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 Cardio Workout For Fat Loss

Ever go to the gym and think, “Well I have a lot of fat to lose – better jump on the treadmill” or “ I ate way too many sweets this weekend  – I better do CARDIO”.

Of course you have, we all have.

What you probably don’t know is that while you are slowly burning “some” calories, others are stripping twice as much fat off their bodies and in half the time!

Here Are The Facts:

  1. You can burn fat 2x FASTER  and in HALF the time by incorporating High Intensity Training (HIT) into your exercise routine.
  2. Cardiovascular exercise (slow and at a steady pace) burns much fewer calories than HIT.
  3. Doing too much cardio is tough on your joints and ligaments.
  4. Too much cardio will result in burning muscle instead of fat.

Here Is The Science

When it comes to weight loss, it doesn’t matter what type of fuel (food) you use. What matters is how many calories you burn as opposed to how many calories you take in.

In order to lose fat you must have a negative energy expenditure. Simple!

Energy out  >  Energy in


The Basics of Burning Fat

Our energy comes from fat, carbs and protein.  Which one our body utilizes depends on the kind of activity we are performing.  Most people want to use fat for energy. Sounds legitimate as we assume the more fat we can use as fuel, the less fat we’ll have in our bodies. But using more fat doesn’t automatically lead to losing more fat.

Understanding the best way to burn fat starts with some basic facts on HOW your body gets its energy:

  • The body primarily uses carbs and fats for fuel. A small amount of protein is used during exercise but protein is mainly used to repair the muscles after exercise.
  • The ratio of these fuels will shift depending on the activity you are doing.
  • Given the metabolic pathways available to break down carbs for energy are more efficient than the pathways available for fat breakdown, the body will rely more on carbs for fuel than fat during HIT. This is good.
  • For long, slower exercise fat is used more for energy than carbs.

When it comes to weight loss, it doesn’t matter what type of fuel you use. What matters is how many calories you burn as opposed to how many calories you take in.  

That said… burn WAY more calories during High Intensity Training than your standard aerobic exercise.

Think about it this way – when you sit or sleep, you’re in your prime fat-burning mode. But you’ve probably never contemplated the idea of sleeping more to lose weight, as lovely as that thought is.

The bottom line: Just because you’re using more fat as energy doesn’t mean you’re burning more calories.

Join the discussion 62 Comments

  • Ellie says:

    This is very good stuff Flavia! 🙂 The Stepmill is one of my favorite things to use at the gym, especially if I’m feeling “bloated” or something like that, since I don’t have to bounce around as much. Haha! I like to use it in intervals like you, except I do it only up to level 14 and rotate/keep turning sides and walk forward, sideways, and backwards. What are your thoughts on that? I feel like it’s an efficient way of creating balance in every leg muscle.

    • Flavia says:

      Yup, that’s fine. Just make sure if you are wanting to lose more fat that you challenge yourself week to week.

  • Michelle says:

    Awesome awesome! Answered heaps of my questions, thanks for posting!

  • Inga María says:

    hi, live HIIT, is it ok to do in the morning on an empty stomach?

    • Flavia says:

      Yup as long as you are used to it. Advance slowly and drink a ton of water before you do. Have on hand some electrolyes and sugar if you are just starting to do this. Replacing electrolytes is always a great idea as you train.

      • Mary says:

        I learned that if you do workout in the am on an empty stomach, you’re body will be using muscle protein for energy since the body has not had food intake all through the night. There will not be any carbohydrate source to draw energy from, fat cannot be burned without carbohydrate, hense the use of muscle protein for energy. Do you agree with this?

        • Flavia says:

          If you aren’t eating enough calories the day before this is possible, but you’d also have to be pretty lean in order for your fat not to kick into play for energy use.

  • Flowerd says:

    Hey Flavia great post !!love all your post o interesting! Could you outline a good hitt routine you do? What’s your thought on cheat days?

