HIIT has become a word that has been tossed around fitness circles, weight loss workout plans and gyms a lot at the moment. But before doing anything it's worth asking: what is HIIT, what does it accomplish and is it worth scheduling in your week?
To put it simply, HIIT or 'High-Intensity Interval Training' covers cardio exercises done in fixed intervals of fast bursts before bouncing back into an interval of modest pace or just resting. It's all about rhythm.
Now that we know what it means, the next question to answer is why?
Fast intense cardiovascular exercise unlocks your anaerobic fat burning capacity like nothing else - this means greater weight loss! Most of the time your body uses oxygen to fuel movement, but when you are moving hard and fast your body can't quickly get enough oxygen to fuel your movement so it starts burning carbohydrates instead. That's where a lot of the fat-burning happens.
The problem with high intensity is that it's hard to perform it at a consistent pace for long stretches of time. With interval training, it becomes easier to tap again and again into this natural powerhouse.
HIIT Workout Benefits for Weight Loss
It's Super Efficient!
A large reason why many people sometimes don't get into aerobic exercise, or fitness in general is time. With HIIT, you don't have that excuse. It's incredibly time efficient!
For years, those seeking to lose weight were advised that they needed to commit to medium-intensity steady-state cardio for at least a full hour to finally get from burning oxygen to carbohydrates and stored glucose. Research shows that HIIT instead uses the anaerobic system for energy, which uses glucose immediately.
Burn More Calories
As stated above, HIIT is massively beneficial when it comes to losing weight. From 1994, many peer review studies have agreed that high-intensity interval training results in a significant amount more fat loss in comparison to steady-state cardio. These promising results have encouraged many personal trainers and coaches to add some HIIT weeks of training for clients desiring weight loss.
Part of this significance has been estimated to the 24-hour increased metabolic rate that it provides even after the workout.
Less After Workout Munchies
A big part of the reason why some people don't see any weight loss results to show for steady-state cardio (e.g. running at moderate intensity for 30 mins) in the past is that they misunderstood how many calories they have burned and then relax and eat or indulge more.
A study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has shown HIIT actually helps suppress appetite for a short period after a workout, making you less likely to grab something calorie-rich afterwards to reward yourself.
No Need for Equipment
This is for the ones with tight budgets! There's absolutely no need to buy fitness equipment or a gym membership for HIIT - you can run, swim or use your own bodyweight in Tabata style workouts. This makes it the perfect additional exercise when you don't want to purchase or fill your home with anything too bulky.
Of course, owning a treadmill or exercise bike certainly makes it easier. Especially for bad weather or long work hours.
While steady-state cardio builds up quite a sweat, it often takes a while in a workout to get into the anaerobic threshold to really burn calories. In contrast, HIIT forces your body to switch from producing more ATP (adenosine triphosphate) from fat. In turn, this improves your heart and body's ability to pull from these stores and perform well under pressure.
Better Sports Performance
High-intensity interval training targets and strengthens your anaerobic energy system, which athletes rely on heavily due to the high intensity of sports. This means if you train with HIIT you're able to push yourself harder, longer and faster.
How many times should you do HIIT?
You shouldn't be doing HIIT every day. While HIIT benefits make it an incredible choice for any beginner, gym goer or athlete, as a high-intensity exercise it can be possible to do too much.
As high-intensity exercises such as HIIT or strength training put more stress on the body, it also takes longer to recover from. When you're packing in too much HIIT or staying with it for too long, you can find it harder to recover and find yourself feeling more tired after gym instead of having more energy.
Instead, try a HIIT 30-40 min session 2-3 days a week for one mesocycle (4-8 weeks) or 1 day a week if you're also lifting weights, to start seeing some great results.
HIIT primarily works the anaerobic system. Therefore, we recommend also switching back to steady-state cardio to also help ensure your aerobic system and resting heart rate is at a healthy fitness level.
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