What is HIIT?
HIIT Stands for High
The counterpart to this exercise is endurance training. This type includes jogging or running. They are typically longer sessions that don’t increase your heart rate to near your maximum rate.
Jogging is the best example because these workout sessions are generally longer, and work at around 40-60% of your maximum heart rate with minimal rest periods. This is known as aerobic exercise because it is “in the presence of oxygen.” I will explain more about that.
High-intensity Interval Training is a bit different. Rather than longer periods of light exercise, it requires much more intense exercise within a shorter time frame. This would include
This is anaerobic exercise, because your body is unable to keep up with the oxygen demand that you are putting it through. Furthermore, it is when your body is producing lactic acid at a faster rate than that acid is being removed.
The two keys here are maintaining high intensity during your workout periods, and keeping the recovery periods as short as possible. This is what makes HIIT an anaerobic exercise.
Your muscle cells are unable to keep up with the oxygen demand, so your metabolism spikes in order to keep up. This means your body is desperately trying to burn fat in order to keep functioning.
These are the differences, but what are the benefits?
Benefits of HIIT
This is the main benefit that people seek from HIIT.
Conventional thinking would tell you that running is one of the best ways to lose weight. While running is great, and one of my favorite exercises, this is not entirely true.
First, varying your workouts will help you lose weight because your body will not be able to completely adapt to what you do. If you do the exact same exercise every single day, your body will adapt and you will plateau.
This metabolism spike means your body is trying to break down fat in order to keep its energy levels high. The short recovery periods helps your metabolism stay high, and keeps your body in a state “without oxygen.”
Why is this beneficial?
Excess Post-Workout Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)
This is the beauty behind HIIT.
EPOC is the main contributing factor that causes HIIT to be so efficient in burning fat. As I mentioned, the high intensity draws large amounts of energy from your muscles, mainly in the form of oxygen.
This massive oxygen expenditure causes the metabolism spike, which consequently burns fat.
EPOC comes in after your workout. After intense training, your body is still depleted of its energy stores. Your metabolism can stay at an elevated level for up to 24 hours after your workout. This means that as you sit down after your workouts, your body is burning more calories while resting than it normally would.
This is the point of HIIT, your body begins to be more efficient at exercise. Your cells are better prepared to convert the oxygen you huff and puff while working out into ATP, which is cellular energy.
This will increase your endurance, improve heart health, and aid in fat loss.
HIIT is a Time Saver
HIIT is also great for those of us who have busy lives.
You know the suggestion that we should be active one hour per day to remain healthy. For example, running or jogging. These workouts require far more time to achieve the same goals as HIIT.
Whereas you could jog an hour per day, You could do an hour of HIIT per week and see similar results.
It is recommended to keep your HIIT sessions to around 20 – 30 minutes. When you’re beginning HIIT, it is wise to keep it around at one of these sessions per week.
As your heart grows stronger and your body is better able to handle this stress, you could do HIIT up to 2 or 3 times per week.
It is extremely important that you know your limits. Imagine doing the process I have described every day.
How would your body ever keep up?
If anything, do one HIIT day per week and other exercises on the other days. NEVER do it daily, your body is not capable of handling that amount of stress. It will not be able to keep up with that massive an energy expenditure, and it would not be able to oxygenate.
HIIT Could Be More Enjoyable
Not everyone enjoys exercising.
I get it, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling that way.
We should remember, however, that physical activity is important for our health.
Do we all need to be marathon runners?
Of course not!
If you hate exercise, you may be in luck with HIIT!
Patient studies have found that they could be more enjoyable than longer, endurance based workouts. I guess that makes sense due to the old band-aid rule of “just rip it off.”
Sometimes doing difficult things is easier with more push and less time. I see no reason exercise wouldn’t be the same way. If you work harder and with more intensity, you get more done within a shorter time frame.
Which gets you to that post-workout meal quicker!
HIIT Has Proven To Fight Anti-Aging
This area of interest is important, because this is a massive target for financial scams. There are tons of products out there making bold promises of making you look younger.
Most of these companies are scams, we know this. Why would we pay so much for a small amount of
How does HIIT do this?
Studies have shown that HIIT training could result in higher levels of telomerase.
Telomerase is an enzyme which is thought to be related to aging. This enzyme is responsible for adding the last few “codes” to the end of DNA, called Telomeres.
As cells divide, it creates daughter cells that are exact copies of the original. With every division, a small amount of these telomeres are lost. This is a leading proposal for what causes aging. Over time, the cells continue to become weaker in small amounts at a time.
The loss of telomeres means the DNA becomes less able to produce healthy daughter cells.
There are even studies that show shorter telomeres could correlate with an increased risk of cancer. It is thought to be due to overall DNA damage, but the evidence isn’t quite strong enough yet.
Telomerase is not 100% the reason for aging, and HIIT is not a complete cure.
Though I’m sure exercise couldn’t hurt!
HIIT Balances Hormones
There are also studies that suggest intense exercise can help keep important hormones in balance.
Hormone are vital to our health, and diet can directly cause certain levels to be unhealthy.
This hormone responsible for the feelings of munchies, also known as the “hunger hormone”. It is believed to be the only hormone responsible for appetite.
Another interesting fact, it has been found to be released directly in response to stress, which is why severely obese people tend to be “stress eaters”
After a HIIT session, studies have found that there is an increase in ghrelin levels.
Regulating this hormone is important for weight gain, because obviously the hungrier you feel the more likely you will overeat.
Ghrelin levels have been found to be elevated after HIIT, and begins to decline around 30 minutes after your workout.
This hormone is responsible for signaling to your brain that you are full. It is nicknamed the “starvation hormone” and the “fat controller.”
