To burn the most calories during a cardio workout, you have one of two choices: 1) increase the intensity, or 2) lengthen the duration. Unless you are secretly a superhero, you can't do both. You'll never be able to sprint for miles at a time. You probably can't even sprint for more than a few minutes. But which method is better for burning fat? Let's take a look at both.
Steady State Cardio
Steady cardio is rhythmic and performed in a variety of ways. Many people opt for the treadmill, stair-stepper, row-machine, etc. All can be effective. If you are performing such a routine at a moderate intensity for 30-60 minutes, it's reasonable to expect a calorie deficit for you to achieve the body composition you want. This approach can be preferable because, while the intensity is felt, it's not overbearing‚ and can even be relaxing. It's also easier on the joints and muscles, which decreases the chance of injury. But there's one major drawback: time. Not everyone has the time to devote an hour of their day to cardio, even if they want to. That's where higher intensity intervals come into play.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIITs)
Upping the intensity allows your heart rate to increase, inversely allowing your total workout time to decrease. For busy bodies, burning the same amount of calories in less amount of time can be ideal. However, there are a few drawbacks: sprinting is far more challenging, even in short durations, and can cause many people to dread their workouts (which usually leads to giving up). However, unlike steady cardio, a high intensity workout can boost your metabolism with its "afterburn" effect. This type of post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) means you could be burning extra fat while sitting at your computer. Studies have shown that the extra amount of calories burned per day when performing HIITs can total up to 190, whereas steady cardio burns only 75.
So Which Is It?
The answer to this question has to come from a lot of personal experimentation and realizing what works for you and what type of routine gets you excited to do on a regular basis. But if burning more calories is your goal, consider a workout that involves a few intervals of higher intensity and go from there.
What works best for you? Share your experience in the comments below.