HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, and is a specific style of training that focuses on short explosive bursts of energy, followed by low to moderate intensity rests periods afterwards. HIIT is an incredibly effective tool that can be used to generate fat loss while also maintaining and in some cases increasing muscle mass.
Mainstream beliefs often infer that long distance, slow and steady cardio programs are the holy grail of fat loss are sadly misinformed. By all means, with a correct diet and lengthy cardio sessions you will create a calorie deficit and eventually burn fat and perhaps reach your goals, but at the same time you risk shedding not only body fat but also muscle mass.
In terms of the research and science behind why HIIT is so effective, you will be absolutely shocked by the differences between fast and intensive compared to slow and steady. A research report from Laval University established that subjects who performed a 15 week HIIT training programme experience a greater loss in body fat then subjects who went through a 20 week slow and steady cardio programme.
A report from the University of Western Ontario also carried out a similar study which compared the effects of a 30-60 minute slow and steady cardio compared to a study group engaged in HIIT, who carried out six 30 second sprints, followed by a whopping 4 minute rest period. Both study groups performed this routine 3 times per week. The HIIT study group was documented as losing twice as much body fat as the slow and steady cardio rate despite only training on average 1/3 of the time that the slow and steady group.
The research really stacks up in favour of the HIIT and that leads us to our first take home point regarding HIIT.
TAKE HOME POINT #1
HIIT stimulates greater fat loss over shorter time periods compared to steady state cardio.
The second exciting benefit of HIIT training, stems from research that has been done showing post workout effects on metabolism after completing HIIT. Research indicates that after HIIT you actually burn more calories in the 24 hour period after training then those who have engaged in slow and steady cardio.
A study from a college in Houston Texas showed that a study group performing high intensity cardio while cycling burned approximately 100 calories more than the study group performing slow and steady cardio.
In a nutshell, the science behind this effect is how the body reacts to aerobic and anaerobic activity. Anaerobic activity causes an “after burn” effect, as the body has been starved of oxygen to fuel the explosive HIIT workout.
Post HIIT workout the body will attempt to bring the resting metabolism back to its original state before HIIT by utilising the body’s fat and glycogen stores. This process can last up to 24 hours meaning, which leads to the higher rate of calories being burned and fat stores being utilised to fuel this process.
TAKE HOME POINT #2
HIIT causes an "after burn" effect that will mean your metabolism will rise, meaning more calories will be burned and subsequently lead to greater fat loss.
A final aspect that should not be overlooked by fitness enthusiasts is the much smaller time frame that HIIT requires for you to complete to achieve your goals.
Through a regular HIIT program you can do roughly a third of the cardio you would need to do to achieve the same fat burning goals. For those with busy schedules, or those who simply dread getting on a treadmill for 30-60 minutes, HIIT can provide an extremely time effective method to reduce body fat while maintaining maximum muscle mass.
Also HIIT is extremely convenient as you can simply go to a park or football field, and set up a 50-100m point A and point B layout and then complete your full training in 15-20mins. Also you are not limited to cardio. HIIT can be performed with a single dumbbell or kettle ball and simply relies on the principle of high intensity followed by a slower rest period.
TAKE HOME POINT #3
HIIT is a time effective, challenging (but fun!!) and highly convenient way of achieving your cardiovascular and fat burning goals.
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