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High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as a weight loss tool

I can almost guarantee that you have heard of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a workout phenomenon that hit popular fitness culture around 2015. However it is not just another fad exercise routine, this type of training has remarkable benefits to the body particularly for fat loss.

HIIT involves intense bursts of exercise pushing you to use maximal effort followed by short recovery periods, then this circuit is repeated a number of times. Typically only lasting for 15-20 minutes, HIIT requires maximal effort for 10-45 seconds followed by a similar length time recovery period. What this does is causes an oxygen deficit causing ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’ (EPOC) which essentially speeds up your metabolic rate meaning you will continue to burn calories at a fast rate for as long as 48 proceeding the workout.

This causes a chain of unique metabolic changes in the body such as increased insulin sensitivity, which in turn causes the body to take up blood glucose faster. This initiates the ‘hormone sensitive lipase’, which is a complex chemically structured enzyme that acts as a catalyst for the hydrolysis of fat i.e. it breaks down body fat stores quickly.

Various studies show that HIIT workouts increase the hormone catecholamine (a hormone that helps mobilise fat stores to use as fuel), as well as improving the body’s VO2 max, referring to the ability to use oxygen as energy. Resulting in improved aerobic and anaerobic endurance and a faster metabolism.

So now you know the science, let’s put it to use. You’re trying to cut weight, maybe for a fight or perhaps for a holiday coming up. You dread spending an hour in the gym doing cardio so you constantly put it off and think of something better to do. I can empathise. Cardio may be good aerobically and for stress relief, but it takes a long time to burn the same amount of calories as a 15 minute HIIT session. One study that was published in the Journal of Physiology found that men who did HIIT for just 12 minutes three times per week saw the same fat loss as men who were doing low intensity steady state cardio (40 to 60 minutes) five times per week. Science doesn’t lie!

So HIIT is more time efficient, better anaerobic and aerobically and can result in more fat loss in a shorter period of time. If you’re trying to lose weight, you clearly need to be doing HIIT. Aim to do it three times a week and see how your body adapts and changes. Below are some example HIIT workouts you can try to get your heart rate pumping and your fat burning!

HIIT workout

30 seconds on/30 seconds off - repeat each exercise 5 times. Total workout time: 20 minutes

  • Burpees

  • Tuck jumps

  • Squat jumps

  • Mountain climbers

30 seconds on/30 seconds off - repeat each exercise 5 times. Total workout time: 20 minutes

  • Jumping jacks

  • Punch bag

  • Push up to squat

  • Squat jump

30 seconds on/30 seconds off - repeat 12 times.

  • Incline sprints

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