Hurry I‘m in a time crunch (but still want amazing results)!
Actually HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.
And there’s a plethora of research showing that short bursts of high intensity interval training, or HIIT, is superior to continuous aerobic training for weight loss.
It’s also superior for overall conditioning and performance benefits for both athletes and recreational exercisers. And studies show multiple benefits to general health and reducing disease risk. You could say HIIT is kind of the magic unicorn of exercise!
you’re super busy & don’t have a lot of time
you want to get really lean and super fit
you’re all about efficiency and multitasking
you wanted it all yesterday
Look no further. High intensity interval training is your ticket to 1, 2 and 3 above. As for number 4, we can’t promise you yesterday, but we can tell you with certainty that HIIT will get you there quicker (and on a stealth unicorn perhaps) than pretty much any other type of exercise!
WHAT EXACTLY IS HIIT?
Simply put, it’s when you alternate between high and low intensity exercise(s) or between high intensity work and a short period of rest. That could be with either cardio based exercise (like cycling, running, or skipping) and/or resistance exercises like squats or push-ups. Essentially, any workload that gets you working at a high level (your own perceived level of intensity) followed by a period of lower intensity or reduced heart rate, is interval training.
If you’ve ever done a bootcamp class or circuit type of training, you’ve done interval training. Going from one station to another, doing a variety of cardio exercises mixed with body weight conditioning and/or resistance training exercises and taking short breaks in between stations is a type of HIIT workout.
And the advantages to exercising like this are plentiful!
- Quick and efficient: takes less time to get the same results as other types of exercise (steady state cardio or body building)
- Supports fat reduction while retaining lean muscle mass
- Improves several health markers, ie: strengthens cardiovascular system, regulates insulin, reduces blood pressure, and more
- Can be done virtually anywhere with no special equipment
- Anyone can do it, trained athletes and recreational exercisers alike
- Develops sport-specific energy systems for high-level athletes
- Develops “work capacity” (i.e. the ability to tolerate a high level of intensity for a longer period)
- Improves fat and carbohydrate oxidation in skeletal muscle (makes the muscles work better)
- Challenges the fast twitch muscle fibres — the ones that make you strong and fast
- Develops mental toughness and makes you a badass (hey, this ain’t easy!)
HERE’S WHY IT WORKS
There are two ways your body can burn fat:
- Working in the aerobic zone, a lower intensity zone where the body is utilizing fat as an energy source. However, it does this very s-l-o-w-l-y.
- Working in the anaerobic zone, a high intensity zone where oxygen is not coming in fast enough to fuel the fat-break-down process (like above) and instead, the body must get its energy from other sources –-> specifically chemical stuff called phosphocreatine, lactic acid, and glycogen. Huh… so how about that fat we want to burn?
Sorry, no fat being burned directly during those super hard bursts of hard work, but here’s where the magic happens.
Albeit short, those high intensity work intervals are so demanding that it triggers a significant metabolic response in the body – yup, it boosts your metabolic rate and that’s how more calories (aka fat) is ultimately burned long after the work is done. The best part is that this metabolic response continues for several hours afterward to support long-term fat loss.
Both lower intensity and higher intensity bursts of exercise can help shed fat, in different ways and for different time durations. HIIT hits both, and particularly allows you to tap more into the one that triggers the biggest metabolic effect à the anaerobic zone.
But there’s more…
In addition to the metabolic effect of working in the anaerobic system, there are hormones that are released when working at different intensities.
When you exercise at higher intensities (85 to 95% of VO2max), certain hormones that have effects on body composition and anabolism (aka muscle growth) all increase in the body. These include growth hormone, testosterone, endorphins, and adrenaline.
Higher intensity = higher hormone levels that help you get and stay lean!
Holistic Tip #1: Crossfit is ALLLL about the intervals! If you’re in the Victoria BC area, check out Crossfit Lolo and in Calgary, AB check out Crossfit Sunalta – both tried and trusted by yours truly 😊
Holistic Tip #2: Lower intensity exercise like yoga, a bike ride with the kiddos, or walking the pooch outside can reduce certain other hormones, like stress hormones. So be sure to always include those restoration exercises in your weekly exercise program too!
For inquiring minds…. more science:
A study published in July 2014 Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found that a single HIIT session does a better job of modulating blood sugar spikes after a meal than a continuous moderate-intensity workout does in overweight adults. The conclusion was that HIIT can help lower the risk of developing insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
Another study published in May 2015 Sports Medicine found that performing a HIIT session 3x weekly for 12-16 weeks improved measures of vascular or blood vessel function – good news because healthy vascular function means reduced risk of high blood pressure.
It gets better! According to a March 2017 publication in Cell Metabolism, when older adults did 12 weeks of HIIT cycling 3x per week, they showed improved mitochondrial function and muscle protein content than the resistance trained subjects. These markers are important in aging, making this evidence that HIIT training has anti-aging effects at the skeletal muscle and cellular level.
And best of all, it has also been consistently shown to be highly effective in helping weight loss and stimulating fat metabolism. It’s popularity is also attributed to the fact that it is more stimulating and takes much less time to reap the same benefits (as opposed to a longer steady state cardio session).