Leptin is released from fat cells as a signal that your body is adequately full. So, the more fat you have, the higher levels of leptin you have.
Leptin resistance is where this
However, leptin resistance works very similarly to insulin resistance. You body produces massive amounts of leptin, but rather than making an obese person feel full, it has the opposite effect. The hypothalamus doesn’t register the leptin, so the person continues to feel hungry when they should feel satiated.
Leptin is supposed to trigger the feeling of being full when there is an adequate amount of fat for the body to have as energy. That is why issues with leptin increases the chances of being fat, your body literally doesn’t understand how much fat it has. So it just keeps wanting more!
It’s possible to have low leptin levels, but it is extremely rare. In fact, the UK has only 4 known cases. In these cases, the body doesn’t register that it has any fat at all. This leads to uncontrollable hunger and eventually obesity.
HIIT training has been shown to balance levels of leptin, which further aids in weight loss.
Sugar effects levels of leptin, so this is another reason to limit your sugar intake.
Testosterone is another hormone that can promote weight loss.
According to Dr. Axe’s analysis, these are four things that are known, but not quite understood about testosterone;
- Can promote weight loss
- Inhibits release of leptin
- Decreased levels of leptin helps weight gain
- Both of these chemicals are found in high amounts after HIIT
So, alongside balancing testosterone itself, it has the compound effect of further balancing leptin. This will boost your weight loss even further.
Proper Way to do HIIT
So how do we reap all of these benefits?
By getting started with HIIT!
I am not a medical expert!
Know your body, and get advice from an actual medical expert
if you are unsure whether you can handle intense exercise.
If you know you can handle it, let’s go over how to properly do a HIIT workout.
Finding Your Max Heart Rate
Your max heart rate is basically the speed your heart can pace at before it stops. As humans, we are all limited to 220 bpm, at that point any heart will begin
There are many factors that go into this, such as age, gender, or activity level. It is a complex process, but this is the recommended equation.
Take the max human heart rate of 220 and subtract your age.
So for me, it would be
220 – 20 years old = 200 bpm
So, I should never do anything that will exceed 200 bpm, at that
You should always warm up before doing any exercise. I generally don’t do static stretches, as I have read it could increase the likelyhood of injury. That’s my preference, I’ll let you decide how you get ready for the workout.
I generally do things like:
- Bounce on the balls of my feet, focusing on stretching and compressing my calves
- Do gentles lunges, focusing on lightly stretching and working my leg muscles
- Butt-Kickers, remember them from high school gym class? (I think that was the name)
- Arm circles, sticking my arms straight to my sides and moving them in small circles
- Arm windmills, which is where you spin you arms from your hip to over your head in a circular fashion
I do these simply to get my blood flowing. This is important because blood flow prevents injury, as blood is important to repairing muscle.
This will also get your heart
Now that you have done these light warm
It is recommended that you start your HIIT warm up by getting up to 70% of your max heart rate. You could do this by jump roping, jogging, doing mountain climbers, or jumping jacks.
The point is the same, to get your heart rate up and your body prepared for the hell you’re about to put it through.
Start the Intense Part of HIIT
Intensity begins with maintaining 80 – 90% maximum heart rate for 30 seconds to a minute, or as long as you feel comfortable.
There are a lot of different exercises that you could do for this. The key is to stay within the heart rate ranges because that is how the fat burning and EPOC periods begin.
My favorite exercises for HIIT are:
This is one of the most basic HIIT exercises. This is essentially where you sprint either for a designated time, or just as long as you feel you can physically maintain it. Preferably, 30 seconds or more is a good goal. If you are new to sprinting, this may take some practice as proper form and breathing are vital to your success. After running, take a walk to cool down. The goal is to keep the cool down periods short, but don’t overwork yourself. For the duration of the HIIT session, try to keep the intense aspect the dominant part of the routine.
Wind Sprints From Hell
These are basically just doing a variety of body weight exercises. You could do something like a cardio circuit. This basically is just a small list of workouts that you do in rapid succession, one right after the other with a short rest period between sets.
An example from
- Jump Rope – 1 minute
- Pushups – 1 minute
- Sit Ups – 1 minute
- Jumping squats – 1 minute
- Jumping Jacks – 1 minute
The key to these circuits is do them with intensity. For the 1 minute, do as many push ups as you can, as long as you are keeping proper form.
Then, after the
After your intense interval, it’s time to cool down. You should get your heart rate down to around 40 – 50 % of maximum heart rate.
This will allow your heart to have a rest period. This will also allow your body to rid itself of the massive lactic acid buildup it has created, and begin to oxygenate itself.
This is pretty simple, if you’re doing a circuit you could just sit down for a minute or so and rehydrate.
If you’re doing sprint intervals, I would recommend walking so that your body doesn’t get too cool, in my opinion it makes it more difficult to jump right back into the sprinting.
Repeat Cycles for Around 30 Minutes
You know your body much better than I do.
Don’t overdo it! It really isn’t worth it.
Injuries are no fun, they hurt and hinder your workout progress. You should always be proactive in avoiding injury and stopping your progress.
That being said, 30 minutes should be your max with HIIT training.
Think about the EPOC I described earlier. If your body is in an oxygen debt before 30 minutes, imagine how hard an hour of HIIT would be on your body.
If you have done the HIIT routine properly, by 30 minutes you will have seen the benefits of this training.
HIIT Training is a great way to lose
Just keep in mind that this is a bit different than jogging or other aerobic, light exercises.
If you have any discomfort, stop! There is no reason to continue other than your ego telling you need to be better.
There’s no one to prove anything to, and no goal important enough to put your health at risk.