The Best Evidence-Based Cardio Plan for Fat Loss

If you’re looking for the best cardio routines to burn fat, then look no further.

There are many misconceptions about cardiovascular training, but a good cardio programme, when applied correctly, can be a great way to improve fitness and increase fat loss.

So how can Cardiovascular training help you lose weight?

Well, there are two main ways:

  • It increases the rate that the body burns fat

  • It burns calories, which in addition to a solid nutrition plan will increase your caloric deficit

But there are some downsides…

If you are looking to build muscle at the same time as losing weight, there are some things to keep in mind.

The interference effect is a phenomenon that can be caused by excessive cardio training.

A 2011 meta-analysis defined this effect :

“Extended periods of cardiovascular training can result in reduced gains in muscle strength and size”

The study also concluded that some forms of cardio are better than others for losing weight and building muscle concurrently.

So yes, it’s important to know exactly what type of cardio to incorporate into your training programme to help you achieve your specific goals.

In this article, we’ll delve into a few different types of cardio so you can find out how they can work for you.


HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, does exactly what it says on the tin. HIIT involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by periods of rest. This might be short bursts of 10-20 second sprints followed by a lighter 1-minute jog.

When compared to less intense, longer-lasting forms of cardio such as a 30-minute jog, HIIT has been shown to deliver better results in several categories. These include V02 max, cardiovascular health and insulin sensitivity.

Due to its intensity, HIIT training also allows you to burn more calories in less time – which is great for anyone with a jam-packed schedule.

Another great benefit of HIIT is a reduced interference effect when compared to lower-intensity forms of cardio. This means your strength and mass gains will not be hampered as much.

Try starting with 1-2 30 minute sessions per week.

Which form of HIIT should you use?

HIIT can be performed with a number of exercises, but cycling is a good place to start.

Cycling offers a reduced amount of muscle soreness compared with exercises like jogging, which makes it a great place to start.

Another big plus of cycling is that it recreates the range of motion needed to perform exercises like squats, so it can form a great component of a more holistic approach to improving your health and fitness.

But there are plenty of options – including running, rowing and swimming. Try a few out and choose what works for you!

When is the prime-time for a HIIT workout?

There are a few theories about when is the most effective time to perform a HIIT workout.

But one 2016 study by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded:

“HIIT is best performed after your resistance workouts in order to reduce the impact on the resistance workouts themselves, or better yet, on a rest day”

How often should you perform HIIT training?

As with anything, it’s best to start small and build your way up as your confidence and ability grow. I’d go for 1 session per week to begin, with the goal to build up to 2 or 3 in time. Anything more than 3 may lead to a bigger interference effect.


While HIIT is an incredible form of cardiovascular exercise, it is also very taxing – both mentally and physically. Because of this, you can only do so much before risking overtraining and the interference effect.

Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) training can be a great option to combine with your HIIT workouts.

LISS can be anything – walking, running, swimming, cycling – you name it. The idea here is that you maintain an effort level of around 40% of maximal for an extended period of time.

Try 1-3 sessions per week of between 20 and 40 minutes.

Which form of LISS should you use?

Similar to HIIT, cycling is a fantastic form of LISS exercise. Check out this 2009 meta-analysis for more information.

But ultimately, it’s important you find an exercise form that you enjoy. The key to results is consistency, and finding what works for you is vital to achieving this.

When to Perform LISS?

Similar to HIIT training, LISS workouts are best performed on a rest day or at least after a resistance session.

How often?

Start small with 1-2 sessions per week, and build up to 3-4 as your cardiovascular fitness improves.

Conclusion: The Ultimate Cardio Plan

The optimal cardio plan will be different for everyone. It depends on many factors - including activity levels, goals, and dietary intake.

With this said, a good place to start would be with 1 HIIT session and 2 LISS sessions per week. Following this will give you a great start and you’ll see some real fat loss progress.

Aiming to lose roughly 0.7% of your body weight per week is a healthy and achievable goal with the right cardio plan. If this progress begins to plateau, you can step your cardio routine up a notch.

The most important thing here is that you find what works for you. If a long run or cycle gives you a chance to get out in nature, then do it! If you prefer to swim, give that a go. Find something you enjoy, workout either alone or with a buddy, and take care of your weightlifting and nutrition. Following these steps will help you achieve your goals and feel fantastic!

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