A HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training) is the best cardio for weight loss and for metabolic conditioning. In this post, I will talk about the most critical elements of using a HIIT workout for weight loss and increased conditioning. Your conditioning and weight loss can also work hand in hand; as your conditioning improves, you will burn more fat.
What is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?
HIIT involves alternating between intervals of high intensity training and intervals of rest. An example of this would be to cycle as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.
The Benefits of HIIT: Why Do It?
Compared to steady state cardio, HIIT achieves everything better at a fraction of the time.
When it comes to increasing metabolic conditioning, a recent study showed that HIIT increased endurance like steady steady state cardio. The interesting discovery here is that HIIT only took 10% of the time to achieve the same results.
Another factor that HIIT improves is V02max. V02max is amount of oxgyen you can use per minute. This reflects your physical fitness. People that have a higher V02max use more energy doing the same activity, this helps them burn more fat.
During the tabata protocol experiment in 1966, they discovered that HIIT improved V02max at a higher rate than steady rate cardio for a fraction of the time.
The specific protocol they used only lasted 4 minutes per session for a total of 4 sessions per week with 1 steady state cardio session lasting 60 minutes (4×4+60=76 minutes of training per week). The group using steady state cardio trained for 60 minutes at a time for 5 times a week (5×60=300 minutes).
To conclude the findings, HIIT produced greater results in 76 minutes per week while the steady state cardio took 300 minutes per week. HIIT is about 4 times more efficient.
There is a myth that states steady rate cardio burns more fat than HIIT during the same time span. This is wrong. HIIT produces more immediate weigh loss results and it also produces more long term weight loss results.
In the beginning of the article, I said that as your conditioning improves, you will also burn more fat. The improvement of V02max leads to better longer term weight loss, you will burn more calories doing the same activities if you have a higher Vo2max.
In case you were interested, the myth that I mentioned earlier had a flaw. Steady state cardio burns more fat per litre of O2 (Oxygen). However, HIIT uses more O2 per minute. In the end, HIIT burns more fat once this is factored in.
When To Use HIIT and When to Avoid It
HIIT is superior to steady state cardio if you only want to lose weight and increase your conditioning. It improves your metabolic conditioning and burns calories at a much faster rate. At a fraction of the time, you lose more weight and you also get more conditioning.
Do not use HIIT if you’re trying to build muscle. It is very taxing on your central nervous system and this will slow down your recovery and gains. If building muscle is your main focus, it’s better to take your time with low intensity cardio. Spend 20 minutes after your workout to do a brisk walk. Try it on an incline while keeping your back straight to work your abs at the same time.
Low intensity cardio on an incline will not develop your abs like heavy barbell squats and deadlifts. However, I noticed that 20-40 minutes of it will make your abs look better for the rest of the day. A little harmless tweak to your low intensity cardio for the purpose of vanity.
If you’re doing low intensity cardio, you can do it daily for optimal results.
How To Do HIIT Workouts
Warm up for 3-5 minutes. The rest is just about setting your work and rest intervals. Longer work intervals provide greater results. I will include a popular HIIT routine below.
How To Progress
When you’re starting out, have longer rest intervals with shorter work intervals. As you progress, increase the duration of your work interval and shorten your rest interval.
For example. When you’re starting out, try 30 seconds of rest and 10 seconds of work:
- Warm up 3-5 minutes
- 10 seconds of going all out
- Rest 30 seconds
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 seven more times.
A Popular HIIT Workout
This was the method that I talked about in the ‘Conditioning’ section above. It involves 20 seconds of going all out and 10 seconds of rest, repeat for 8 cycles. It’s real intense. Here is a video that demonstrates this on an elliptical. The guy lost 30 lbs in 2 months from these 4 minute workout sessions.
The Best HIIT Workout
The best HIIT workout is one that suits your fitness level. Remember that this is High Intensity Interval Training, there needs to be high intensity regardless of what fitness level you are. During high intensity exercise, your body produces HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and this will help you burn fat even after you stop exercising.
Remember that high intensity is key, don’t get comfortable. I personally like to use 30 seconds of going all out and then resting for 90 seconds
Ideally, you want to monitor your heart rate. For maximum results, you should reach your max heart rate by the last work interval. How you calculate this is 220-your age. If you’re 25 years old, then you should try to reach 195 bpm (beats per minute) by the last interval.
The machines you are using should have a heart rate monitor, but it can be inaccurate compared to a heart monitor you can wear around your wrist.
The Tipping Point:
The first 5 intervals aren’t bad. It gets real intense on the last 3 intervals. You can’t slack off, keep giving it your all during these most crucial moments. The intervals of highest intensity is where ‘change happens’ as it was described in the video above.
A ‘Hack’ To Accelerate Your Results
For improved conditioning AND weight loss, incorporate intermittent fasting. Training in a fasted state may seem unconventional, but there is a new body of research that shows the effectiveness of it. Personally, I train in a fasted state for both weight lifting and HIIT. There are many benefits to this.
For example, one recent study showed a significant improvement of glycogen concentration remaining in the muscles after fasted training (60% improvement). This would lead to more endurance. Another study suggested something similar, except that men benefited more from fasted aerobic training.
As for weight loss, intermittent fasting helps you burn more fat and it also speeds up your metabolism. It has many of the same effects of exercise on your body. To learn more about it, check out my post on Intermittent Fasting To Lose Weight Fast.