Stop Running, Start HIIT-ing
by Abby Austin
Every time you enter the gym, you see it. Treadmills and ellipticals filled with people committed to steady-state cardio. Exerting 30-60+ minutes on a cardio machine, however, is the heart of the most common misconception in health and fitness. Extended periods of cardio with no strength training will not get you to your fat loss goals.
Traditionally, steady state cardio was found superior for fat loss because the body uses relatively more fat as fuel during lower intensity exercises than high (ie, a steady jog versus sprints). Therefore, the “Fat Burning Zone” illustrated on cardio equipment as 60-65% max heart rate is inaccurate, and not optimal. Low intensity exercise will burn more fat comparative to glycogen, however fat loss is accomplished with total fat is burned, at higher intensities.
Further, research substantiates that cardio combined with strength training is relatively counterintuitive. Strength development is reduced in this blend, compared to strength training alone. Therefore, to obtain the profits of cardio without sacrificing strength, your cardio training would need to be short and intense- enter HIIT.
What is HIIT?
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the popular alternative to routine cardio, combining two effective fat burning methods. High Intensity Training consists of using a quick burst of maximum effort exercise to achieve muscle fatigue and prime oxygen. During these intense bouts of exercise, the harder your muscles work, the more oxygen they require. Thus, your body strives to reach VO2 Max which is the highest volume of oxygen expended by your body during exercise. Approaching VO2 Max, the body will trigger the afterburn affect. During the afterburn affect, your body continues to consume oxygen and burn calories hours after your workout.
Interval Training involves alternating periods of intense exercise (short bursts of sprints) with moderate-to-low periods of recovery. Interval training boosts metabolism longer and builds lean muscle tissue faster than steady state cardio. A 20 minute alternating interval training workout burns more calories than the equivalent time of steady training.
Together, High Intensity Training and Interval Training exercises maximize metabolic rate, optimal fat-burning and muscle building, as well as increased caloric burn during and after workouts
The Science of HIIT
Aerobic respiration requires oxygen to generate energy, while anaerobic respiration does not require oxygen to generate energy. HIIT training engages and capitalizes on both aerobic and anaerobic fitness; cardio only involves aerobic. By challenging your body to exploit both types of respiration, you are able to see and maintain faster, more definitive results as well as recover with ease.
Additionally, HIIT produces faster muscular response and preservation because it directly targets muscle tissue at the cellular level. The mitochondrial activity in your muscles is actually altered.
More Benefits of HIIT
A typical HIIT session consists of a 2-3 minute warm up at a low resistance, a 15-20 minute cycle of 30 seconds of maximum effort then 90 seconds recovery period, followed by 2-3 minute cool down. HIIT exercises shouldn’t exceed 30-35 minutes. That’s why HIIT workouts are perfect for those low on time. However, you should only do HIIT workouts 3x a week for maximum benefit, otherwise you are no longer “shocking” you body.
HIIT can be done anywhere, with or without weight. Whether you prefer the outdoors, in home, or at the gym, HIIT can give you a great strength and cardio workout in no time. HIIT can be applied to your favorite form of traditional steady-state cardio whether free form or on a machine including running, rowing, cycling, swimming etc. HIIT is also commonly incorporated into full body, weigh training exercises.
Muscles in your body will more easily absorb glucose instead of storing in your fat cells. This improved insulin sensitivity helps keep your energy and alertness up, while contributing to your active metabolism.
Check out the blog for HIIT videos you can try!
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