The way you exercise is important because it determines the shape your body eventually moulds into. Here we have a marathon runner (left) and a sprinter (right). Can you spot the difference in their physiques?
Although both are runners, the difference in their training is important. Cardio is the most effective way to burn fat and calories. However, it can also burn muscle. Whilst doing long periods of cardio, the body has to find its largest resources of calories, which more often tends to be from the muscles. When your cardio is maintained for long periods of time at low/moderate intensity level, a hormone called Cortisol is released which leads to muscle burning.
However, short intense cardio utilises and uses up your bodies stored sugars more (needed for short bursts of high intensity) and has a greater after burn effect. Cortisol is again released by the body but this is also released alongside growth hormones and testosterone, which enhances fat burning and leads to a higher muscle building state.
You tend to burn more fat during high intensity workouts rather than low/moderate intensity workouts because high intensity has an after burn effect. This is basically where your metabolism has been kicked into overdrive and the body continues to burn off calories after your workout.
Education is key and to be honest as I was reading this I surprised myself with the knowledge that I did know. Sometimes doing your own research and asking fitness experts in the industry is the only way to truly understand how the body responds to different exercises. This way you will always be pointing your body in the right direction as you’ll know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
My current goal is to shed body fat without losing too much mass, whilst still maintaining my curves. Although the majority of my training involves high intensity cardio anyway, I will still embark on a few low/moderate intensity workouts to help target my stubborn fat. I will also combat any risk of muscle loss here by ensuring I maintain my weight sessions in the gym.
So next time you decide to do cardio, think about your goals and what you are trying to achieve. If your aim is to achieve lean muscle and get that ‘tight look’ as opposed to just weight loss, think about doing intervals or simply running that much faster so you reduce your time…remember it is NOT about duration, it is about intensity.