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  1. #1
    [<o>] LizzyBrazil's Avatar
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    Doing Cardio vs Eating Less

    What do you guys think is the best way to lose fat? Just straight eating less or doing cardio?

    Let's say you have a 1700 bmr and you achieve 1500cals for the day... Do you think it will be the same fat burning effect as eating 1700cals and burning 200cals, sitting at 1500cals just the same?

    I always thought that just eating less is worse, since 200cals (example) worth of aerobic exercises/running would activate beta oxidation more than just not eating those calories (maybe if you just dont eat, the body will take those 200 cals from glycogen to transform into energy, instead of fat)... I could be very wrong though and it could be only a matter of cals in vs cals out.

    what do you think? (definitely share your experiences!)

    edit: posted this here because its supposed to be more of an informal talk and the fact people come into this part of the forums more :P)
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  2. #2
    Tiny Tank BubsNBean's Avatar
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    I'd say a lot of that has to do with your personal preferences.

    -Do you like cardio?
    -Is it easy or hard to stick to the current diet?
    -How much of a deficit are you already at with diet alone?
    -Do you like to eat?

    For me, I like cardio, and I like to eat. So that works out well

    I think, at a simple level, it is cals in versus cals out, but its kind of pointless (imo) to try to figure out how much your burning during your workouts. You can figure it out, but it's more about what you can mentally tolerate when you're at a big deficit.

    For example: When I did my last cut, I cut at 1450 cals/d. I lifted heavy 3 days/week, did pretty decent cardio 1/week. The last 4 weeks of the cut I did cardio 3/week. AND I WANTED TO CHEW MY ARM OFF! I was a miserable bitch. So if you're not looking to get on stage, don't be so aggressive.

    Aim for 1-2lbs/week loss. When you stall, re-evaluate. Switch your macros up, decrease cals a little, add a day of cardio, etc.
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  3. #3
    [<o>] LizzyBrazil's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by BubsNBean View Post
    I'd say a lot of that has to do with your personal preferences.

    -Do you like cardio?
    -Is it easy or hard to stick to the current diet?
    -How much of a deficit are you already at with diet alone?
    -Do you like to eat?

    For me, I like cardio, and I like to eat. So that works out well

    I think, at a simple level, it is cals in versus cals out, but its kind of pointless (imo) to try to figure out how much your burning during your workouts. You can figure it out, but it's more about what you can mentally tolerate when you're at a big deficit.

    For example: When I did my last cut, I cut at 1450 cals/d. I lifted heavy 3 days/week, did pretty decent cardio 1/week. The last 4 weeks of the cut I did cardio 3/week. AND I WANTED TO CHEW MY ARM OFF! I was a miserable bitch. So if you're not looking to get on stage, don't be so aggressive.

    Aim for 1-2lbs/week loss. When you stall, re-evaluate. Switch your macros up, decrease cals a little, add a day of cardio, etc.

    Nice
    I've cut and bulked for years now but I've always really wondered which is, scientifically, more effective. I'm comfortable with both, it's just knowledge seeking I guess. Here in brazil most people/nutritionists/doctors believe in cardio - if you want definition you HAVE to do some cardio! They aren't very educated on the matter lol..
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  4. #4
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    Originally Posted by LizzyBrazil View Post
    Nice
    I've cut and bulked for years now but I've always really wondered which is, scientifically, more effective. I'm comfortable with both, it's just knowledge seeking I guess. Here in brazil most people/nutritionists/doctors believe in cardio - if you want definition you HAVE to do some cardio! They aren't very educated on the matter lol..
    I'm not sure there's an answer for that. Nutrition and metabolics are hard to study, and there's such great variation between people to make it more complicated. Have you ever heard of Lean Bodies Consulting? The owner of the company, Erik Ledin, very much spouts that he gets people competition ready with very minimal cardio. From my experience alone, I think you can cut without cardio. It's about the rate at which you want to lose, and how much muscle you're willing to sacrifice. Cut slower, less cardio, hold on to more muscle. Cut quickly, more cardio, lose more muscle.

    Disclaimer: I know absolutely nothing about the credibility of Erik Ledin, but he definitely has a following of people that think cardio isn't necessary either.
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  5. #5
    Registered User acrawlingchaos's Avatar
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    A deficit is a deficit. It doesn't matter (for the most part) how the deficit is created.

