Fat loss has been and always will be a big hype subject online and offline. There are tens of different programs and supplements that promise you fast results with minimal results. Most of these are scam or shady to say the least.
No matter what anyone else wants you to think, there are no shortcuts to losing weight or building muscle. It takes time and it takes effort. However, what you can do in order to maximize your results is to train smart. Some training routines are more effective than others, but you will still need to put in the work.
Regardless, of your fitness goals – you maybe want to drop a few pounds, or you may want to get absolutely shredded – this article will go right down your street. We are going to look at how high intensity interval training (HIIT) can help you lose weight, and why it is probably the most effective type of training when it comes to burning fat.
So let’s get you started.
What Exactly is HIIT?
This might seem like a dumb question to ask, everybody knows it’s a way of training which consist of alternating between high intensity and low intensity physical activities over a short period of time. So it could be sprint drills or cycling really fast for 1 minute and then slower for 2 minutes or any other type of similar physical activity.
The smart question you want to ask is in fact – how intense should HIIT be? Researchers have found that the optimal intensity for fat loss is 90% of your VO2 max. If you are not familiar with respiratory capacity, VO2 max is a parameter used to determine the maximum rate at which your body is able to consume oxygen when you are training at maximum intensity.
A more common way of determining you are in the fat burning zone though is my looking at the heart rate indicator on your cardio machine (when you are using one). Apparently, the corresponding heart rate for 90% of VO2 max is approximately 85% of your maximum heart rate. So, if you are at roughly 85% you are doing great.
Now the low intensity part of HIIT can be anything from light jogging to complete resting. There are no specific restrictions here.
How Can HIIT Boost Fat Loss?
Even though HIIT has many other health benefits than just enhancing fat loss, in this post we are going to look at it only from this point of view. So, here is why HIIT is so great for lowering body fat.
Sky-High Calorie Burning
No matter what anyone wants to you believe, losing weight is all down to calories in versus calories out. The higher you caloric output will be the easier it will be for you to achieve a caloric deficit state. By training at super high intensity you caloric consumption will skyrocket.
Even though many people including fitness professionals believe that doing low and steady cardio will put you in the fat burning zone that is actually not the optimal way to train for fat loss. According to this study, doing just four to six short sessions of sprints will actually burn more calories than a 30 minute session of low intensity cardio training.
So, with HIIT you will burn more calories in less time. Of course you will also need to watch the amount of calories you are taking in. Ideally, at the end of the day you want to be in a 20-25% caloric deficit for optimal fat loss and muscle mass retention.
Increases Human Growth Hormone Production
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) aka The Fitness Hormone is a big deal for any pro or amateur bodybuilder. HGH is responsible for many beneficial effects such as anti-aging, bone density, muscle growth, anti-oxidants production, but it can also enhance fat loss.
HGH levels rise usually during the night, when we are sleeping. That is why people way we recover and heal when we are sleeping and that is why getting plenty of rest is important for muscle repair and growth.
But HGH is also telling our bodies to use fat as fuel, so the more growth hormone we can produce the more fat we will be likely to burn.
Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption
This headline may sound really complicated and intimidating but it’s really very simple to get a grasp of. It is also referred to as the after burn effect and what it means is that your body will actually continue to burn off calories (and fat) even after you are done training.
This effect occurs only after you were engaged in a high intensity physical activity. The science behind it is pretty simple as well. When you are training intense enough – at about 85% of your maximum heart rate – your lungs will not be able to supply to your muscles and organs the amount of oxygen they require.
So, during your HIIT session there will be an oxygen deficit building up. When you are doing with your HIIT, the oxygen level will need to be restored. To do this the body will go into a state called oxygen debt. During this state it will work on re-establishing the normal amount of oxygen molecules inside the blood stream. This process will can consume a considerable amount of energy, depending on how intense and low long your workout was.
So, changes are that after each HIIT session you will continue to burn off calories and lose fat, even if you are not actually doing any physical activity.
Decreases Insulin Level
Insulin is vital for a healthy life. Its main role is to carry the nutrients we take from food to all the cells throughout the body. Insulin is also responsible for storing any excess of nutrients (or calories) in the form of body fat.
Insulin level rises when we eat and drops when we fast. While the insulin level is high, your body gets the message that there are plenty of nutrients inside the body and there is no need to go after other sources of energy such as body fat. When we are running low on insulin though, our body picks up the signal that there are no nutrients from food to use and starts going for the stored fat.
Apparently, doing high intensity training increases our body’s sensitivity to insulin, which means it will need less of it in order to carry around the nutrients. Less insulin ultimately means higher chances of using body fat for energy.
How to Preserve Muscle Mass
The main focus of all bodybuilders and weight lifters is maximizing hypertrophy. Muscle growth is a slow process. So when you are dieting / losing weight muscle mass preservation is a big concern.
Excessive cardio training is known to hinder muscle growth when it’s overdone. So doing a whole bunch of treadmill running might not be the most intelligent thing if you want to get bigger. But doing just the right amount of it will most probably not affect your muscles at all.
What will matter most is the number of cardio sessions you do per week, their length and of course the intensity of your training. The recommended amount is usually just 2-3 HIIT sessions of 30 minutes each week. Keep in mind that the 30 minutes includes your low intensity/resting interval as well, so if fact you will probably do just 10-15 minutes of high intensity physical activity.
As far as intensity is concerned, the sweet spot is just around 85% of your maximum heart rate.
Each and every HIIT session should start off with 2-3 minutes of warming up before getting to the 1st high intensity interval. End your session with another 2-3 minutes of cool down.
Good exercises to include in your HIIT training are sprint drills, running stadium stairs, cycling or rowing. Just pick the one you enjoy the most doing or whichever is more convenient to do.
Brian Ward is the content editor at Kick-Ass Home Gym, a website providing helpful articles that inspire you to stay fit and healthy at home – on your own time, in your own space.
As busy people, we know health is important. A great morning workout can change an entire day for the better, and at the same time getting sick can throw off a whole week. So it’s important to take care of our bodies even if you don’t really have that much time to spare.
Over at Kick-Ass Home Gym you will learn how to stay in shape using a home fitness approach that works. All it takes to stay fit at home is the right tool and the right mindset.
Having a home fitness setup has changed lives. It’s the opposite of “out of sight, out of mind.” We can actually get fit and stay fit because our gym is our home.
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