Cardio Showdown - HIIT Vs. SSCV

What is SSCV?

SSCV stands
for Steady State Cardio. It is low intensity exercise which you can do for long
periods of time if wanted/needed. It could be walking, riding a bike, gentle
jog, or anything else which doesn’t raise your heart rate too high. A heart
rate between 110-130bmp is ideal. The speed at which you carry out the exercise
remains constant throughout the duration of the exercise.


What is HIIT?

HIIT stands
for High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT involves switching from short
intense periods of effort (usually no longer than 30seconds), to 1-2 minutes of
recovery, when the cycle is then repeated. HIIT should not be carried out for
longer than 20 minutes.


So which is best?

Which burns the most energy?

Based on time, HIIT burns more calories per minute of
exercise. For example, you can burn as many calories in 20min of HIIT as you
might during 1 hour of SSCV. So HIIT is far more time efficient than SSCV.

What are the effects of HIIT and SSCV
AFTER exercise?

This is the point that makes HIIT stand out for me. If 2
people both exercised for the required amount of time, one doing HIIT and the
other doing SSCV, in order to burn 400 calories, in theory, fat loss should be
the same? However, research has shown that HIIT increases the amount of
calories burned in the hours following exercise. This effect is called EPOC
(Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption), informally referred to as ‘after

Why does HIIT burn more fat than SSCV
after the exercise has been completed?

increases your resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy you use at rest)
for anything up to 48 hours after exercise. Following HIIT, your body has to
oxidize lactic acid, replenish ATP and creatine, replenish glycogen stores,
remove hydrogen ions, and because HIIT is anaerobic (without oxygen), your body
continues to work harder to restore all systems to their ‘normal’ state.

SSCV on the other hand does not have the same metabolic
affect, as your body was never pushed to its physical limit. Your legs may be
tired, but your lungs were never forced to work hard, and all exercise was
aerobic (with oxygen). Returning to its ‘normal’ state is achieved relatively
quickly and with little effort.

Which burns more fat?

Both may
cause fat loss. SSCV tends to cause higher fat oxidation DURING exercise than
HIIT, whereas HIIT has been shown to increase fat oxidation and energy expenditure
AFTER exercise.  This is due to
EPOC and the elevated need for fuel. This need is met by fat stores being
broken down which causes free fatty acids (FFA) to be released into the blood
to be used as fuel.

The same is
not true for SSCV as research has shown to cause your body to RETAIN fat,
especially around the abdominals, hips and thighs. This is because the main
fuel source during long periods of low intensity aerobic exercise is fat, but your
body adapts to this demand for fat by storing fat in the areas where it is
easily accessible (abs, hips and thighs) for future SSCV activity.


Which burns muscle?

Any type of exercise, whether it be SSCV, HIIT, or lifting
weights, is catabolic (burns muscle). It is the net effect of
workout/nutrition/rest that determines whether or not a muscle gets
bigger/stronger.  Think of it like a
see-saw, you always want the anabolic effect to out-way the catabolic effect. The
way to do this is to make sure you stay in an anabolic state for as long as
possible to reduce the chance of muscle loss occurring. This is done with the
use of correct pre/post workout nutrition and by not exercising for longer than
necessary. HIIT (and weight lifting) increases the release of anabolic hormones
such as testosterone and growth hormone, however as time passes, catabolic
hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin also increase.  During SSCV, the same hormone response does
not occur. Aerobic training (SSCV) raises cortisol levels, but does not cause
an increase in anabolic hormone release. Due to the anabolic response caused by
HIIT, HIIT can help with muscle strength/gain, whereas SSCV can only help to
cause the BREAKDOWN of muscle. In addition, by doing SSCV, your muscles will
aim to become more efficient. How do they do this? By becoming smaller. Don’t
believe me? Think about the physique of a marathon runner. They use their leg
muscles for long periods of time on a regular basis, but do they have a lot of
muscle mass on their legs? No. You could argue that the diet of a marathon
runner doesn’t support the growth of muscle; however, neither does the way they
train. Even if a marathon runner increased their protein consumption to that
which resembles a bodybuilder, it would not result in larger leg muscles.

So HIIT builds muscle? 

No, HIIT alone
will not cause muscle growth, it is more about the bigger picture. HIIT can
cause an increase in the release of testosterone, and since testosterone is
crucial for muscle growth and strength, HIIT MAY help you build muscle, but
this muscle building effect can easily be outweighed if carried out for too
long/too frequently. HIIT should only be carried out twice a week, with at
least 2 days rest in between; longer if necessary. There is no doubt that the number
one exercise for building muscle is weight lifting. My point being that if done
right, HIIT can help fat loss whilst helping to retain muscle.


Are there any other benefits of HIIT?

Yes. HIIT has been proven to be effective at lowering
cholesterol and improving cardiovascular health including increased lung
capacity. And seen as it takes less time than SSCV, you’re less likely to
become bored and give up. HIIT can also decrease post exercise appetite which
can be a benefit when trying to lose weight.


Any reasons NOT to do HIIT?

isn’t ideal for everyone. I wouldn’t recommend it for people who suffer with
high blood pressure, people that are obese, or those who aren’t used to
exercising.  Check with your GP first if
you’re unsure.


Any reasons why you SHOULD do SSCV?

Yes. It is
ideal for the people who are unable to complete HIIT for the reasons stated
above. It is also commonly recommended by Bodybuilders who are in the final
stages of cutting as their restricted diet does not allow them the energy
required to carry out HIIT. SSCV can also be more social than HIIT as you can
do it with a friend. Unlike HIIT, SSCV can be completed on a daily basis if
necessary as the body requires less time to recover. That is assuming nutrition
is correct and that you do allow sufficient rest time which will vary for each


Any other reasons NOT to do SSCV?

Yes, increased
aging, increased chance of injury and more time consuming.


Which can I do before breakfast (fasted)?

SSCV – Yes,
but if you do decide to take this approach, I would recommend taking some
BCAA’s and L-Glutamine beforehand.

HIIT - No,
it is important you have at least one, preferably 2 meals inside you before
doing HIIT.


So when is the best time to do

SSCV is best
done first thing in the morning or AFTER weight training; weights first to
deplete your glycogen stores then SSCV as that is when your body is most likely
to use fat for fuel.

HIIT can be
done at any time of day as long as you are are fully fuelled (so not before
breakfast), but HIIT should NOT be completed on the same day as weight training
as this can lead to over burn of your CNS, which may cause your performance to
suffer/make you prone to illness.


So ultimately which is best?

There is never a ‘one fits all’ when it comes to
exercise/nutrition and gaining muscle/loosing fat. What works for one person
may not work for another. Start with what you ENJOY doing, and if it works for
you then keep doing it; if it doesn’t then maybe you need to look to the other
options. Hopefully now you can make an educated decision when it comes to
SSCV/HIIT. There’s nothing stopping you from doing a mixture of both (on
different days of course), after all being fit should be FUN!


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