    A 500 calories deficit is a 500 calorie deficit, and will create the same weight loss. In either case, counting calories will still be the only way to verify a deficit and to stay consistent.
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  6. #6
    Turning Betas into Gammas Wyomann's Avatar
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    I typically think eating less is better than doing cardio if you are doing heavy lifting and/or training for competitions. I've had this discussion with my fellow competitors and we all agree that the more rest we can give our joints the better off we are come game day.

    While yes the deficit may be the same, how you get there is another story.
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  7. #7
    [<o>] LizzyBrazil's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by acrawlingchaos View Post
    A deficit is a deficit. It doesn't matter (for the most part) how the deficit is created.

    A 500 calories deficit is a 500 calorie deficit, and will create the same weight loss. In either case, counting calories will still be the only way to verify a deficit and to stay consistent.
    I understand what you mean, but the statement "a deficit is a deficit" sounds too simple to me. What if on said deficit your body that said day will use only glycogen to supply its energy demands as opposed to fat due to aerobic exercise stimulating beta oxidation? Then when it comes to fat loss a deficit won't be just a deficit right? Correct me if I'm wrong, i'm just throwing ideas lol
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  8. #8
    Time to start building... norinicole's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by LizzyBrazil View Post
    I understand what you mean, but the statement "a deficit is a deficit" sounds too simple to me. What if on said deficit your body that said day will use only glycogen to supply its energy demands as opposed to fat due to aerobic exercise stimulating beta oxidation? Then when it comes to fat loss a deficit won't be just a deficit right? Correct me if I'm wrong, i'm just throwing ideas lol
    I think you're thinking too much.

    Like BubsNBean posted, it's probably more personal preference. Although from what I've noticed, you can have much better results from playing around with diet (and macros) than with cardio. With cardio you run the chance of losing muscle mass a lot more than you do a calorie deficit.

    Have you tried both? I personally don't like cardio, so when I'm leaning out I pay more attention to how I'm fuelling my body than the numbers of minutes I'm doing cardio. Plus, what about metabolic or plyometric workouts? Those bring your heart rate up just as much (if not more) than steady state cardio or HIIT. It's also much more accurate to limit your calories (weigh your food for macro content as well) than trying to get an accurate estimate of caloric expenditure. Even with a heart rate monitor on, I think it would be tough to REALLY know how many calories you're burning.


    Bottom line for me - working with the diet will typically yield faster and better results than cardio.
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  9. #9
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    Originally Posted by LizzyBrazil View Post
    I understand what you mean, but the statement "a deficit is a deficit" sounds too simple to me. What if on said deficit your body that said day will use only glycogen to supply its energy demands as opposed to fat due to aerobic exercise stimulating beta oxidation? Then when it comes to fat loss a deficit won't be just a deficit right? Correct me if I'm wrong, i'm just throwing ideas lol
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein

    I'm not sure what your question is for ACC about beta-oxidation. Beta-oxidation is the second step in the catabolism of fatty-acids.

    Glycogen is stored mostly in the liver, and a small amount in the muscle. Glycogen catabolism is completely different than lipolysis.
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  10. #10
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    Originally Posted by LizzyBrazil View Post
    I understand what you mean, but the statement "a deficit is a deficit" sounds too simple to me. What if on said deficit your body that said day will use only glycogen to supply its energy demands as opposed to fat due to aerobic exercise stimulating beta oxidation? Then when it comes to fat loss a deficit won't be just a deficit right? Correct me if I'm wrong, i'm just throwing ideas lol
    Eating below maintenance, regardless of what your activity level is required to lose weight. Cardio alone does nothing for weight loss if you are eating in a surplus.

    We will never use just glycogen for energy. We don't work that way. If you are in a negative energy state, you are not going to maintain. Beta oxidation occurs during any activity (or inactivity) including when you rest, sleep, walk, and just move in general.

    It really, truly is "that simple". People make money off making you think weight loss is more difficult than it is.

    deficit + consistency = weight loss.
    proper protein intake and strength training ensure that what is lost is fat (not muscle).
    GFY
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  11. #11
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    If Im personally starving and have the time to go for a walk at night and like to go on a walk, I choose to eat a little more and do my cardio. That said, if Im just tired and need a rest id rather just eat less. It depends on your circumstances at that time.
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    Originally Posted by JohnSmeton View Post
    If Im personally starving and have the time to go for a walk at night and like to go on a walk, I choose to eat a little more and do my cardio. That said, if Im just tired and need a rest id rather just eat less. It depends on your circumstances at that time.
    This is what I do too. I only hit cardio on those days when I just need a little more food on my plate. Everyone assumes I've been doing chitloads of cardio, my coach included. Nope. Just eat less. I hate cardio sooooo much
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    Originally Posted by acrawlingchaos View Post
    A deficit is a deficit. It doesn't matter (for the most part) how the deficit is created.

