We all know that we need to exercise for fat loss, right? Did you also know that the type of exercise matters if you want to see your best results?
Exercise can fall into a number of categories: steady-state, resistance training, strength training or high-intensity. There is also the concept of ‘active living’ which really covers things like walking, gardening, shoveling snow, etc.
Resistance training and strength training are important for building strong muscles, improving flexibility and boosting balance. And you definitely need to incorporate these into your weekly routines.
But, when it comes to getting your heart rate up, is there one type of exercise for fat loss that’s better?
Think running, jogging, cycling or rowing. These are your ‘steady state’ exercises because you generally stick to the same lower-intensity pace while doing them. Sometimes you may sprint or push yourself up a hill, but generally, steady-state cardio is, well, going at a steady pace.
This type of exercise is great for improving cardiovascular health and how well your body uses oxygen. You can generally exercise for longer periods too because your body has the time and resources to produce energy needed to keep you going.
High Intensity Explained
If you’re a fan of HIIT workouts like I am, then you know all about high-intensity.
During these workouts, you push yourself as hard as you can go for a short period of time, usually 30-60 seconds. Then you rest and repeat.
High-intensity exercises help to improve your anaerobic energy production and it’s been shown that your body uses more energy both during and after these workouts.
What’s the Best Exercise for Fat Loss?
Both steady state and high-intensity workouts are considered to be great exercise for fat loss. But let me break them down further.
Because the body needs more energy after a high-intensity workout for recovery and repair, more energy is used up. It’s also been shown that high-intensity workouts help to prevent muscle loss as you age and preserve your resting metabolic rate. And you want this for long-term metabolism, right?
Steady state, on the other hand, can help burn fat but you generally need to do it for at least 60 minutes most days of the week. This is hard on your joints and it doesn’t really provide you with enough time to repair and recover.
How This Affects Your Hormones
We know that our hormones are really in charge when it comes to fat loss. So, it makes sense that to exercise for fat loss, we need to perform the right workouts to support our hormones.
And here is where things can get tricky, because every woman is different.
Let’s talk about the main hormones that are involved in your typical exercise program first.
Cortisol is your main stress hormone and it’s released during times of stress. Exercise is one of these times, but there is actually an interesting connection between how much cortisol is released and how healthy you will feel.
We actually thrive when cortisol is released into our bodies. Because cortisol is released in response to low blood sugar, when you exercise, it’s good that our stress hormone is there to help us get enough energy to keep going. In fact, cortisol is one of the major regulators of blood sugar, along with insulin and glucagon.
When it comes to exercise for fat loss, though, pay attention to cortisol. We know that too much cortisol leads to belly and body fat, right? And when we are stressed, our bodies produce more cortisol all the time.
High-intensity exercise raises cortisol both during and after the workout while steady state reduces cortisol. If you’re chronically stressed or chronically fatigued, and you want to exercise for fat loss, steady state is your best option. Too much cortisol will lead to more belly fat, no matter how much you exercise.
Elevated cortisol also prevents proper muscle and joint repair and recovery.
Testosterone and Growth Hormone
Both of these anabolic hormones promote growth and rebuilding of lean mass, and high-intensity exercise tends to stimulate these more so than steady state.
Insulin helps remove glucose from the bloodstream for use by the muscles. This means it’s actually a pretty important hormone during exercise.
It helps with protein synthesis and to prevent protein breakdown, keeping muscles strong and healthy. Because insulin plays such a big role in exercise, it’s best to eat a higher carb meal right before or immediately after a good workout.
Exercise for Fat Loss
It may sound like high intensity workouts are the best form of exercise for fat loss.
The truth is that you need both steady state and high-intensity to really reap the benefits.
Both anaerobic and aerobic exercises help to improve insulin sensitivity (reducing your risk of insulin resistance), calm your nervous system (important for stress management), and use fat for energy (fat loss).
When you combine steady state and high intensity, along with strength or resistance training, you help balance cortisol and insulin and promote good recovery and repair.
There is no one type of exercise for fat loss for everyone. Each woman is different so it really does matter how your body is feeling right now.
If you’ve got energy to burn and love HIIT, by all means keep at it! If you’re always tired and find it hard to drag yourself off the couch, start small with a good walk after dinner and work your way up from there.
Remember that exercise increases your stress response, which, in turn, can lead to more fat storage. To exercise for fat loss, consider your energy, sleep, hormones and stress levels. Then build your own best exercise program.