    • Flavia says:

      I like cheat meals more than cheat days, I think they are more effective and I tend to suggest staying with complex carbs and limiting sugars all together. I do have a treat (sugar and white flour) from time to time. I explain my routine on the video, have another listen 🙂

  • Cindy Baltazar says:

    Dear Flavia,
    I am curious as to how to work eating into my workouts? Before i work out with your tapes, what should I eat and how long before? Also after the workout is done, what should I eat and how long after (I think I heard for after a workout it is within the first hour or half?) I heard it should be a carb (which I’m confused as to what carbs are really?) and a protein. Or should it just be a protein shake before and after each workout and how long before? Please help me out…a bit confused.
    Right now I’m on a protein/vegetable diet and have lost some weight without exercising for 30 days now, but know to really lose more fat must start working out, but time is limited.
    Would appreciate any advice, Thank You, Cindy

    P.S. what is it that you eat before a workout and after?

    • Flavia says:

      Hey Cindy, what you should eat in in the program (if those are the tapes you are taking about), basically protein and fats 1-2 hours before your workout, and protein and carbs as soon as you are finished your workout. Protein shake is good post-workout than eat a meal with some carbs (grains, potatoes) within an hour, no longer than two. I usually eat egg whites or chicken and avocado before my workout (it’s quick and easy). Post-workout I have a shake, then white fish and sweet pototoes or quinoa….and always veggies with both.

  • Karen says:

    I love you guys so cute.. ? for you if I understand you correctly in order to not lose muscle from weight training I should do no more than 3 HIIT a week. I usually do more like 4/5 cardio but not all HIIT. Sprints twice 30 secs on 45/60 secs off 8.0-8.3 (getting faster love it) then trying to do the Stairmill once for 20/30 mins and the cross trainer once interval but not as intense as the other 3 sessions. Too much Cardio yes/no. I don’t want to lose muscle but want to lean out some more. Thanks for an input love the video’s.

    🙂 Karen

    • Flavia says:

      Hey Karen, that depends on what you are eating. If you are fueling yourself after every training and cardio session, you should be fine…BUT, I would recommend doing only 3 HIIT and 1 slow cardio and do ALL OUT on the 3 days. You will have better and faster results.

  • Sandi says:

    Can HIIT be done everyday or should it be spaced out throughout the week?

  • How often do you recommend HIIT or HIT? My body structure is a little smaller than yours, as I am petite 5 1′ 113lbs (most of it is muscle mass)- how much should I do for the week? I dance 3 times a week, as I am also a dance fitness instructor, so I considered that to be the cardio for the week and I stayed away from excess as I know it burns muscles- so what would you recommend for me?

    Thank you for this video Flav!

    • Flavia says:

      I would start with 2 days, you do cardio with dance so I wouldn’t do too much more. 2 times a week, 20 minutes and if you want to go for 30 minutes some times I think that should be about enough for you!

  • karly says:

    I love this machine and HIIT. I was wondering if you would consider posting a weekly routine of your photoshoot workouts. I have been trying them all and love them however would love to know how you incorporate your cardio into your week.

    Your workouts have taught me so much!


  • Arrian C. says:

    Flav, how many times a week or month do you perform these quality miles?

    I know you guys said that you burn muscle if you do this to much, so do you think twice is ok and then do the sprint on the treadmill or use the elliptical? Should we switch things up every other day and then do nothing on our rest days?

    I started to make sure I took a day of rest, and it really helps me to recover. I normally will do Yoga on my rest days. Oh, and btw I am still doing your full body workouts from the DVD and Im doing the booty break down circuits as well. So I always get a little fatigue at the end of the workout. Can I still perform the cool down and just change the cool down to this type of cool down?

    Im dropping weight like crazy!
    Thanks for you help,

    Arrian Culjak
    Coroan, CA

    • Flavia says:

      2-4 times a week depending on your goal. Take at least one complete rest day. Start with 2 days and increase if you need too for more fat loss. I recommend switching between 2-3 methods. You can add the HIIT at the end of your training but just stick to 20 minutes so you don’t burn muscle and always have at least a 2 minute cool down with some stretching post-workout.

  • Karen says:

    Any ideas what we could do if we don’t go to the gym and we are not a runner?


  • Anna says:

    Thanks for the video Flavia, you look great! You explained how long and how often to do the HIIT very well.

