HIIT it for Fat Loss!

Whenever I get a new client who’s looking to lose fat (and who isn’t), the same question often comes up: so how much cardio should I be doing?? Something about the word cardio just turns me right off. It sounds so boring and catabolic. The common practice of hitting the eliptical or treadmill for 40 minutes or more can help to burn calories, but will also have a negative effect on lean body mass. In order to provide the body with energy, you will eventually turn to body fat stores, but muscle will also need to be broken down for amino acids. This is very counterproductive towards Body Fat percentage. The result is that you create a smaller version of the same person! Sure you lost 10lbs, but you’re still 30% BF. Our goal in creating a lean efficient body is to increase muscle mass while decreasing body fat. Let us take a look at track and field to give us a good example of what we’re talking about. The athletes which have the lowest amounts of body fat and the highest amounts of muscle are the sprinters. The athletes running 100m, 200m, and 400m are the epitome of lean machines. It’s no secret how they’ve become this way, weight training and interval training! What about the long distance runners, who run for hours at a time? Do they have the body you’re looking for?

Which would you rather be?

For certain athletes, interval training is not so much a preferrential choice they make, but a standard training protocol for their sport. Any athlete who uses repeated bouts of high intensity exercise can benefit from interval training and should probably already be doing them. That being said, there is a place for interval training in everyone’s workout. You don’t have to be Usain Bolt to try and use the advantages of HIIT.

What is HIIT exactly?

HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training, is a training method where an individual does a short period of anaerobic work followed by a  period of rest and then repeats this for anywhere up to 10 or 12 minutes. This can be done with a number of different pieces of equipment or tools; sprinting, spinning, skipping, rowing, swimming and even ballistic type resistance training can all be used for interval training. The important part is to make sure your “sprint” interval is near maximal effort. This is why intervals are difficult to do on your own, most individuals have difficulty pushing themselves that hard with no one watching. IF you can man up and get it done, you’ll be that much better for it, trust me.

Why do HIIT?

My first introduction with the science behind HIIT came from a strength training symposium at the University of Western Ontario. During this symposium I saw a great presentation on a study they were doing using 30 second sprints followed by 4 minutes of rest. They compared their results with a protocol of 40min of steady state cardio. The results were incredible, not only were the interval subjects working out for far less (only 4-6 sprints of 30s each), but they were achieving the same results in conditioning. In fact, some of their subjects reported improvements in a 5km run, a 10km bike and a 40km bike. This goes to show that repeated bouts of anaerobic exercise can increase aerobic performance, but the opposite is not true. Sitting on an elliptical for 40 min WILL NOT improve your sprinting. HIIT utilizes something called EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption). Essentially, when you’re depleting your body of oxygen using intervals and not allowing it to fully replenish, your body works at absorbing oxygen for hours after your workout. This oxygen is used for a number of bodily functions which increase metabolism. Studies have shown that the increased metabolic rate can exist upwards of 13hrs! It’ll stick with you longer than that greasy hamburger you had at lunch! This also means that when your cardio machine spits out the number of calories burned, it is only telling half the story. The 40 minutes of steady-state cardio will elicit a much larger number of calories burned, but once you get off the machine, your body stops. With HIIT, you are on the machine for a much shorter time frame, so it appears that you don’t burn that many calories. However, since your metabolism is jacked up for the rest of the day, you end up burning way more calories in the end.  

How do I do HIIT?

Doing HIIT can be very simple. For most of my clients I suggest a starting protocol of a 1:3 or 1:4 work to rest ratio and have them starting around 6-8 min total. For example, doing a 20sec sprint followed by 40sec rest, repeated 6 times. If you’ve been able to increase your time and are still looking for more, then start ramping up the speed of the sprint. For advanced practitioners, take a shot at the tabata protocol! Tabata is a protocol which uses 20sec sprint with a 10s rest for a total of 4min. Sure 4 mins doesn’t seem like much now, but if you go hard enough you’ll understand.

With the holidays approaching, many people are going to be looking for a way to counteract unwanted weight gain. Try throwing in 2-3 HIIT sessions per week to really improve your conditioning and your body comp!!

Even during the christmas break,

It’s About Getting Better!


11 Responses to “HIIT it for Fat Loss!”

  1. So, i get the sprint part but not sure about rest, should rest be 100% still or slow walking? And also, is it best to sprint for 30 sec and rest 4 minutes (which i dont like!) or TABATA (20 sec/10sec)?
    THX A LOT!!! looking forward to get it down so i can start doing it!

    • Hi GA,

      Thanks for the question. The rest can be either completely off or slow walking, the difference between the two is not that big. If you are sprinting all-out, it’s important that you take some time to catch your breath though. Tabata can be very good and very efficient, but it is absolutely deadly if you are putting in a top effort for your GO sets (the 20 seconds). This makes it almost impossible to maintain the intensity through the whole 4 minutes. If you take 2-3 minutes after a 30 second sprint, it allows you to come back and repeat another sprint at the same speed. If you want to do TABATA one day a week and a sprint and rest approach on another, that might be a good compromise!

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