Steady state cardio vs HIIT cardio

Steady state cardio vs HIIT cardio


A day out running. On the left we have a balerina running away from a spider, the middle we have someone running on their hands and on the right we have someone who has a serious case of wedgy.

Steady state cardio is what we refer to as continual movement such as jogging, cycling etc while HIIT (high intensity interval training) is what we refer to as having bursts of intensity followed by a light movement period. So things such as sprinting 30 seconds and resting 30 seconds.

What is the best? Some people will argue that it’ll be HIIT, others will argue steady state cardio, people find one boring and find the other fun. So today we’ll find out what’s better in terms of  fat loss and we’ll touch on other things about both protocols!

Let’s get started with start with HIIT!



If your ambition is to escape things like this thing was chasing you down and going nom nom on your face, or worse, private Ryans, you’d definitely pick HIIT as your go to for training.

Let’s cut down to the chase, the reason everyone is super excited and praises the HIIT method is because they all believe they’ll get super shredded by this believed EPOC effect (exercise post oxygen consumption), which means that while you’re watching, I donno, Jason Statham doing insane things to keep his heart rate up like holding up a hospital, having gun fights, doing insane motorbike stunts, and banging his girlfriend in China town for the whole world to see, you’ll be burning calories still, and so much so that you’ll get ripped just sitting there.



Crank! Watch it! The movie itself will make you burn off calories by keeping your heart rate up, bestow testosterone and will give you confidence to just plain punch someone in the face. Because, well, just because I guess?

The Tabata method is the most popular example of HIIT cardio. Izumi Tabata was the person who created this. He was a Japanese researcher who’s method was originally tested on olympic speed skaters who had “20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles)” (2).


The man himself!

Here’s the big question that everyone seems to ask, and everyone seems to think though: Can I get ripped with just 10 minutes of the Tabata way over 1 hour of jogging? To answer that, we need to first find out how much of a calorie burn we are looking at. Ready for the answer?

100-200 per day can be burnt in 24-48 hours following the high intensity cardio session. (1)

Long story short is this: If you honestly believe that you are going to get ripped with only 4-10 minutes of training 3 times a week, and none the less, not be in a caloric deficit cause you eat like it’s your last meal, every meal, then you must think you are a wizard who rides flying unicorns and should check into a mental hospital, stat. Relying on this calorie burn to get you ripped is like waiting for pigs to fly.


This isn’t a pig flying, but now we don’t have to wait for one eyed-goats to appear. Great barrier reef! Look at that thing! This is 100% scarier than a spider chicken! Just imagine if you woke up and there was 100 of these things eating you! Look at it’s tounge hanging out and it’s hungry swinish eye! I have Jeje to thank for introducing this new nightmare to me. Damn you jeje, damn you and your one eyed goat.


Seeing this calorie burn can also be a good thing! HIIT, can be a very time-efficient method when taken into account. If you, say, do a good 30 minutes because you don’t have an hour or an hour and a half to spare for your cardio needs, then this can benefit you too. So let’s say you do burpees for 30 minutes, Tabata style, then not only will you burn an INSANE amount of calories during the session itself (more than just jogging 30 minutes or an hour obviously) but you’ll burn those extra calories later on too!


Guy was clearly doing HIIT. He had his 10 second walk then 20 second sprint training.

Although another thing to also keep in mind is, with steady state cardio, you still do have a calorie burn, even if it’s not as high as the HIIT (4).

The bottom line is when it comes to calorie burning (and calorie burning through activity, for now is going to be the argument in which is the way we can all determine which is the best for fat loss), you just have to understand that the exercise session itself is going to be what determines which is best. The calorie burn during training is going to be influenced by duration and intensity (3,4). Keep this in mind when we disect which is truly better HIIT or Steady state.

Let’s see how steady state stacks up against HIIT then shall we?

Steady state cardio and fat loss


He was steady state jogging his way to a Big Mac. Well, least it looked like he was steady state cardio-ing.

Just so we’re all on the same keynote here, again I’ll repeat that steady state cardio means just doing an activity continuously. There are going to be two types of steady state cardio however for most people: Easy and hard. Easy being a leisurely jog, walk, etc and hard being a really fast jog, cycle etc throughout. If you want to get nitty gritty with specifics (just for you loveable nerds out there) 40-50% of VO2 max and 80-90% of VO2max for easy and hard respectively. In English, a cardio session where one you can still have a good conversation with someone with and the other where you can’t.

Putting this to the test, in which one would be better (easy or hard) on fat loss, there was a group whom performed cardio 3 times a week with exactly those protocols (40-50% and 80-90% of VO2max). The easy group did cardio for 50 minutes and the other (harder training group) did it for 25 minutes. The results? There was no difference in weight loss. The harder training group did display a better improvement in cardio fitness in both relative and absolute VO2max! (5).

Another example is another group who both burned 300 calories for their cardio workouts (both easy and hard) and the duration of the training being adjusted so both groups burn exactly 300 calories. One group trained at 80% the other trained at 50%. The results of this one says there was no difference in fat loss, it was completely identical HOWEVER there was a greater gain of lean mass in the harder training group (they gained 4.3 pounds versus the other gaining 1.8!). (6).

