One of the most common questions I get asked is, “what type of exercise is best for fat loss?”
While resistance training is certainly important and essential for building muscle and strength, some of the latest research is showing that high intensity interval training workouts may be the most efficient style of exercise for fat loss and improving metabolic function. (1)
Modern day life leaves very little time for exercise. In fact, one of the most common excuses for not working out consistency is a lack of time.
This is why high intensity interval training, abbreviated H.I.I.T, is so appealing. It’s one of the most efficient methods of training. Individuals can reap the fat burning, metabolic boosting, and improved cardiorespiratory function benefits in a very short period of time!
Typically, a H.I.I.T session takes a mere 15-20 minutes!
What is High Intensity Interval Training?
Many variations of H.I.I.T workouts exists, but I will be covering one style that I believe to be particularly effective for fat loss and time management.
High intensity interval training is when you have a very intense work interval (25-30 seconds) followed by a rest period (90-120 seconds). To reap the full benefits of this style of training you have to really go ALL OUT 100% effort during the work interval.
This sequence is then repeated 5-10 rounds, depending on your fitness level and desired outcome.
When you break it down, doing 5-10 rounds is only performing approximately 2.5 to 5 minutes of actual exercise! That is why H.I.I.T training can feel “mentally easier” in many cases compared to other styles of training.
The specific exercise performed during your H.I.I.T session can vary. I recommend low-impact safe exercises for individuals beginning their fitness journey, although more advanced folks can certainly incorporate other exercises.
It can be challenging to find an exercise that is so taxing it can bring you to full fatigue in 30 seconds or less, while also minimizing injury potential.
"high intensity interval training may be the most efficient style of exercise for fat loss and improving metabolic function"
High Intensity Interval Training Workouts
Here is a list of a few of my favorite exercises to use for high intensity interval training workouts. I listed in order starting with good options for beginners and ending with more advanced options.
1) Swimming - My all time favorite option for H.I.I.T sessions. It’s a low impact, full body exercise that you can safely do high-intensity sprints
2) Sprints on Bicycle - This is a very low impact option and can be done on a stationary bike, or better yet, outside in the fresh air and sunshine!
3) Sprints on Elliptical Machine - The elliptical machine is a great full-body workout and you can maximize the efficiency of using it by doing H.I.I.T sessions rather than steady state cardio.
4) Squat with Dumbbell Curl and Press - This full-body exercise is very taxing and won’t put excess stress on the joints.
5) Battle Rope Slams - This one is near and dear to my heart. There are few exercises that are as challenging as these. Wonderful option.
6) Sled Pushes - If you have access to a weighted sled, it is an excellent exercise to bring you to exhaustion quickly with low impact.
7) Uphill Sprints (or Regular) -This is likely the most common exercise used for H.I.I.T workouts. It’s simple, requires no equipment, and will certainly get the job done. Uphill sprints are more taxing and have less impact on your joints. Treadmill is also an option, but not nearly as good as getting outside for the real thing.
8) Burpee Push-up pull-up - This is a total body exercise I created that give you a full workout in one exercise. Very challenging, yet perfect for your H.I.I.T workouts!
High Intensity Interval Training for Beginners
If you are new to H.I.I.T or coming off a long hiatus from exercise in general, it's important to keep a few things in mind when getting back into the groove of things to minimize your potential for injury.
1) Longer warm up - Don't jump right into a high intensity work interval and sprint your butt off without warming up first. Move your body and be mindful of any areas that feel tight or painful. Then perform your chosen exercise at a low-moderate intensity before starting the workout.
2) Choose a safe, low impact exercise - Don't do heavy sled pushes or sprints at the track as your first H.I.I.T workout. Go with something that is lower impact and easier on the joints. Two great options are:
- Swimming - It’s a low impact, full body exercise that you can safely do high-intensity sprints
- Sprints on Bicycle - This is a very low impact option and can be done on a stationary bike, or better yet, outside in the fresh air and sunshine!
3) Don't over do it - We all have the tendency to want to see results and transform in as little time as possible, so we go hardcore with our workouts. This often times leads to injury, or lack of long term adherence since you make it so brutal you dread to go back to the gym for another gut wrenching workout. Take your time. Be smart. Ease back in slowly and you will be better of in the long run.
HIIT is Good for Losing Weight
High intensity interval training really helps with weight loss since it increases your metabolic rate!
Studies have demonstrated that H.I.I.T workouts result in a boost in metabolic function which can last for hours after your exercise session, allowing you to burn fat long after your workout is over! (2)
This increase in metabolic function is referred to as EPOC, which is an acronym that stands for Excess Post-workout Oxygen Consumption.
Your body experiences an “oxygen deficit” during hard workouts, especially H.I.I.T sessions. To make up for this deficit, your body will consume extra oxygen for hours following the workout to make up for the deficit.
The body requires higher levels of oxygen during recover for numerous processes. This benefits you because the higher oxygen demands results in a higher fuel demand from your body. In other words, your body will break down stored body fat to use for fuel during this recovery period and you will burn more calories.Due to the intense nature of H.I.I.T training, these recovery mechanisms result in an increased metabolic rate and increase fat burning for hours after your workout has ended.
H.I.I.T Helps you Build Muscle
Steady state cardio can be helpful in certain instances, but it’s also time consuming and can lead to muscle breakdown during the workout.
H.I.I.T training on the other hand is an incredibly efficient way to train and has been shown to build muscle, rather than break it down. (3)
Most people associate muscle building with athletes or body builders, but in reality, muscle mass is the number one predictor that determines how well you will age as you get older!
Mitochondria and H.I.I.T Workouts
H.I.I.T sessions have been shown to boost mitochondria biogenesis, meaning your cells make more new mitochondria. (4)
Mitochondria are often referred to as the “power plants” of our cells and have countless important functions in the body. The more scientist learn about mitochondria the more they believe they are the key to optimizing our health and vitality.
So why is having more of these mitochondria important?
Simple. It will increase energy levels, improve cellular function, and slow down the again process!
How Many Times per Week Should you do HIIT Training?
High intensity exercise is very taxing on your body so it's important you give yourself adequate time to recover.
In general, you should have at least 1 day in between each HIIT workout.
For most people, doing 2-3 high intensity interval training workouts per week is ideal.
I hope you have heard enough to realize the vast benefits of H.I.I.T workouts!
If your ready to burn fat, build muscle, and balance your hormones then go do a H.I.I.T session!
Bottom Line: High Intensity Interval Training is an incredibly efficient and effective way to workout in order to burn fat AND build muscle to amplify your results in less time.
*Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that high intensity interval training isn’t for everyone. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new physical exercise.