High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years. It has been touted as the ideal form of exercise for fat loss and calorie burning. However, relying solely on HIIT classes and workouts may not be the ideal plan if your goal is to lose weight. In this article, I’ll take a look at some recent research on the subject and present a more balanced program that can get you to your goals faster.
Is HIIT Best for Fat Loss?
HIIT involves performing short, high intensity bouts of exercise followed by even shorter rest periods for repeat rounds. Workouts can be as short as four minutes, yet the intensity level can be greater than if you were doing an hour-long steady state cardio workout.
When it comes to comparing HIIT cardio with conventional steady state cardio (think of walking on a treadmill at a moderate pace), it has long been thought that HIIT is the better option for fat burning. The main reason is that it brings on what is called the EPOC effect. EPOC stands for enhanced post exercise oxygen consumption. It causes you to burn more calories for up to twenty-four hours after your workout. When you do steady state cardio, though, your intensity level is not high enough to bring on this effect.
A recent study shows that, while HIIT training does allow you to burn more calories than steady state on a time comparison basis, the overall calorie burn is about the same. In other words, ten minutes of HIIT burns about the same number of calories at thirty to forty minutes of steady state training. You will, however, be working a lot more intensely when you do HIIT training.
So, what is the best cardio for weight loss? Well, you need to decide what is more important to you. Would you rather do a workout that is 75% shorter but 100% harder, or do you prefer a longer duration workout that is easier to perform?
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The Importance of Weight Training
You know that pumping iron is the best route to increased muscle mass. What you may not be aware of is that weight training for fat loss is also a thing. While it’s true that you do burn calories while you’re training with weights, the real benefit comes from the lean muscle tissue that weight training, in combination with muscle building nutrition, can add to your frame.
Muscle tissue is heavier and takes a lot more energy to sustain than fat tissue. So, every ounce of muscle that you are able to add to your body is going to add to your daily calorie requirement. This will make you a more efficient burner of stored body fat.
If you were to only do HIIT workouts, you would be able to build some muscle tissue during the first six months of training. This is especially so if you are new to exercise. After that time, however, your muscle gains will stop.
The best way to ensure that you are adding muscle mass to your frame on a consistent basis is to begin a weight training program. You should focus on exercises that move your major muscle groups through their full biomechanical range of motion. When you are working such major body parts as your chest, upper back, and legs, do a total of fourteen to sixteen sets. When it comes to your smaller body parts — biceps, triceps, deltoids, hamstrings, calves — you should do eight to ten sets. Plan to train each body part every five days.
Body Transforming Nutrition
It doesn’t matter how much HIIT you do or how well constructed your weight training workouts are unless you are on top of your nutrition. When it comes to losing weight, you need to maintain a daily negative caloric balance. That means that at the end of the day, you have burned off more calories than you have taken in. While burning calories through HIIT and doing weight training to add more muscle to your body will increase your metabolism to a degree, that combined effect will be minor compared to the effect of cutting back on your food intake.
You should cut your caloric intake back by 500 calories from your daily caloric intake. Be sure to also focus on lean protein foods to help you convert your weight training sessions into lean muscle mass.
Overcoming a Weight Loss Plateau
Regardless of how structured your weight loss workouts and nutrition are, there will be times when you will hit a weight loss plateau. In order to force your body to keep responding, you need to shock it into action. This can be achieved by stepping up your HIIT workouts. If you were previously doing HIIT workouts once or twice per week, ramp it up to four or even five sessions per week for a three-week period. It will be hard work, but your body will have no choice but to respond by dropping excess pounds.
The Perfect Balance
If you were to only do HIIT training, then you would be denying yourself a valuable weight loss tool in the form of resistance training. By combining HIIT with resistance training, though, you will be getting the best of both worlds. Your HIIT workouts will ramp up your metabolism for twenty-four hours after your workout. On top of that, your weight training sessions, along with muscle building nutrition, will allow you to add muscle tissue, which will increase your basal metabolic rate to burn more calories.
The best workout for weight loss combines HIIT and resistance training. You should plan to alternate HIIT classes and workouts and weight training workouts throughout the week. Perform your weight training sessions three times per week, either on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Add in two or three HIIT sessions on your weight training off days.
Combine this weight training/HIIT classes plan with a reduced calorie nutrition plan that has you at a daily caloric negative, and you will be well on track to achieving your weight loss goals.
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