LISS vs HIIT | The Lowdown on Low Intensity Steady State Cardio

LISS - Low Intensity Steady State
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Are you Team LISS or Team HIIT? Find out why these two forms of cardio shouldn’t be pitched against each other. Here’s the low down on low intensity, steady state cardio.

We all know that cardio has its place in a fat loss phase. But debate still rages over LISS vs HIIT: which is better for fat loss whilst retaining muscle mass? Old-school approaches favour LISS. Let’s find out whether it should be left in the past, or whether it has stood the test of time.

What is LISS?

LISS stands for “low intensity steady state” cardio. Pretty self-explanatory really: LISS is any kind of cardio which feels low on your personal intensity scale, and is done at a steady state throughout. LISS cardio usually hits 45-60% of your max heart rate, and the intensity doesn’t alter once you’ve warmed up and got into the session. Think power walking, a one-pace session on the cross trainer, or a gentle bike ride with no hills.

How does LISS differ to HIIT?

Here’s where things get a little more complicated. LISS cardio uses fat as a primary fuel source, which sounds great until we consider that LISS burns fewer calories than HIIT. So, LISS will use a higher percentage of energy from fat. But the total calories burned are much less.

LISS is much less demanding than HIIT, and our bodies are more likely to adapt to it. Think about cycling to work, as compared to doing all-out bike sprints on a stationery bike. Low-level cardio like gentle bike rides, power walking, and steady-paced cardio on gym cardio machines burn calories at the time, but our bodies soon get used to the demands of this kind of workout. Once this happens, the only option is to increase frequency or duration of the LISS sessions.

Check out our HIIT article to read about how HIIT can prevent plateaus, and actually creates an “after burn” effect which increases calorie demands after the session.

Common examples of LISS training?

  • Uphill walking on the treadmill
  • Power walking outdoors
  • 30-45 minutes flat, steady bike ride
  • Jogging on the treadmill or outdoors
  • Steady-paced swimming

How to know if and when LISS is right for you

There’s nothing wrong with doing LISS as part of your fat loss regime. In fact, it might actually be preferable for some people when we take into account fitness levels, biomechanics and injury history. LISS is typically used by people trying to lose body fat or cut weight. It’s much less strenuous than HIIT, so would be a good choice if you don’t have the energy to do intense intervals (when you’re fatigued, on low carbs, if you’re feeling under the weather, or if you have a lot of stress elsewhere in life).

If you are not focused on strength and performance, but simply want to burn more calories, LISS is a good option. If you’re currently very heavy, not fit enough to do intense intervals, or have a history of injury, LISS will help you create a calorie deficit without hurting yourself. And if you simply like to use cardio as time to get outside, enjoy some “me-time”, and chill out a bit, then a decent power walk or a gentle bike ride will tick all the boxes.

What supplements can make LISS more effective?

Complete Pre-Workout™ ADVANCED has fewer than 60 calories per serving, but provides incredible focus and energy for your workout.

If you’re on low carbs or in a significant calorie deficit, you might need a bit of a kick before you head out for your LISS cardio. CUTTING EDGE gives a caffeine kick to boost exercise capacity and support focus. The glucomannan will help you feel fuller, too, which is a definite bonus when you’re dieting.

If you do your LISS on an empty stomach, or want to add something useful to your water bottle, try Instant BCAA. It’s as tasty as squash but far more beneficial, giving you optimal doses of branch chain amino acids to support muscle maintenance and give you a bit of extra energy for your cardio.

And don’t forget the ever-popular Peanut Butter. Yes, it’s high calorie, but those calories are mostly from protein, fats and a healthy amount of fibre. It provides a prolonged release of protein (and keeps you feeling really full) – an ideal addition to your post-cardio snack.

About the Author:

Nicola Joyce has been writing for (and about) sport, fitness, nutrition and healthy living since 2004. She’s also a keen sportswoman: her background is in endurance sport but she now competes as a natural bodybuilder, most recently winning a world title with the INBF. When she’s not writing content, she can be found blogging. Follow her here www.nicolajoyce.co.uk and on Facebook & Twitter (@thefitwriter) too.

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