    A 500 calories deficit is a 500 calorie deficit, and will create the same weight loss. In either case, counting calories will still be the only way to verify a deficit and to stay consistent.
    Yes BUT, a good portion of what you're eating if we're talking bigger deficits needs to be protein in order to preserve muscle as much as possible.
    I suppose the general population isn't concerned with muscle loss though, they usually just care about the scale so in that case however you get to your deficit wouldn't really matter. It's all personal preference
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    [<o>] LizzyBrazil's Avatar
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    interesting discussion
    I personally believe in whatever you need to do to feel good about how you're losing weight.
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  15. #15
    sadly, life is a marathon shesprints's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by LizzyBrazil View Post
    interesting discussion
    I personally believe in whatever you need to do to feel good about how you're losing weight.
    Yeah, IDK why people are so black-and-white about this stuff. Why not do cardio SOMETIMES and SOMETIMES eat less? I could see cardio working well if your body isn't too beat up--that way you won't risk cortisol spikes and that crushing fatigue that comes with too much cardio while in a deficit. People who never do cardio may find that they actually have less energy and a higher appetite, since a certain amount of cardio can lower appetite. (<--it's very individual, though, as studies have shown people respond differently to cardio in terms of appetite).

    Basically, I think there's a tipping point up to which cardio can help. Do too little and you're cheating yourself, not to mention your long-term health and fitness. Too much and you're tearing yourself down. It's a balance.

    For instance, a couple of days ago I felt a lot of cardio (biking, swimming more than usual) catching up to me so I stepped it back for a few days and found my appetite calmed, as well, and I was able to focus more on reestablishing calmer eating habits and going for less sugary food. But sometimes if I haven't done quite enough cardio I'll find that doing a good session of something or other will seem to level out my blood sugar and energy for the rest of the day. This stuff can't always be quantified unless someone is running multitudes of tests on you all day long, but you can eventually figure out your rhythms.

    Actually, a good rule of thumb for me is whether I'm craving sugar. BOTH too little cardio (idle appetite?) and too much (low glycogen!) lead me to crave sugar, whereas when I'm well-balanced I really don't enjoy too many sweet foods.
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    Originally Posted by acrawlingchaos View Post
    Eating below maintenance, regardless of what your activity level is required to lose weight. Cardio alone does nothing for weight loss if you are eating in a surplus.

    We will never use just glycogen for energy. We don't work that way. If you are in a negative energy state, you are not going to maintain. Beta oxidation occurs during any activity (or inactivity) including when you rest, sleep, walk, and just move in general.

    It really, truly is "that simple". People make money off making you think weight loss is more difficult than it is.

    deficit + consistency = weight loss.
    proper protein intake and strength training ensure that what is lost is fat (not muscle).
    This is spot on. I find it just doesnt work for me to count my 'cardio calories'...they're a sort of bonus. I must eat below maintenance to lose.
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    I never ever count my calories. I did some successful "cuts" but they were more based on eating slightly less and doing a more cardio based routine
    always worked.
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    I may be talking out of my anus here, so feel free to correct me.

    Reducing calorie intake can slow the metabolism as the body tries to adjust to the lack of energy intake. On the other hand cardio, especially HIIT, can increase metabolism, even for hours after it's been done. So while less food is needed to lose fat, I think raising metabolism through cardio is always a good thing.
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    sadly, life is a marathon shesprints's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by sy2502 View Post
    I may be talking out of my anus here, so feel free to correct me.

    Reducing calorie intake can slow the metabolism as the body tries to adjust to the lack of energy intake. On the other hand cardio, especially HIIT, can increase metabolism, even for hours after it's been done. So while less food is needed to lose fat, I think raising metabolism through cardio is always a good thing.
    I don't know about 'talking out of anus,' but technically HIIT kind of straddles the line between cardio and lifting... if that makes sense. I.e. it's a lot of anaerobic work as well as pure aerobic. Like most things, cardio is on a continuum. Like, is a 100m sprint cardio? 40m? Prowler? Sled pulls? Kettlebell swings? I definitely agree that things like metcon and finishers--not just 'cardio generally' may boost 'metabolism' (by which I think you mean EPOC). So do even tempo intervals or tempo runs/threshold runs, to an extent (that would be paces that push the border of your Vo2max).

    The downside of that type of workout, the really high-intensity, is that you can't do more than 2 or maaaaybe 3 a week. Especially if you lift, which also drain your glycogen and CNS.

