HIIT vs LISS cardio while bulking? 5 absolute differences

Liss While Bulking


Choosing between HIIT vs LISS cardio while bulking can be a tricky decision for many lifters. How to perform cardio while bulking is one of the most common questions asked by almost every lifter going through the bulking phase. 

There has been a ton of confusion about cardio while bulking, some believe that cardio might degrade the muscle-building process, others are just confused about choosing the right kind of cardio. 

HIIT Vs LISS Cardio While Bulking: Low-intensity cardio is a better choice when you are in a bulking phase, LISS not only helps in burning some extra subcutaneous fat but also improves the appetite, recovery rate and heart health. HIIT can be a little harsh on the body while you are on bulking, it will also slow down the recovery process.

But there is no picture-perfect answer to this question, and whether you should be doing cardio while bulking depends on your target goals and body type. 

There are a lot of reasons for cardio while bulking and most lifters experience great results from cardio while gaining phase. Let’s find out the best cardio type to support your bulking phase. 

Basics of HIIT and LISS

What is HIIT?

HIIT means “High-Intensity Interval Training”, this training method involves short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with intervals of recovery periods. HIIT training is usually done at the 80-90% of maximum heart rate. This exercise pattern has been used by the pro athlete to improve their conditioning and ability to deliver maximum output for a short period. 

What is LISS?

LISS means “Low-intensity steady-state”, don’t get yourself confused with the term LISS, its also known as 

  • Low-intensity exercises
  • Steady-state cardio
  • Long slow distance (LSD) training

In comparison to HIIT, low-intensity steady-state exercises are done at 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. Activities like running, cycling, brisk walking, swimming are often associated with the LISS. 

Some guys believe that HIIT is a more superior method of burning stubborn body fat but that should not make you ignore the advantages of LISS training. Truth is, both the cardio training methods have their different sets of advantages and drawbacks, you just need to choose the right training method to fulfill your goals. 

Benefits of cardio while bulking 

HIIT kettlebell swings

I am not going into deep but its essential to touchdown the benefits of cardio while bulking. If you want to understand the details then you can check out the detailed article about it. 

First thing first, simple 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio will help you burn around 200 calories which can be replenished with a peanut butter sandwich, I guess guys are wrongfully worried about getting into a caloric deficit. 

Here is how cardio helps your bulking phase: 

  1. Improving heart conditioning: Your heart health is directly correlated to the quality of your training, no one wants their heart to give up before their muscle does. Healthy cardiovascular healthy will help you sustain longer training sessions. 
  2. Apatite: Any kind of physical activity improves apatite, we all know that. A simple low-intensity cardio can considerably increase your apatite to get those calories into the system.
  3. Insulin sensitivity:  Cardio has been scientifically proven to improve insulin sensitivity which allows far better absorption of the nutrition.
  4. Recovery: Cardio is not only assisting in burning some fat but also helps in the recovery process by improving the blood flow. 

HIIT VS LISS cardio while bulking

Now the question is, whether you should be doing the High-intensity cardio or the low-intensity cardio?

1- Calorie counting

Whether you follow the bulking or cutting protocol, counting calories is one of the most important aspects of building a better version of yourself. 

HIIT cardio makes the calorie tracking a difficult process, when you are in a bulking process, you don’t want to keep your body in a balanced state of caloric surplus. 

Why HIIT make the calorie counting difficult? Calorie counting in HIIT can be divided into two phases, one phase is when you are doing the high-intensity workout and other phases if EPOC (Post-exercise oxygen consumption). EPOC can leave your body into the calorie-burning state even after 24 hours post-workout which might lead to burning more than required calories. 

Low-intensity cardio keeps the calorie counting process convenient and efficient, if you don’t know the calculation then you can use many calorie calculator apps available for free. There is no post-workout calorie burning, so you burn calories while doing the cardio. 

Note: EPOC can be a game-changer for guys who are looking to lose weight but it’s not the best while BULKING. 

2- Source of fuel

Something that most of the lifters have no idea about. LISS Primarily relies on Fat metabolization & HIIT primarily relies on the Glycogen reserves. 

What proportion of glycogen or fat is burned depends on the intensity level of activity. 