Now with knowing this, what happens if we have someone do the harder cardio, but for a longer duration? What if we get those same hard cardio exercises that exercised at 80-90% of their VO2max to train the same amount as the easier going cardio people? What kind of numbers are we going to be looking at here for calories burnt?

Well, for someone who’s 75kg and cycling, if this person were to cycle for 15 miles per hour for sixty minutes he’s burning a WHOOPING 1050 calories! (7).


Also, if you think for a second that steady state cardio is the main factor of looking like a skinny imp, check out these legs, these are the legs on elite bikers. What happens when you don’t have a caloric deficit and your main sport is to ride the fudge out of a bike? (by bike, I don’t mean girl, by the way). You get this!

Okay but what about the downsides of all the cardio I hear though?

Long duration cardio can be a problem especially if intense and you are going through a caloric restricted diet. Here’s a good guideline to follow: don’t over do it, dummy. What’s over doing it when on a caloric deficit?

With a study of people running for 40, 80 and 120 minutes at 55% of their VO2max (which is easy cardio), They found that the anabolic hormones to cortisol ratio was highest during 40 minutes (so basically, you’re fine here), and lowest at 120. What this means is when your hormonal environment becomes in that low state (your body’s catabolic hormones are high and your testosterone levels are low, i.e. a catabolic environment), you’ll be having a huge potential to lose muscle.

A good guideline to know when thing start going south? Roughly the 80 minute mark. But honestly, who in the world does cardio every day for 80 minutes in a caloric deficit? You’d have to really love it! 40-60minutes however seems to be fine. Be sure to have a pre-and post workout meal in you to further ensure there isn’t a further breakdown!

I touched more on steady state cardio stuff like testosterone decreasing being a myth in things like taking a good long hike, and other pre-cautions to avoid injury in THIS ARTICLE.

What’s the verdict? Steady state cardio or HIIT cardio for fat loss then?

From a standpoint we see that the biggest calorie burning method out of HIIT and steady state would be high intensity steady state cardio.


Is it really the best for YOU? What if your time is of the essence and you’re a busy person? What if you want to get more performance benefit? What if you just hate doing the same damn thing repeatedly day in day out? What if you were in a bad neighbourhood where if you so much as bent over to tie your shoe you’d quite literally be screwed?


Usually I say treadmills suck, but then again I’ve been proven wrong before

Then you have to pick the best one for YOU. Heck why not even do both? Do a good 10 minutes of tabata, then do 20-30 minutes on the bike. For you ladies out there that want to get your legs and hips more toned, this is an awesome way to do so! Doing this too will give you the benefits of both worlds: You get a good increase in performance cardiovascular wise, and you get the fat burning effect of EPOC, but you also get more calories burned in the session too.

Now before I give some suggestions and my personal opinion on cardio, I’ll give you all a few other things to ponder about when it comes to cardio.

Why should you even DO cardio?

Why can’t you just do weight training? While it is true that there are other ways to increase cardio performance, or endurance (by way of molecular changes in the mitrochondria) (8), and while weight training produces superior body composition during fat loss and muscle gain, the aerobic training is bar none when it comes to improving cardiovascular fitness.

When cardio performance is of high-priority it seems that intensity of cardio truimphs

HIIT is known to be hard. It requires gut wrenching effort, but the results are amazing. For instance, going back to the Tabata protocol, it is stated that there is improved VO2Max and improved anaerobic performance, and this can all be produced in a time efficient manner, a time efficient manner being as little as 12 minutes. There was a group where the people performed easy cardio for 60 minutes 5 times per week in comparison with a group who did the tabata protocol for 12 minutes 5 times a week, and while both groups did increase their VO2max, only the tabata group had improvement in anaerobic performance (9).

With highly trained atheletes also, it seems that the regular jogging etc won’t do much more to improve endurance, HIIT however does. HIIT can actually increase the muscle-buffering capacity. (10).

You know what though, forget the word HIIT even exists. What we find out there is that you should just plain give more effort to your cardio workouts, period. If you truly want to increase performance to a competitive level or just be plain “super fit” then you’re going to have to challenge your lung capacity! If you really think just leisurely running or walking is going to cut it, then think again. Of course, I’m not your doctor and I don’t know you, so like anything, just make sure you’re cleared okay? Haha.


If you think riding a bike, any bike, for miles, and making the bike do the work for you, yet you’re sweating on a hot summer’s day is going to make you increase your anaerobic performance, then, you deserved to be catapulted from said bike.

Does “easy” cardio even factor into anywhere then?

It sure does! As I stated in my previous article about the 5 biggest lies about steady state cardio (you can read that here), steady state cardio can actually help with recovery and can be a non-invasive way to get some work in, whilst recovering from a tough workout! Not only that but it’s been shown that it can actually help lower cortisol levels, and especially if you do things like hiking in a nice unpolluted place like a forest (11, 12). So with all the options you have what exactly do you do?