  • Joi says:

    I have been silently watching your progress the last 5 weeks or so (til your photo shoot) and also purchased your 5 day workout that I have been doing at the gym for 4 weeks now and am loving it! I also do Bikram hot yoga once a week. I am almost 48, currently 122 lbs. and 5’8″ and according to the Bioelectrical Impedance devise for body fat I am at 18.5% (accuracy seems to be too high). My question is that my build is tall and thin and I have a hard time gaining muscle. I know that you have to eat more and such, but when I got to 129 lbs. I did not like it and just seemed to gain fat and not muscle/strength. If I do too much cardio I worry about losing too much weight and muscle. I eat very healthy 99% of the time and with the amount I workout I have to eat approx. 2400 calories per day or I will lose weight. Any suggestions on help with increasing muscle without gaining fat for a women of my age would be greatly appreciated!

    I am a huge fan and have learned SO much from your video’s, workouts and Ryan too. Thanks for all that you do for women looking for honest and reliable information!

    Oviedo, FL (not far from you!)

  • Emily says:

    What are the best HIT exercises for major fat burn for those of us with bad knee problems? Thanks as always for the fantastic posts!

  • It’s true that it doesn’t matter what type of food you eat. If you can workout well, it means you can burn as much calories as require.

    • Emily says:

      That’s definitely not true! Haven’t you ever heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”? no matter how hard you work, if you’re eating crap, your body will never see true progress.

      • Flavia says:

        For sure, I agree 100% but you can make them look a whole lot better and stronger by training them. It is the EXACT same for every single muscle. If you have too much fat covering your arms, you’ll never see definition there either.

  • Amy says:

    Hi Flavia! Im so happy I found your blog! I need your help! I am a newly certified personal trainer and I agree with you about HIIT for major fat loss which is what I have my advanced clients do. However, I am having the same problem with several of my clients who are very fit, eat clean, and workout regularly……either they have weight gain or absolutely no fat loss. I am stumped and feel like a failure! What do you think is the issue??? The only thing I can think of is that their calorie intake is too low and maybe their body is in starvation mode. I have given them healthy calorie requirements but I’m not so sure they are eating the recommendation.

    • Flavia says:

      Hey Amy, the best thing you can do is ask them to write down everything that they eat for at least 3 days, 7 is better. A lot of times people think they are eating healthy when they aren’t. It could also be nutrient timing as well.

  • Emily says:

    Hey flavia, what would you recommend for those of us with bad knees who can’t do things like running or stair steppers? Thanks for your advice!

    • Flavia says:

      What about the eliptical? or the bike? Whatever you can do in intervals even if that means skipping rope on and off. Move between 20-60 seconds all out and 20-60 seconds walking for 20-30 minutes.

  • Rhonda says:


    Do you still have a post workout meal (protein + carbs) after doing HIIT or is the post workout meal just for when doing weight training?

    • Flavia says:

      Depends when you do the HIIT. I don’t if I do it fist thing in the morning. You will utilize them well after but to keep the weight down I have fats and protein because I do mine in the morning.

  • Sara says:

    Flavia –

    A lot of my fat is stored in my butt and hips. So far I am down 12 pounds and 9 inches (3 off waist and 2 off butt.) Should I continue to do the glute exercises that you recommend and have faith that as I continue to lose fat, my butt will be smaller even though I am building muscle there? Know this is off the topic but I wanted to reply to a recent article from you in the hope that you would see and answer this question. I do HIIT every time I work out!



    • Flavia says:

      Which glute exercises are you talking about??? You will lose fat if you are doing HIIT for sure! Building muscle, especially your glutes, is tough. Something I have been working on for almost 2 years now. It has to be intentional.

  • Kathie says:

    I was wondering if you had any HIT routines for at home. I don’t have a gym membership at this time and wondering if there was a workout that I could do at home? I am just starting out with the eat clean and workout thing and am looking for any help that I can. Thank you.

  • Taylor says:

    Since january I have been doing about an hour of slow cardio a day. I also play volleyball for a university so I am getting in about 4 hours of cardio. I have lost about 6lbs since starting this extra slow cardio (long distance running) and I am not for sure really how to go from running everyday for an hour to just 20 min. every three days. I find alot of peace knowing I got an extra hour of running in should I do both 20 min. of HIT and my slow cardio running? Or will this not help weight loss?

  • Trelle says:

    I love this and am so happy for you. I am happy that you get to do what you love and have created a great business for your self! You and your husband seem very happy. Definitely inspiring and what I needed. I have been incredibly busy lately and have fallen off of my bandwagon,I know I just need to start back slowly and work my way back to where I need to be. Thank you for all of your hard work and motivation. 🙂

  • Lea says:

    Do you do 30 min of intervals plus your warm up and cool down?
    Or does 30 min. included warm up and cool down?

