The 3 key links of fat loss and why you should be doing both HIIT and steady state cardio

Today we are going to be looking at fat loss, and specifically the 3 stages of fat loss.

The 3 stages are:




The key thing to mobilising fat is creating catecholamine response, we have two primary catecholamines involved in this they are adrenaline and noradrenaline. When these two bind to adrenergic receptors on the fat cell they stimulate as hormone called hormone sensitive lipase.

It is this hormone that actually mobilises fat from the cell.

So how do i get this catecholamine response?

It may come as no surprise that the best way to do this is through exercise, there are other ways e.g ingestion of caffeine and other pharamasuticals but for now lets look at exercise.

As a general rule the higher intensity exercise will create a greater catecholamine response.

Noradrenaline is released by the nerve terminal and has a more local effect and adrenaline is released by the adrenal glands and would be classed as having a more systemic effect.

As mentioned intensity is key.

At “low intensity” or “steady state” bouts the body produces mainly noradrenaline.

This is ok, but in order to mobilise stubborn fat we need a higher catecholamine response, only by working at around 75-80% of max HR will we secrete both adrenaline and noradrenaline.

“Stubborn” areas would be classed as around the midsection for male athletes and around the hips and thighs for females. Now, this is what makes both high intensity metabolic conditioning e.g. WODs coupled with high intensity weight lifting (big movements/med/high weights/high reps) so potent for mobilising fat because not only are we getting the catecholamine response but we are also causing lots of good muscular trauma that during the muscle recovery process will take lots of energy to repair.


Now we have mobilised these fatty acids from the fat cells we now need to get them to where they can be burned.
Fats are transported to the cells using a protein called Albumin, with the most important factor there being blood flow.

NO blood flow NO transportation.

In mobilisation we talked about “stubborn” areas for both male and female, one of the reasons for these stubborn areas is lack of blood flow. If we cant get the catecholamine into those cells we then also cannot get the fat cells transported out.

Hence why a failure in any of of these fat burning links will see a diminished chance of burning fat.

So by now i hope i have convinced you of the importance of blood flow, one way of increasing this is through higher insulin in the blood but this can also have a negative effect if used incorrectly as insulin is a storage hormone and will actually inhibit the catecholamine response as these are mobilisation hormones (getting stuff out of cells).

We have two type of receptors on fat cells, they are both Adreno receptors, one its a beta receptor and one is a alpha receptor.

First lets look at beta receptors, these primarily have a stimulatory function, so if i stimulate a beta receptor in a fat cell i will mobilise fat from that cell.

The same goes for beta receptors in the heart, if i stimulate it my heart rate will increase.

Alpha receptors are hard to mobilise fat from. If we stimulate a alpha receptor on a fat cell we actually impair mobilisation of fat from that cell.

So essentially what we want to do is stimulate the Beta and inhibit the Alpha.

A great way to do this is through adopting a “lower” carb diet, also if we can saturate the blood with enough fatty acids that will have a natural inhibitory effect on the Alpha receptors.

Essentially this means “switching” your body from a carb burning machine to a fat burning one.


Now lets look at burning fat, everyone talks about this but very few know actually how this process works and to me thats a common flaw in many peoples fat loss journeys.

Its like having a destination but with no understanding of the route needed to get there: its a stab in the dark.

You may see some success but it will be short lived and cost you a lot of time.

Remember this is a link system: both mobilisation and transportation have to have occurred before oxidation can take place.

There is an enzyme called CPT (for short) its a carnitine based enzyme that transports the fat into the mitochondria where it can be used for energy. (taking you back to GCSE biology for that one).

This enzyme is very dependant on our glycogen levels (stored carbohydrates) So when glycogen levels are low this CPT enzyme is elevated.

Now look…..the key thing here is not to go away and think about dosing up on carnitine. The fat will be transported to the cells that need energy at that time, it could be a muscle cell (optimal) it could be another cell in the body.

This is where the “type” of exercise you are doing becomes key.

When we are doing high intensity exercise the primary fuel we are using is glycogen. But thats more effective for mobilising the  stubborn fat.
Whereas low intensity or steady state cardio is better for burning more fatty acids for energy, but it isn’t very effective for mobilising fat, especially the stubborn fat.

A method i like to adopt with my clients following BioPrint is to get them to do both.

High intensity met con and resistance training to mobilise the fat then at the end of the session steady state to burn the fatty acids that have been mobilised into the blood stream. A training principle I am calling HI-SS (High Intensity – Steady State).

One thing that is worth noting, if the client is successfully sticking to a low carb approach then, due the the Alpha receptor factor of low carb dieting, i may lower the duration of the High Intensity bouts for longer steady state work.

This will be more easily adhered to by the client as they have lower muscle glycogen. I class low carb diet as below 50g per day, mainly from plants and veggies. Now this to many may seem too low. But this application wouldn’t be advised without prior consultation and calculations of a clients BMR/Baseline Caloric Intake/Marco and Hormonal Profile.

Here are the steps I take as part of a BioPrint + Nutrition assessment.

90% of your BMR is actually determined by your lean body mass, this measurement is obtained by taking a clients 14 site BioPrint.
We then factor in Total Daily Energy Expenditure
(how active the client is day to day: a desk job will require different energy requirements to a marine).

We then work out how many calories you need for each day, i like to look at this as training days and non training days for beginners.
Note: I get all clients to complete a minimum of a 10 day calorie/macro tracking diary. 85% of clients who do this are under eating, and trust me when i say this is just as bad as over consumption.

So to put this into context: Client A does his/her diary and works out she is consuming 1200kcals a day. I work out her BMR/TDEE and then factor in training days and non training days and i have her requirements at 2000kcal on a non training day and 2300kcal on a training day.
Here we have what i like to call a metabolic time bomb.

Its hard to take client A to 2000/2300kcal straight away as that will be a huge surplus to what he/she is currently consuming: we have to do this slowly. I call this establishing a clients baseline calories, trust me when i say, this is THE most crucial factor in beginning to look at your nutrition.

That being said it is very individual, i have raised a client by that much before and he actually dropped 4% body fat and he was consuming DOUBLE the amount of calories he was before, its very individual.

Once we have an idea of what a client is currently eating, what i would like them to be eating on training days and non training days we then have to look at setting the protein goal.

People who know me will know how much i preach about the importance of Protein
(The word protein comes from the Greek word “PROTEOS”, meaning the first one or the most important one)

It is and always should be the standalone macro of any diet.
As required protein intake it directly calculated by your lean mass. I wont disclose what i use to work this out but i assure you its the last thing i want to take out of a diet and the first thing i want to increase if it isn’t where i want it to be.

Keeping protein synthesis high comes at a high thermogenic cost for our body, which is great for fat loss. This approach is also crucial as i want to retain as much lean mass as possible as this too is very beneficial for metabolism.

Any “nutritional expert” can give someone a 1000kcal diet plan and watch the weight drop off – but the chances of sustaining that “weight” loss is minimal. As most of that weight loss will come from glycogen, water

Once protein is set, i would then look at carbs, clients goals, BF%, training/dieting history, TDEE and many more.

I hope you found this article informative and as always any questions/comments please feel free to write below.