My best advice is this: Listen to your body. If you have a super hard training session and your legs are quite literally on the verge of making you bed rest, then of course, go for a nice walk, or if you are going to be training super hard the next day then you’d do well to take it easy. Heck, if you’re stressed, or just want to unwind, or even get started for your morning to clear your head then the easy cardio is a great option.

When you feel good do the harder cardio! You can use them as finishers after your workouts for instance!

This guy above is obviously having a crap day. He’ll most likely be doing easy cardio for awhile. Where the fruit did that tire come from?

Finally just to cover steady state cardio:

What’s my personal opinion and method on steady state cardio?

I’m aware there is a lot of steady state cardio options but I’ll tackle the most popular one you see that hot girl or everyone else mainly doing: Jogging. I personally detest jogging. Just plain jogging. There was once upon a time where I thought it was the only way to go (actually same with the bike, elliptical etc), for a long period of time day in and day out, but those days are behind me. I usually love to mix in jogging with callisthenics. I love to make it fun and be creative! In future posts I’ll outline more routines for you all to do but for now, the next time you do go jogging and find it boring try doing this simple routine and get creative with it!

Warm up: Jog how you normally would for 5 minutes. All sprints are 10-20 seconds.

ROUND 1: 10 push ups, sprint, 10 push ups.

Jog till you catch your breath back

ROUND 2: 10 mountain jumpers, sprint, 10 pushups, sprint, 10 mountain jumpers.

Jog till you catch your breath back

ROUND 3 onwards: Repeat round 1 and do this until you get to 30 minutes minimum

Simple! You get a good resistance training workload in, and depending how hard you go, or if you even decide to not do the sprint at all, you can make it as leisurely and relaxing as possible. So give it a go! If you just plain want an alternative to jogging and you can’t do sports, that is pretty bad-ass then get yourself a jump rope and jump rope! I detail why it’s one of the BEST training tools you can ever have HERE.


If you don’t have a jump rope, Improvise. Humans are one good way.

…Now of course, just to randomly add here, because you know, I can’t just finish this post without this joke sliding by and since I know there’ll be those among you who will probably just ask me questions like these later because, let’s face it, you’re weird and you’re curious: I rather have my sex high intensity long duration.

And that’s all there is to it! Don’t be lazy and do your cardio! It won’t only help you lose more fat but it’ll make you that much healthier too! Just know that at the end of the day, you won’t get ripped doing 12 minutes of cardio 3 days a week, and to improve performance, no matter what “protocol” is mainstream, it requires hard gut wrenching consistent work.



indopigletAnd those anusholes to the right will smile all the while unleashing it on you! Click HERE if you want to defeat the indopiglet!




1)Hunter G.R., et al. (1998, June 22). A role for high intensity exercise on energy balance and weight control. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (6):489-93.


3)LaForgia J, Withers R.T., Gore C.J. (2006, December 24). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Sci. (12):1247-64.

4) Lagorgia J., Withers R.T., Shipp, N.J., Gorce, C.J. (1997, Feb). Comparison of energy expenditure elevations after submaximal and supramaximal running. J Appl Physiol (1985). 82(2):661-6.

5) Ballor, D.L., McCarthy, J.P., Wilterdink, F.J. (1990, Feb). Exercise intensity does not affect the composition of diet- and exercise-induced body mass loss. Am J Clin Nutr. 51(2):142-6.

6) Grediagin, A., Cody M., Rupp, J., Benardot, D., Shern, R. (1995, June). Exercise intensity does not effect body composition change in untrained, moderately overfat women. J Am Diet Assoc. 95(6):661-5.

7) Ainsworth, B.E., et al. (1993, Jan 25). Compendium of physical activities: classification of energy costs of human physical activities. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 25(1):71-80.

8)High-intensity Interval Training: A Time-efficient Strategy for Health Promotion. Martin J. Gibala, PhD, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada Current Sports Medicine Reports 2007

9) Tabata I., et al. (1996 October 28). Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (10):1327-30.

10) Laursen P.B., Jenkins, D.G. (2002). The scientific basis for high-intensity interval training: optimising training programmes and maximising performance in highly trained endurance athletes. Sports Med. 32(1):53-73.

11)Jin P. (1992, May). Efficacy of Tai Chi, brisk walking, meditation, and reading in reducing mental and emotional stress. J Psychosom Res. 36(4):361-70.4) Fukatsu, A., Sato, N., Shimizu, H. (1996). 50-mile walking race suppresses neutrophil bactericidal function by inducing increases in cortisol and ketone bodies. Life Sci. 58(25):2337-43.

12) Park, B.J. et al. (2007, March). Physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the atmosphere of the forest)–using salivary cortisol and cerebral activity as indicators. J Physiol Anthropol. 26(2):123-8.

Ceps Weston Domingo is a personal trainer and nutritional consultant, and best selling author of the 30 day paleo weight loss plan, 30 day paleo slow cooker recipe cookbook, and  The ketogenic diet weight loss plan and recipe cookbook: How to lose weight fast, meal plans and 50 recipes the low carbohydrate way


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