we are impatient as well.

And with shows like "The Biggest Loser", seeing people lose 10-15 lbs. per week, it is only natural for people to be impatient with "FAT LOSS".

You see, the point I am trying to make with the "cutting off the arm" thing, is that when you focus on losing "scale weight" with today's "I want it yesterday" attitude you focus on the wrong thing.

When you focus on losing as much scale weight as possible in the shortest amount of time, you almost always lose things you need to be strong healthy, & energetic. Things like muscle, anabolic hormones like growth hormone, testosterone, water in the muscle, glucose & glycogen (the fuel your body uses to function) and the list goes on and on.

You also throw your body into a hormonal and enzymatic roller coaster. Your starvation hormone "leptin" starts to plummet, sending a message to your body that is not good. I could go on and on about how difficult it is going to be for anyone and everyone to "push through" by focusing on quick fix mentality of "losing weight" versus "losing fat".

Now, you have to understand that my strategies are for people who want to peak their fitness, health, energy, & vitality through focusing on the "Three Pillars of Health" while utilizing the most effective, safe (you can't exercise if you are injured) & time efficient exercise systems available. If someone loves to run marathons, then by all means, run marathons.

But in my 7 years of being a full time fitness professional, I have never met a person who was running marathons because of the love for it. They were running them with the hopes of losing fat off their waistline & to improve their health.

Anyone can peak their physical condition with 4-6 hours of exercise per week. To do so you must follow a proven system that focuses on the "Three Pillars of Health":

  1. The Foods That You Eat
  2. The Exercise That You Get
  3. The Thoughts That You Think (relating to healthy lifestyle choices, recovery, & stress reduction)

I believe that there is a time and a place for slow-go cardio. But even in those instances, I believe power-walking is better because it puts more of the stress in the muscles than in the joints, ligaments, & tendons. In most instances power walking elevates the heart rate higher than jogging; since one uses more muscles with a power walk stride than a jogging stride.

Advantages of low intensity cardio

  • Good for beginners to develop a base
  • Good for injured & rehab
  • Good for recovery from intense training or over training
  • Good for stress reduction, & decluttering the mind
  • Easy to do with little training or coaching

Advantages of interval cardio

  • Time efficient (two or three 45 minute sessions per week is all that is needed)
  • Makes heart & lungs bigger & more powerful
  • Less risk of heart problems
  • Builds functional & real strength that allow you to be powerful in real world situations
  • Changes the way your body stores food
  • Burns more fat
  • Is interactive and not boring (time goes by faster)
  • Allows us to live healthier

When you do "Interval Cardio", your heart and lungs get bigger and stronger. Your heart grows more stroke volume (how much blood it pumps out each stroke) by training it with interval cardio.

You see your heart & lungs are muscles. Albeit, designed slightly different with more red (slow twitch fibers) for obvious reasons. They have to work constantly.

What would happen to your biceps muscle if you curled a 5 pound weight, 1,000 repetitions, for 5 sets every day? It would atrophy and get smaller. You see the body is very smart, and it will lose what it does not use. The bigger more powerful muscle fibers are not needed to move the 5lb. weight and the body realizes that it is inefficient (a waist of energy) to have the extra muscle around. So to be more efficient, it will lose the fibers of muscle.

Well the exact same goes for your heart and lungs. Do low intensity cardio and your heart and lungs will get smaller. I know it goes against common logic, but it is true. For aging gracefully and living strong and long, the last thing we want is a smaller heart and lungs. In fact, holding on to your lung volume as you age is one of the most important things that you can do to age gracefully.

The reason why a sprinter has a big barrel chest is because his lungs are very big, because he sprints (short burst of interval cardio). Look at a marathon runner, his chest is small and concave because his lungs are much smaller.

There have been a few scientific studies that have proven the above info. Dr. Al Sears from Florida is a good source of information on this topic for you analytical types (highly intelligent folks who have to figure everything out). But for me, common sense tells me that there is a massive difference between the physique of a marathon runner and a sprinter.

I want to look like a sprinter, so I am going to train like a sprinter. For Pete's sake, the very first marathon runner, Pheidippides (a messenger) fell dead running from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. That's all I have to say about that.

I personally was so impressed by Dr. Sears information that I flew down to Florida to visit him and get to know him. He is one of the frontiers in realizing & studying the benefits of interval cardio systems. You can contact Dr. Sears at

There are several ways to perform interval cardio. I find 90 second intervals on the treadmill to be the safest, and effective.