You’ve been at it for quite a few months now. You’ve been hitting the gym consistently, your diet has been on point, and you’ve definitely seen results. But recently, you’ve noticed that your fat-loss efforts have started to stall. Before you cut back your calories, or double your steady-state cardio sessions (come on, no one loves the treadmill that much), consider this: what if you just had to add 15 minutes of HIIT to your cardio a few times a week to see stellar results without cutting back your calories or practically running a marathon everyday? Would you?
It’s probably no news to you that HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is renowned for its fat-burning and metabolism-boosting properties. This is due to the phenomenon that we know as “EPOC” (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,) which you may have heard referenced as “the afterburn effect.”
EPOC is the result of your body being in an “oxygen deficit” after intense training. Since your body is working overtime to replenish its oxygen stores, you burn more calories, even at rest. This makes HIIT far more efficient than the traditional, 20, 30, or even 40 minutes of steady-state cardio that you may already be doing because with traditional cardio, you only burn calories while you’re doing the training, whereas with HIIT, your metabolism can be elevated up to 24 hours after training! Now imagine that after doing 15 minutes of HIIT (we’ll say Tabata sprints) you do only 20 minutes of standard LISS (low-intensity, steady-state) cardio (jogging). Your metabolism is still ramped up due to EPOC, making your LISS cardio more effective, as well.
This isn’t to say that you ALWAYS have to do both, but if you want to shrink your love handles and actually gain some muscle, and don’t want to spend all day in the gym, HIIT is the go-to.
Studies show that HIIT is more anabolic and muscle sparing than its steady state counterpart when one is in a caloric deficit.
Of course, HIIT can have some drawbacks. Due to its anabolic nature, one would be hard-pressed to incorporate HIIT more than five times a week without compromising recovery time and muscle repair. Additionally high-intensity interval training is… well, intense, and performing it incorrectly is more likely to result in injury than LISS.
If you do cardio five days per week, start by swapping three of those workouts with 15 minutes of HIIT per week. After you adapt to the increase in intensity, you can try adding back in a session of reduced intensity after your intervals for even more drastic results. This is also a chance for you to incorporate some different styles of training into your regimen.
Instead of a Tabata sprint, you could hit a weight circuit before the treadmill.
Incorporating intervals of squats and kettlebell swings before the treadmill is sure to help your muscles peek through and add some strength.
So what are you waiting for? Give it a try!