For years the fitness world has prescribed Steady State Cardio (SSC) as the preferred method for burning fat, losing weight and getting into shape. But now it all seems to be about High Intensity Interval training (HIIT).

Is SSC or HIIT the best form of exercise for burning fat and losing weight? It really is about application. To help you understand cardio training, you need to know about fuel systems.

The sources of energy you use when performing exercise varies depending on the intensity at which it is performed. At low intensity (easy pace) your body should convert fuel from predominantly fat stores and at high intensity from carbohydrates (glycogen in the body).

Your body can convert energy quicker from carbohydrates than from fats. Hence, as intensity increases the continuum of fuel will switch to carbohydrates to provide muscles with fuel for quick energy. The continuum of fuel is important to understand because at different intensities you will burn more or less fat even if the overall calorie expenditure is greater.

For example, individuals working at 25 percent VO2max (low intensity) at about 250kcal burnt per hour utilise 24g of fat for fuel. But those working at 85 percent VO2max (high intensity) at about 1000kcal burnt per hour utillise only 23g of fat for fuel. This is a great illustration of how total calories out doesn’t necessarily equal fat loss.

HIIT is popular because it burns a good amount of calories, continues to burn calories after exercise and elicits beneficial fat-burning hormones in a shorter period of time. Studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes of HIIT can give you great fat-burning benefits.

SSC does not produce the beneficial fat-burning hormones that HIIT does and you need more time to complete workouts. If you are exercising using SSC, you need to choose your intensity wisely.

Low intensity SSC is great for training your body to be an efficient fat-burning machine and is an important part of a healthy existence. If you always exercise at high intensities, then you are training your internal systems to burn carbs at rest. Eating starchy foods and simple sugars also trains your body to use carbs for fuel, preventing your body from burning optimal amounts of fat.

The basic truth is that we need to move, but where people go wrong is the intensity at which they exercise. My advice is to incorporate both HIIT and SSC into your schedule to maximise health, fitness and weight management. You need to train smarter by matching your intensity to the training goal and eliciting beneficial fat-burning hormones.

Phil is a health practitioner and expert in body transformation. His services are available at Star Fitness (, online or at your home. Contact him though his website or