Trainer’s Question of the Week: Does Moderate-Intensity Cardio Burn More Fat Than Vigorous Cardio?


On just about every piece of cardio equipment, you’ll find that notorious “fat burning” program.  What exactly is it, and will it really burn the most fat?

The answer is no.

Why?  Because that program keeps your heart rate pretty low and your exercise intensity moderate.  It follows the premise that when you exercise at a lower percentage of your maximum heart rate, ie, the “fat-burning zone,” you burn a higher percentage of fat.  The problem is, because you’re working at a lower intensity level, you’re burning fewer calories overall, and overall calories burned is the key to losing the most fat

If you have only a half hour to work out, and you want to maximize your fat burn, increase the intensity.  You’ll burn more calories overall, and thus, more fat calories overall.  This doesn’t mean that you have to go at full-speed your whole workout.  Interval training is a great option for incorporating some higher intensity cardio workouts into your schedule.

You may be thinking, “I’ll just walk on the treadmill for 60 minutes instead of running for 30 minutes, as long as I burn the same amount of calories.”

Any kind of cardio, be it walking or running, is great.  However, higher-intensity cardio increases your after-workout calorie burn.  This is because of the exercise post-oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect.  Current studies show that working at approximately 80% of your maximum heart rate allows you to burn more calories, for hours after your workout.  So again, if you’re trying to lose the most fat possible, higher-intensity cardio produces better results across the board.

Does this mean that every workout has to be this way?  No.  To start, try incorporating one higher-intensity workout into your schedule per week, and add more as you grow comfortable with it.


8 thoughts on “Trainer’s Question of the Week: Does Moderate-Intensity Cardio Burn More Fat Than Vigorous Cardio?

  1. Spence says:

    Great post. I’ve been substituting interval workouts for long runs. It saves time and the results seem to work faster. I personally enjoy the short spurts- sprints, little rest time between workouts and intense cardio. So far they have all been paying off but I’ve still got some work to do.


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