    But longer, slower, steady-state cardio does not have the same EPOC effect.

    That's why runners can easily double up their days with workouts AND with 'easy-pace' runs, as those don't take as much energy (calories!) and can allow you to train again hard the next day.

    The downside if trying to lose fat is that easy-pace steady-state does not burn very many calories, as is indicated by the relatively low effort level. It does burn some, though. And another downside is that studies have shown that HIIT suppresses appetite more than LISS (perhaps due to blood flow away from stomach--like why my teammate can eat a jumbo chocolate muffin before a 10-mile easy run but nothing before we do sprints! ... he is weird).
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    Originally Posted by sy2502 View Post
    I may be talking out of my anus here, so feel free to correct me.

    Reducing calorie intake can slow the metabolism as the body tries to adjust to the lack of energy intake. On the other hand cardio, especially HIIT, can increase metabolism, even for hours after it's been done. So while less food is needed to lose fat, I think raising metabolism through cardio is always a good thing.
    You don't gain any real metabolic advantage from HIIT on a deficit. The adaptions of HIIT "growth" will occur in a surplus, like muscle growth.

    On a deficit, the goal with HIIT is to maintain the progress you made on a surplus. The only individuals that would get any "metabolic advantage" are those who have conditioned themselves while eating for it (like shesprints). If you're not conditioned, the only advantage HIIT has is the caloric value it burns.

    It also requires the same amount of effort with HIIT as it does with lifting to start really making a difference in your metabolism. Adaption happen slowly, and probably not anything significant in a few months time.

    Regardless, the deficit is still a deficit, regardless of your intake levels. It's really just a choice of being high out put or low out put.
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    Originally Posted by shesprints View Post
    the EPOC effect.
    EPOC is overrated. it's proportional to the amount of calories burned during exercise. higher intensity has higher EPOC, but you can't sustain higher intensity (such as HIIT) long enough to burn significant calories during the actual exercise bout.

    which totals more calories
    600 calories for an hour of running + 6% EPOC (= 636 cals) or
    530 calories for 90 minutes of biking + 6% EPOC (= 561 cals) or
    150 calories for 10 minutes of HIIT + 14% EPOC (= 171 cals)

    and as noted, you get the increase in EPOC only if you follow the HIIT protocol (all-out sprints) as intended. walk for a minute/jog for a minute isn't HIIT. at the end of the day, low intensity burns less calories per minute than high-intensity, but you can do it for longer and more often without burning out.

    Originally Posted by ACC
    Regardless, the deficit is still a deficit, regardless of your intake levels. It's really just a choice of being high out put or low out put.
    correcto.
    Last edited by Miranda; 09-18-2013 at 02:24 PM.
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    sadly, life is a marathon shesprints's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Miranda View Post
    which totals more calories
    600 calories for an hour of running + 6% EPOC (= 636 cals) or
    530 calories for 90 minutes of biking + 6% EPOC (= 561 cals) or
    150 calories for 10 minutes of HIIT + 14% EPOC (= 171 cals)
    To be fair, most who do HIIT sandwich it in between a warmup and cooldown that is lower intensity. My HIIT workouts when I was doing sprints, counting warmup, covered 5 miles just like my easy runs and actually took about the same total time... but more EPOC. Compare 5 miles @ 8:00 pace with 5 miles, 2 of them warmup @ 8:30 pace, then the HIIT segment (usually a collection of 30s-1:00 at high intensity, so sprint pace, interspersed with SLOW jogging)... then 1-2 miles cooldown @ 8-8:30 again and it's the same distance, similar time, but one has EPOC and one does not.
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    Queen Miranda to you Miranda's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by shesprints View Post
    To be fair, most who do HIIT sandwich it in between a warmup and cooldown that is lower intensity. My HIIT workouts when I was doing sprints, counting warmup, covered 5 miles just like my easy runs and actually took about the same total time... but more EPOC. Compare 5 miles @ 8:00 pace with 5 miles, 2 of them warmup @ 8:30 pace, then the HIIT segment (usually a collection of 30s-1:00 at high intensity, so sprint pace, interspersed with SLOW jogging)... then 1-2 miles cooldown @ 8-8:30 again and it's the same distance, similar time, but one has EPOC and one does not.
    hum. with all due respect, the way you include sprints in your running is not the way the average person does HIIT

    the most common setup you see for HIIT is ~5-10 mins warmup combined with ~5-10 mins cooldown. that is a slow-ish jog going into sprints, and then fast walking afterward. sometimes people combine sprints with steady state. but unless you're highly conditioned/motivated/willing to suffer, you're not going to run a 5k afterward.

