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Imagine a dinner with your in-laws or a trip to the dentist, or perhaps a particularly long day at work? All of them are high intensity and high-pressure affairs.
Cardio is also something akin to these situations, except it is actually useful in making a fitter, leaner, and better you.
Cardio is great for workouts. This is why it comes recommended to people who are trying to lose weight. There’s even a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) process which lets you get that perfect fitness and lean body quickly and fast.
HIIT is not about choosing a particular aerobic activity and going with it. It’s about alternating between a variety of workouts swiftly and quickly, never slowing down at all during the recovery intervals. It’s an all-out workout, you would say.
By cycling so many exercises and ensuring you perform them intensely, the body loses more calories.
In fact, you keep gaining this benefit during exercise and even after it (up to 24 hours).
This is possible because HIIT relies on the ‘after-burn’, also called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
According to some studies, HIIT trumps over regular cardio (particularly the steady-state cardio) which works by maintaining a constant heart rate during the activity .
However, HIIT is a one of a kind workout that isn’t geared towards newbies or even those on some kind of cardio. It can be potentially injury-causing if you are not careful. It can also result in burnout or overtraining.
What Is HIIT?
HIIT is a term used to describe workouts that rotate short bursts of intense activity with periods of less-intense activity or rest periods.
One of the key reasons that HIIT workouts are so effective is because of what is known as the after-burn effect.
During a HIIT workout, your body needs a vast amount of oxygen, and at the conclusion of the workout, you will be left with an oxygen shortage.
In the hours that follow your workout, your body is fighting to get everything in your body back to a steady-state.
This requires lots of extra oxygen and speeds up your metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after you finish the workout .
This is why a 30 minute HIIT workout can burn so many more calories than a 60-minute steady-state cardio workout, and why HIIT workouts are so great for cutting.
For maximum fat burning effect try to include 5x 30 minute HIIT workouts into your routine each week during your cutting phase.
What Equipment Is Needed To Perform A HIIT Workout?
Another reason HIIT workouts are great is that they can be done anywhere with no equipment required.
A HIIT workout can be as simple as alternating 30-40 seconds of sprints at near maximum effort, with 20-30 seconds of walking or gentle jogging.
Tips For Performing HIIT
If you want to start with HIIT, here are 5 points that can help you make the most of it without any adverse effects:
#1: Gently And Gradually Ease Into The Process
It is recommended to have at least a baseline level of aerobic fitness before you can undertake HIIT exercises.
To illustrate an example, a person with at least one month of cardio workout of 20 minutes, 3 times a week is eligible for HIIT.
When starting out, you do not need to go for a full HIIT session. You can instead start out with a steady-state cardio workout, adding 2 to 3 intervals of no more than 30 seconds.
As you ease into the workout and grow comfortable, you can do more intervals from the start to the end.
Doing intervals along the course of your workout is recommended but only for a short time, punctuating them with lower intensity workouts. This way, you can build up your stamina, becoming fitter and strong enough to do a full-blown HIIT workout down the road.
With time, you can increase the intervals and duration of HIIT.
#2: Start By Picking An Exercise Mode That Is Enjoyable
Do you hate running? Then rule out intervals that involve running. If there’s another exercise mode you don’t enjoy, then integrating it into your HIIT sequence isn’t recommended at all.
Choose any HIIT activity which conforms to the training protocol and also one you particularly enjoy.
It is important to choose a HIIT exercise which:
- Allows you to choose larger muscle groups. They are integral in getting your heart rate up considerably.
- Allow you to accelerate to top speed. Same applies for deceleration.
Some non-traditional exercises, like burpees, can also be performed. You can do 30 to 60 seconds of them and then walk for a minute before reverting back to burpees again.
The key is to work hard and fast, mixing up all sorts of interval exercises as creatively as you can.
#3: Watch Out For Leg Workouts
Make it so that your leg workouts at the gym don’t interfere with the HIIT sessions. This is because going for a HIIT workout immediately after a leg workout is not recommended.
It can harm your recuperating rate as well as result in non-advantageous overtraining. Try to do leg workouts and HIIT sessions one day after another.
Day 1 for leg workout and day 2 for HIIT workouts and so on. Only highly trained athletes can do a HIIT and leg workout side by side.
#4: Fuel Up And Then Do It
For HIIT to give you the best results, the value of fuelling up beforehand cannot be discounted.
To burn up body fat quickly, it’s important to not have an empty stomach. This is because the closer you are to your training time, the shorter the interval for you to take some fast-digesting proteins and carbohydrates. Pre-workout nutrition is integral to HIIT so don’t neglect it.
Doing this adds fuel for your muscles as well as amino acids for your rebuilding and energy. Its good for fat burning too. Some 10 to 20 grams of proteins are perfect for a HIIT interval.
Fats should be kept down to a minimum as they slow down digestion to a crawl. You can use caffeine, beta-alanine and BCAAs.
Water should be kept on handy because hydration isn’t something to scoff at.
#5: Listen To Signals Coming From Your Body
If your body is tired and fatigued, there’s no need to push for HIIT that day. Rest when the body tells you to.
If you really need to, you can always follow an easier and low-intensity steady-state workout for days like these to make up for any discrepancies.
In the beginning, people should only start with one HIIT session a week. And as with resistance training, once your body gets acquainted with the rigours of HIIT, increase the intervals and duration of the exercise as you progress. You will be doing a full HIIT session in no time at all.
Final Thought: Don’t Forget About Your Diet
HIIT workouts are excellent for burning fat, but if you want to reach that all-important goal of cutting down fat without losing muscle mass, then you need to make sure you regulate your diet carefully as well.
Don’t make the mistake of instantly making drastic reductions in your calorie intake.
Incrementally reduce your calorie intake during your cutting phase. Keeping a high level of protein the whole time, and increase your diet back towards your normal level towards the end of the cutting phase.
As I mentioned before though. One of the critical things about effective cutting is reducing your body fat WITHOUT reducing your muscle size or definition.
HIIT will take care of the fat-burning, but the other critical factor is your diet. If you drastically reduce your calorie intake, remove carbs from your diet and increase your cardio all at once, your body won’t have the fuel it needs to keep up and your muscles will start to atrophy.
I would highly recommend reading the following article if you want to learn more about what you can and can't eat to cut fat.