Our cells need oxygen to burn fat to produce ATP, and carbohydrates can be utilized to produce energy without the abundance of oxygen. 

Additionally, carbs can be broken down to produce energy at a faster rate than fats. So can you predict what is the primary source of fuel while HIIT? Right, it’s your glycogen reserve. 

On the other hand, LISS provides sufficient oxygen to promote fat oxidation. But why does the body chose fat to be utilized while LISS? Your body is a very smart machine and it chose the most abundant source of energy as a primary source of fuel. So it prefers to burn fat when provided with sufficient oxygen supply. 

Here is a chart of fat oxidation while the different intensity of exercises. 

LISS cardio while bulking

3- Recovery rate

Effects of cardio on recovery rate plays a crucial role in gaining muscle mass. Sadly, HIIT lacks here too.

HIIT not only leads to post-workout fatigue but also restricts the lifter from giving 100% while weight training. 

LISS is not only easy on the body but also helps you recover at a faster rate by improving the blood flow throughout the body. 

4- Apatite regulation

When my client asks me that he is not hungry enough to get another meal I ask him to get a 30 min brisk walk. 

To your surprise, there are some studies suggesting that HIIT suppresses the appetite by reducing the hunger hormone (ghrelin).

I certainly don’t recommend anything that affects your hunger hormone negatively while the bulking phase. LISS cardio while bulking works better for most of my clients but each body is not the same, I have seen people who ate like tyrannosaurus after their HIIT sessions. 

5- Convenience

Bulking is the season when your all focus should be shifted on eating and lifting, nothing else should be bothering you. 

LISS is a convenient method to burn stored fat while strengthening cardiovascular health. LISS can be done while checking on Instagram feeds or while replying to emails, I personally prefer taking a walk on my home treadmill while watching NetFlix. 

HIIT might be taking less time but it will leave you to feel jittery and sluggish for the next workout. 

Who is a winner? 

HIIT cardio has become a rage in the last 10-15 years and it has been considered an immediate solution to fat loss but it has its big list of drawbacks too. If you study any old school bodybuilding training they included a lot of LISS cardio for the body conditioning because of some practical reasons. 

If you are reading this article that means you are either a physique athlete or someone who already has good body composition and you are probably not someone whose only goal is to lose weight. Your goal is to keep the fat% in check, gain maximum muscle mass, eat better, and faster recovery. 

HIIT cardio can work great for certain individuals, like if you are a performance athlete (NFL athletes) who requires a short burst of high-intensity performance or a CrossFit athlete who needs to practice HIIT to keep up with their sports. 

As far as bodybuilding goals, your priority should not be HIIT cardio because it will restrict your recovery goals, will make you feel lethargic all day, will negatively affect your hunger and it will majorly burn glycogen reserves as a fuel source.

For me, optimum choice is LISS cardio while bulking.

Cardio While Bulking FAQ

1- How much cardio should I do while bulking?

A 20-30 minutes of low intensity cardio is just perfect to maintain the heart health without sabotaging your muscle gains. You can choose to do swimming, hill climbing, slow jogging, cycling or any other sport. Too much cardio can restrict the growth, as it will burn the excess calories you’re eating but short low intensity cardio sessions are perfectly okay.

2- Can you build muscle and do cardio?

Absolutely, with the help of the right nutrition and workout plan, you can build muscle and do cardio both. Most of the physique athletes incorporate some cardio in their routine to stay lean while keeping the heart healthy.
A healthy heart will also help you push harder while the strength training sessions that surely lead to better gains.

3- Can you get a 6 pack while bulking?

If you are trying to get abs while bulking then you will fail to achieve both the goals. The bulking phase requires you to eat more calories than you require which will leads to gaining a few pounds of fat too.
You can push yourself to gain visible abs in the cutting phase.

4- Should I do abs while bulking?

Absolutely! Treat your abs just like any other muscle group. Bulking phase might make your abs invisible but they are still there underneath the layer of fat.
Training abs while bulking will keep your core strong and will help you regain abs after you finish your bulking diet.

5- Does bulking give you a belly?

Bulking diet is all about eating more calories than your body’s daily requirement and gaining fat is one of the biggest drawbacks of a bulking diet. Yes, bulking will give you some amount of belly fat but you can eliminate that during the cutting phase.

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. 

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