    i wouldn't think you're going to get more than maybe 10-15 cals/minute for the sprint segment. especially if the majority of the time is allotted to the recovery interval. and if you're in poor shape, you can't get to that level of intensity in the first place. it may feel like it, but having a heart attack or puking your brains out isn't a measure of power output.

    all endurance training generates EPOC btw. it's only that HIIT generates moar than twice!!! (6% vs 14%) the amount EPOC than SS. so people have gone mad with it. looking at the absolute numbers renders EPOC pretty irrelevant, though. you get what, 30-50 calories?
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    sadly, life is a marathon shesprints's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Miranda View Post
    hum. with all due respect, the way you include sprints in your running is not the way the average person does HIIT

    the most common setup you see for HIIT is ~5-10 mins warmup combined with ~5-10 mins cooldown. that is a slow-ish jog going into sprints, and then fast walking afterward. sometimes people combine sprints with steady state. but unless you're highly conditioned/motivated/willing to suffer, you're not going to run a 5k afterward.

    i wouldn't think you're going to get more than maybe 10-15 cals/minute for the sprint segment. especially if the majority of the time is allotted to the recovery interval. and if you're in poor shape, you can't get to that level of intensity in the first place. it may feel like it, but having a heart attack or puking your brains out isn't a measure of power output.

    all endurance training generates EPOC btw. it's only that HIIT generates moar than twice!!! (6% vs 14%) the amount EPOC than SS. so people have gone mad with it. looking at the absolute numbers renders EPOC pretty irrelevant, though. you get what, 30-50 calories?
    That's true, my bad on the EPOC front. But certainly HIIT--or any intervals that are challenging, actually--will improve your speed, economy, and Vo2max more than steady-state running/biking/Airdyne[which is great for HIIT btw]/swimming. For that, if nothing else, I say it's worth it to do some. Perhaps that doesn't have an immediate fat loss effect, but it increases your fitness level and work capacity, and long-term won't that help with fat loss? In other words, doing a little interval work makes you able to better withstand and perform LISS anyhow, though ideally I believe any decent cardio program includes both steady-state and intervals.

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    Originally Posted by shesprints View Post
    That's true, my bad on the EPOC front. But certainly HIIT--or any intervals that are challenging, actually--will improve your speed, economy, and Vo2max more than steady-state running/biking/Airdyne[which is great for HIIT btw]/swimming. For that, if nothing else, I say it's worth it to do some. Perhaps that doesn't have an immediate fat loss effect, but it increases your fitness level and work capacity, and long-term won't that help with fat loss? In other words, doing a little interval work makes you able to better withstand and perform LISS anyhow, though ideally I believe any decent cardio program includes both steady-state and intervals.

    Feel like I have threadjacked majorly, sry.
    well we are still talking about cardio haha.

    In my personal experience, I've been training for 4 years.

    when I only ate less than I used to and trained the same = I felt like the fat loss was really slow and I even felt as if I was losing muscle. I didn't like it at all.
    when I ate a bit less and di some cardio (normal steady cardio) = I felt myself getting leaner.
    when I did HIIT and a cardio-based routine (high reps, low intervals, circuits and moderate weights) = I felt the fat MELTING off in a much shorter span of time. I still think "a deficit is a deficit" is a too simplistic approach, since in my personal experience it didn't really work quite that way. PS: I did not eat so much less during the HIIT phase that would make the caloric deficit that higher than before, so its not about "well when you were HIITing you were on a bigger deficit so that explains it"

    My trainer even said "eat more than what youre dieting now and let my training do the job" and it did. I can thank my personal trainer for that lol
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    I tried to cut both ways and the fat came off pretty much at the same pace, but I felt A LOT better when I did cardio! Dieting alone made me sleepy and tired, never again!
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    It seems cardio makes it easier to lose weight by decreasing appetite, but also uses up some energy that you won't have to lift weights with the same intensity.
    If you try to just reduce calories while lifting at high intensity, the results will be better but you will be very hungry!
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    Originally Posted by Nic1 View Post
    It seems cardio makes it easier to lose weight by decreasing appetite, but also uses up some energy that you won't have to lift weights with the same intensity.
    If you try to just reduce calories while lifting at high intensity, the results will be better but you will be very hungry!
    Personally, cardio makes me ravenous, which is why I have had better results by cutting it down. But we are all different.
    I try to rep back, but I always neg back.

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    Thanks for the link to Erik Ledin, whose page has lots of good articles! Much appreciated!
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