HIIT and weight loss

High-intensity interval training is an excellent form of exercise, but it has gained popularity as a workout that can help with losing weight. (Photo: StockSnap)
There have been many fads and diets over the years that claim to help with weight loss. Although some may have benefits, there is no real substitute to exercise. Aside from weight loss, exercise is crucially important to maintaining overall health and preventing disease.اضافة اعلان

In most cases, cardio exercises have been the primary fitness regimen to help lose weight. Unfortunately, due to the time and energy cardio takes, many find it difficult to turn into a long-standing habit. However, in the past few decades, many have tried to change this by introducing new workout regimens such as the high-intensity interval training or HIIT for short.

What is HIIT?

HIIT was designed by Dr Izumi Tabata in 1996. It is a workout regimen that focuses on burning calories by incorporating strength and cardio exercises. As the name suggests, HIIT works by alternating between high-intensity workouts and low-intensity workouts.

During the periods of high intensity, you should be working at 80–90 percent of your maximum capacity, and during the low-intensity periods you should be working at around 60 percent. You should try to maintain a 1:2 ratio of high and low intensity periods.

A typical HIIT workout lasts 15–30 minutes and should be followed by a recovery day. In total, HIIT is done 3-4 days a week on alternating days.

How does it work?

While HIIT is an excellent form of exercise, it gained popularity as a way of losing weight. The specifics of how HIIT helps burn fat is still being fully researched, but there are many studies that offer an explanation.

(Photo: StockSnap)

The foremost theory pertains to aerobic and anaerobic exercise. The former means that your body and cells are still receiving enough oxygen to produce energy normally. The latter means your body is “overworked”, and unable to deliver sufficient oxygen to the cells; as a result, it falls back on other energy sources, like fat, researches believe. Although periods of anaerobic exercise are short, the body adapts to the situation and continues to burn fat rather than carbohydrates for up to 24 hours.

Additionally, HIIT is believed to increase the metabolism. Studies have shown that HIIT can increase the rate at which human growth hormone is produced by 450 percent for 24 hours. This hormone plays an important role in metabolism and after consistent HIIT workouts, it can increase your overall metabolism.


One of the biggest benefits of HIIT is how easy it is to follow. HIIT takes a maximum of 45 minutes a day and is done every other day. Studies have shown that one of the most common reasons for not exercising is time and the limited time required for HIIT can be appealing to busy people. In addition to short time, it is also highly effective at burning calories. Studies have found that HIIT burns 25–30 percent more calories than other forms of exercise. In short, it can burn more calories than other workouts or burn the same amount of calories but in a shorter amount of time.

Aside from HIIT’s ability to burn fat and increase metabolism, there are other advantages that HIIT has compared to traditional diet and exercise. Firstly, HIIT can help you gain or maintain muscles. Although this is true for nearly all forms of exercise, for those dieting, muscle loss is more likely. With HIIT, however, strength training is incorporated into the workouts and weight loss is effective enough that diets do not have to be as strict. A less strict diet will give your body all the nutrients needed to maintain or gain muscle mass. With that being said, if you are looking to lose weight, your calories should still be counted and maintained as a deficit. Additionally, HIIT has the added benefit of controlling and or reducing blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone produced in the body and is responsible for controlling blood sugar. For those who have insulin resistance, this is known as type 2 diabetes. Numerous studies have shown that HIIT is capable of reducing blood sugar, as well as improving insulin resistance. This can prove to be especially beneficially to those at risk for type 2 diabetes or those already diagnosed with it.

(Photo: StockSnap)

Lastly, HIIT brings with it the many benefits that come with regular exercise. Research on blood pressure and heart rate in the overweight and obese population has shown that HIIT programs can reduce both. This is an important advantage considering that high blood pressure is common in this population. Similar to burning calories, the effects of blood reduction in HIIT is equivalent to that of traditional exercises. One study found that an endurance training regimen done for 30 minutes a day, 4 times a week had similar reductions in blood pressure to that of a HIIT program done only 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week. Additionally, HIIT programs allow your bodies to consume oxygen more efficiently. This is due, in part to, the changes between anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Improved oxygen consumption is traditionally found in endurance exercises but with HIIT, nearly equal levels of improvement can be seen in only half the time.

How to Start HIIT

There are many regimens available that can cater to each individual. It is first important to determine if you are eligible to perform HIIT. HIIT requires continuous vigorous activity which may be inappropriate for certain individuals. If you have any concerns, you can consult your doctor or a fitness coach. Additionally, you will need to take some baseline measurements before you start in order to gauge your maximum. There are many metrics that can be used although heart rate tends to be the best. There are many wearable devices that can monitor your heart rate while you exercise such as smartwatches but counting your pulse manually is also a viable substitute. Alternatively, you can use perceived exertion which is your own subjective evaluation of how hard you are working. You will also need to have some way to keep track of time.

The best part of HIIT is how easily tailored it can be. If you enjoy running, a HIIT program can be design solely around it. Once you have determined the exercises you would like to perform, it is to have a warmup and a cool down. The best way to do this is by doing a less strenuous version of your intended workout. For example, if your program is running based, start and end your work out with a light jog for 10 minutes prior and after. While performing the HIIT aspect of the program it is important to alternate between high-intensity (e.g., 80–90 percent of maximum heart rate) and low-intensity (60 percent of maximum heart rate). HIIT is insensitive which means you will likely become sore. Recovery days are important to allow time for your body to heal but it many recommend not resting. It is believed that light exercise such as walking can help with recovery time.

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