    • Anna says:

      20 – 30 min is just the amount of time doing the intervals so warm up and cool down would be extra 🙂 Good question!

    • Flavia says:

      30 minutes of intervals so 15 intervals.

      • Lea Ann says:

        Thank you.
        I do my cardio after weights. Should I have protein after weights but before cardio or it it okay to wait till I finish with my cardio?

        • Anna says:

          If you do it immediatley after your weights it’s ok to not have whey. If you want to take some BCAAs about 30 minutes into your workout or right before your cardio this would help prevent muscle loss.
          All the best!
          – Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

          • Lori/Souper17 says:

            Hey Anna,

            Happy New Year. Just want to compliment you on how well you respond to the questions posted, you do a really good job!!

            I see that you have “CPT” specialist after your name, what do the letters represent?? I’m assuming the “FF” Flavilious Female?

            Best Regards,


  • Anna says:

    Thanks so much Lori! FF stands for Flavilicious Fitness Specialist. 🙂 Thanks again!
    – Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

  • Heather from London says:

    I’ve been trying to fine the right medium when it comes to cardio. So would love your advice…

    I do approx 2-3 spin classes per week (with a boxing or circuit class after), is that considered as HIT? I know it taking time but I don’t seem to be losing fat espically around the stomach! I’ve even add an 15min interval on the treadmill as my warm up before I do weights on other days.

    My aim to look like you fitness model look with 6pack abs by September. I feel this is a realistic goal (please correct me if I’m wrong)

    Is this too much? How should I structure it differently? Please help….

    • Anna says:

      Hi Heather,
      Make sure you are following Flavia’s nutrition recommendations. A true HIIT session should not last any longer than 20 – 30 minutes and the intervals shouldn’t be longer than minute/minute, they should be so hard that you can not go at the High Intensity for longer than a minute. 🙂
      All the best!
      Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

      • Heather from London says:

        Many Thanks Anna, 🙂

        One more question, how many times a week should I do HIIT sessions to lose the body fat? (This is on top of spinning)

        • Anna says:

          Your very welcome Heather 🙂 On top of spinning just 2, 20 minute HIIT sessions should be good. Try and make those sessions as intense as possible. If you are still not seeing the results you like you can add in one more 20 minute HIIT session. Make sure you are weight training 4 – 5 times per week as well to give your muscles enough stimulus to grow and rev up your metabolism.
          All the best!
          Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

          • Heather from London says:

            But Anna, does it matter when I HIIT (e.g. before weights, after weights, on different days to weights-training or HIIT in the morning/weights in the evening?

            P.S You are amazing one in a million ;)!

          • Anna says:

            Thank you Heather, that’s sweet of you 🙂

            The most important thing is that you get it done. Whatever time works best for you is the best time to do your HIIT. If you can split up your weight training and cardio session I find that works best for me to give full energy to each session. If you do your weight training and cardio during the same session do your weight training first so that your glycogen stores are still full and you have plenty of energy for your HIIT session. Hope that helps!
            All the best,
            Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

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  • Jabeen says:

    Hey Flavia,
    I now do a full body workout (weight training) once every 3 days in the morning and I would love to start pairing my workout days with a hiit session to burn some more fat because so far I have only ever switched between the two every month rather than combining the two at once and I have two questions:
    1) How soon after my weight training would you recommend I do a hiit session or would you recommend I do a hiit session first?
    2) What advice could you give me in constructing an effective full body workout?
    Thank you 🙂

    • Anna says:

      Hey Jabeen,
      You can do HIIT immediately after your weight training or wait ate least 3- 4 hours to get back your energy. As Flavia discusses in her Full Body Licious program you want to make sure that you are working the antagonist muscles equally. Meaning you want to do a vertical push (shoulders) as much as you do a vertical pull (back) and you want to make sure you do equal hip flexion exercises (quads) as you do hip extension exercises (hamstrings) This does not all necessarily have to be done in one workout but should be done within one workout week 🙂
      All the best!
      Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

  • Jabeen says:

    Hey Flavia,
    Is it ok to do a hiit workout every other day?
    Thank you 🙂

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