What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it involves alternating between periods of intense exercise and brief recovery. The idea behind HIIT training is that you don’t allow your body to adjust to exercising at just one level of intensity, which essentially enables you to turn into a fat-burning machine.
So what does an actual HIIT workout look like? Well first you start with a warm-up (you’ve got to get those muscles loosened up!). Then you break into a very intense exercise to get your heart rate up so high that you are exercising in the anaerobic zone. This intense exercising is done for a short interval, and after that time is up, you will switch to a less intense exercise for a short interval. These high intensity-low intensity intervals are repeated several times and altogether an entire HIIT workout can span just 20 minutes. Yup, no more whining about not having enough time to workout!
HIIT Torches Calories in Shorter Time
I’m sure many of you have already heard about HIIT, and the reason HIIT is so popular is because it doesn’t require a serious time commitment to yield significant weight loss results. Plus, for those of you who get bored to tears on gym machines like the treadmill (or “the hamster wheel” as I sometimes like to call it), HIIT is a nice way to kill boredom and get you more actively engaged in your workout while burning more calories despite a shorter total workout time.
HIIT Burns More Calories After Your Workout
For those of you who track your daily calorie expenditure, here is another benefit of HIIT: It primes your body to continue burning calories after you’re done working out. How so? Well your body needs oxygen to function. And when you exercise at very strenuous levels (like HIIT), you will end up pushing your body out of the aerobic zone and into the anaerobic zone. This basically means that your muscle cells will be deprived of oxygen, which will create an oxygen deficit within your body. Now this oxygen deficit doesn’t change the fact that your cells still need oxygen. So after doing HIIT, your body will work to balance things out later. And the elimination of the oxygen debt comes in the form of your body up-regulating its metabolism and releasing fatty acids that are used as fuel for recovery. This all happens in the time after a workout is complete, and interestingly enough, this won’t occur by doing low intensity exercise. You need to be working out in your anaerobic zone at maximal heart rates to create a significant oxygen debt and added fat loss effect. The entire process is called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) and it is a pretty efficient way to burn extra calories and fat. In fact, a Baylor College of Medicine study reported that subjects who followed a HIIT workout on a stationary cycle burned significantly more calories during the 24 hours following the workout than those who cycled at a moderate steady-state intensity.
HIIT Boosts Fat-Burning Hormones
Another benefit to HIIT is that it also helps stimulate Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is responsible for regulating metabolism and maintaining fat burning lean muscle mass. Last but definitely not least, HIIT also helps improve insulin sensitivity and lowers insulin levels, thus improving insulin action. For those who don’t know, insulin is a very important hormone that triggers your body to store fat if insulin gets too high. And in cases where blood sugar levels get high and insulin is released but not able to do its job efficiently, the end result will not only be obesity, but also diabetes.
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How to Perform HIIT
When setting up your HIIT workout you don’t have to follow one specific formula, although the original HIIT proponents set a 2:1 ratio of high intensity to low intensity. So you could create an HIIT workout, where say, you alternate between a 30 second sprint and 15 seconds of walking. That 2:1 ratio is just a recommendation though and many people (myself included) like to vary their HIIT ratios. If you’re a total newbie to HIIT here are a few examples of HIIT workout regimens you could try:
HIIT on the pavement:
- Sprint for 20 seconds and walk/jog for 10 seconds. Do this for 20 minutes.
- Sprint for 30 seconds and walk/jog for 15 seconds. Do this for 20 minutes.
- Sprint for 40 seconds and walk/jog for 20 seconds. Do this for 20 minutes.
HIIT on the track:
- Sprint the straightaways and walk/or jog the curves. Do this for 20 minutes.
- Sprint 200 meters (half way around the track) and walk/jog the other half. Do this for 20 minutes.
HIIT in the gym:
* Note – Make sure you are using proper form when doing these exercises. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself from bad form!
- Circuit training protocol – mix push-ups, squats, bench press, deadlifts, pull-ups, or any other combos of exercises, doing 30 sec to 1 minute of exercise for every 15-30 seconds of rest. Repeat the circuit of exercises for 20 minutes.
How to Perform HIIT Safely
Alright, so now that you’ve read about some of the awesome benefits of HIIT, I’m guessing you’re going to want to give it a try asap. But before you do, here are a few precautions I’d recommend:
1) Always warm up before an HIIT session. Also remember to stretch and cool down afterwards.
2) Make sure you are eating properly and getting adequate nutrition before attempting HIIT. Even though HIIT training doesn’t take a lot of time, it does take a lot of energy. So for those of you who are cutting calories, be mindful you don’t cut calorie intake too low. Doing so could leave you severely exhausted or worst yet land you in a medical emergency.
3) Give your body time to fully recover (at least 24 hours). Though it’s not talked about often, recovery is an important component to fitness because it helps repair muscles, helps your body become stronger, and helps prevent injury. In the case of HIIT your body will definitely need rest and recovery time because this type of exercise will take a lot out of you. So when performing HIIT just make sure to exercise hard, exercise smart, and take time to rest and recover so your body has adequate time to become leaner and stronger.
What do you think of High Intensity Interval Training? Is HIIT something you already do, or do you plan on trying it out? ̶ Doc
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