Steady state cardio is often considered better for burning fat because it primarily utilizes the aerobic energy system, which relies on fat as the main fuel source. When performing steady state cardio exercises like jogging, cycling, or swimming at a moderate intensity for a sustained period, your body gradually increases its oxygen consumption to meet the energy demands. This leads to the breakdown of stored fat to provide energy.
Breathing is closely linked to physical activity and believe it or not, being able to breathe is one of the most effective ways to help your body burn fat. When you engage in exercises that require more mindful breathing such as steady state cardio, your breathing rate and depth naturally increase to meet the oxygen demands of the working muscles. These types of exercises contribute to a higher calorie burn, which can promote weight loss when combined with a healthy diet. Energy utilization is one of the most critical reasons steady state cardio is effective. During any form of exercise or cardio, your body needs to generate energy to sustain the activity. The aerobic energy system utilizes oxygen to break down stored fat and carbohydrates to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the body's main energy source. As the intensity remains relatively constant, the body primarily relies on fat oxidation for energy production.
Another important aspect of steady state is fat oxidation. When oxygen is available, the body can effectively break down fat molecules into fatty acids and glycerol through a process called lipolysis. These fatty acids are then transported into the mitochondria of muscle cells, where they undergo beta-oxidation to produce ATP. This process allows for the efficient utilization of stored fat.
Many people think, "Okay, so do I need to run for hours? Or swim for days to see results?" Steady state cardio involves longer duration activities, typically lasting more than 20 minutes but not every workout needs to be a marathon or 2 hours long. On the other hand, this form of cardio should not be done for less than 20 minutes either. The extended period of exercise allows the body to gradually increase its fat oxidation rates. As a result, steady state cardio can burn a higher proportion of fat at a constant rate compared to other forms of exercise that only burn at a marginilized rate.
While steady state cardio predominantly uses fat as fuel, it's important to note that the total number of calories burned during exercise also plays a role in fat loss. This is what we like to call caloric expenditure. While the percentage of calories derived from fat may be higher during steady state cardio, the total amount of fat burned depends on the duration and intensity of the exercise.
It's important to remember that fat loss is influenced by various factors, including overall energy balance, diet, genetics, and individual preferences. Different forms of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), can also be effective for fat burning by increasing the metabolic rate and promoting post-exercise calorie expenditure. Incorporating a combination of exercises into your routine can help optimize fat loss and overall fitness.
In conclusion, steady state cardio is considered better for burning fat scientifically because it predominantly utilizes the aerobic energy system and relies on fat as the primary fuel source. However, it's important to customize your exercise routine based on individual goals, preferences, and overall health.