We all want a quick fix, we don’t want to spend hours at the gym or scrutinizing every meal we eat just to find out we have only lost a pound after a month’s work. Though there is no magic pill that we can take to lose the extra weight overnight, there is an effective fat loss method that will keep burning fat up to 48 hours after a workout, and it’s called High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT for short.
HIIT is not universally known amongst the non-gym rats, as it is a method used by fitness models and endurance athletes to increase their metabolisms and to melt the fat away faster before any competition. It is a form of interval training, performed in short anaerobic bursts with fewer and briefer rest periods. It is considered to be the most effective cardio exercise that can be performed under 30 minutes almost anywhere.
If you want to stop sacrificing your sacred time on the treadmill, read below to learn how HIIT can help you achieve your desired lean body.
What is HIIT?
High Intensity Interval Training means performing a short number of bursts of intense exercise, such as biking, sprinting, swimming, skipping rope, knee highs, followed by short recovery periods, such as walking. The purpose of the short recovery period is to bring your heart rate back to normal before performing the next anaerobic burst.
This is different than regular endurance exercise as the routine never allows your body to adjust to one intensity level, giving your body the shock it needs to start using the fat as fuel for your workout. Regular cardiovascular exercise, such as running on the treadmill for a consistent time at a consistent speed, causes muscle catabolism, the breakdown of muscle tissue, creating the ‘skinny fat’ look that many wish to stay away from. Muscle catabolism can even last up to 7 days after the steady-state cardio took place.
How Do You Perform HIIT?
The beauty of HIIT is that you can customize it to your body type and needs and still get results. I don’t recommend jumping right into HIIT as it can take a toll on those who have heart conditions or early signs of arthritis, so please consult your doctor first to see if this is right for you.
If you decide that you want to try HIIT, first figure out the type of cardiovascular exercise that you like best. Here is a list of some common exercises that are used for HIIT training:
- Jumping Rope
- Running up Stairs
- Jumping Jacks
HIIT can also be performed with kettle bells, yoga balls, and various other equipment, but this is for the advanced folk.
Jim Stoppanl, Ph.D. from BodyBuilding.com has the best beginner’s plan for HIIT training:
Now onto the HIIT benefits!
1. Burns Fat Faster & Longer
A 2001 study from East Tennessee State University concluded that subjects who followed an 8-week HIIT program, dropped 2% in body fat compared to the 0% that was dropped by subjects that underwent a continuous steady-state program. The same study also stated that the subject who followed the above program burned almost 100 more calories per day during the 24-hours after each exercise.
Regular steady-state cardiovascular exercise helps you burn calories during your workout, but with HIIT, you can burn calories just by sitting or sleeping after you have finished a workout! It is no wonder that so many athletes and fitness fanatics are using HIIT to their advantage and shedding off the last pounds of weight before any competition. However, you don’t need to be a participant of a competition to have a reason to start HIIT training – think of bathing suit season, the next big birthday party, a wedding or just your health.
2. Saves You Time
You can find them at almost any gym, on a treadmill or elliptical, running at the same speed four to five times a week hoping to reach their weight loss goals. They look miserable, tired and mentally exhausted from performing the same thing over and over again with very little result. Then you step up on the said treadmill and press the big green button to initiate the repetitive routine you call exercise. The term that is generally associated with people who cannot seem to cut the cord from the aerobic machines is cardio bunny. If you are sweating your life away on any cardio machine, four to five times a week, 30-60 minutes per day – please STOP. You are only damaging yourself and wasting your time.
The general excuse of not having enough time for exercise goes out the window as HIIT can be tailored to your time limit while burning fat every single time you perform the routine. This means that you do not have to spend hours on the elliptical, instead performing HIIT three times a week maximum for about 14-25 minutes is enough to give you results while drastically improving your general well-being.
3. Location Does NOT Matter
Have a track next to your house? How about a swimming pool or a stadium? Do you have some extra space in your living room, or how about your basement? High Intensity Interval Training can be performed absolutely anywhere!
If there’s a deadly snow storm outside and you don’t want to make the trip to the gym – no problem! Simply put on some comfortable working-out clothes and start doing HIIT right at home. You do you not need that treadmill or elliptical that’s covered in dust in your garage or any fancy workout equipment, just use your body to perform the HIIT exercises and you’ll be sweating in no time.
Also, since there are no limits in terms of gear, you can switch up your routine every two weeks to ensure that you will NOT be bored. After all, boredom and repetition are a major reason why many of us stop going to the gym in the first place.
Though there is a vast amount of skeptical research out there, for the most part, athletes, competitors and trainers vouch for HIIT as a great way to quickly increase endurance. Endurance is particularly important if you’re planning on running in a long race, training for obstacle races or if you’re tired of being tired after going up a flight of stairs. This is a great way to make your body use to short bursts of energy that occur after a sedative state. For example, catching up with a bus that you’ve almost missed, playing with kids, chasing your dog down the street after it spotted a cat. If you are experiencing a shortness of breath, dizziness and muscle cramps as soon as you start doing something active, then slowly incorporating HIIT into your regular schedule is something for you.
5. Preserves Muscle Mass
If you want a lean body that has some definition, then doing continuous steady-state cardio is not going to give you the results you want. HIIT decreases the chances that your body will use your muscles as fuel, therefore preserves your lean mass, something that does not happen if you engage in regular cardio sessions. By conserving your muscles, you will maintain your strength while improving your endurance.
In fact, a Laval University study concluded that in addition to a decrease in body fat after a HIIT training program, the subjects’ muscle fibers had substantial higher markers for fat burning than those in the steady-state exercise group. So remember, being a cardio bunny will help you burn calories but you will always be disappointed at the results as a dip in the scale will mean a decrease in muscle mass not body fat.
6. Faster Results Than Traditional Cardio
When comparing steady-state cardio to high intensity interval training, I like to use the following example. Imagine you’re in traffic and you’re moving inch by inch, always revving that engine in frustration, sometimes even fully turning off the engine and back on out of sheer boredom. What happens to the gas? You use up way more than a car that is driving at a steady state from point A to point B. This is the same idea with HIIT. Since you are constantly stopping and going and pushing yourself to the maximum, you are using way more energy than someone who is running at 5 miles an hour for 30 minutes, therefore speeding up your metabolism. HIIT stimulates the production of your human growth hormone by 450 percent during the 24 hours after you complete your workout. Hence, you burn more calories, shredding the fat much faster and more effectively than traditional cardio.
However, if you think that you can get the results you want without changing your diet, think again. HIIT is most effective when paired with a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, lean meat and enriched carbohydrates. Eating a burger a day will certainly diminish any results achieved with a proper HIIT program. For faster results, incorporate weight training 3 times a week along with 2-3 HIIT work-outs.
Following the latest fad diet or mindlessly moving on that treadmill that we all so love to hate will not get you the body that you desire. High Intensity Interval Training is a great way to increase your performance, shred that unwanted body weight and save you time and patience. We all have it in us to achieve the things that we desire — our health should not be an exception.
Featured photo credit: Nicola Albertini via flickr.com