HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training
If you listen to all the fitness magazines and mainstream talk, you will probably not hear this term.
According to the mainstream, the ultimate way to achieve fat loss and a killer body is to buy Slimfast and run on the treadmill 30 minutes a day.
The main thing that people forget to understand is that the people marketing these drinks and workouts usually have personal trainers and nutritionists with the clients diets 100% perfectly laid out for them; you probably would get good results that way too.
It can get discouraging to find time and energy to put such dedication towards your fitness, but it is essential for your mental well-being.
While the standard treadmill jogging and elliptical machines get your heart rate up and burn calories, this is not the most efficient way to get results. Long-distance running and fixed-rate running can put more wear on your body than needed while generally preventing muscle growth. This is due to the catabolic state that endurance running puts your body in.
As far as we've studied, the most efficient way to lose fat and achieve better overall health including increased life span is to keep your cardio intense but short.
What about the articles talking about 30 minutes of cardio a day?
These articles are trying on the right track by keeping your exercise relatively short, but cardio every day is not necessary. Especially for those that are 40 years old+, your body needs time to recover and replenish nutrients. Working out everyday can cause your body to build up a large amount of lactic acid and cortisol. Out-of-wack cortisol levels can affect your everyday life.
- One of the most common signs that you have too much cortisol is the lack of energy, even if you had a full night of sleep. There are other side effects associated with high cortisol levels here.
- Notice how an injury or painful event doesn't hurt as bad when it first happens? That's due to a normal rise in cortisol levels. It's the prolonged high levels of cortisol that affects you negatively
- Long-term cortisol levels g with adrenal fatigue, which can take years to recover from. An L.A. health coach Wendy Myers wrote about the epidemic of adrenal fatigue here.
Sticking to a 30-45 minute workout 3 times a week is a safe amount of exercise for almost everyone.
If you stay consistent with this schedule and incorporate some alternating speeds of brisk walking and running into your routine, you will notice the best amount of fat loss.
Many women prefer to do Hot Yoga, Pilates or other types of bootcamps or group classes. I highly recommend these because of the social aspect; it will make fitness become a fun routine that you cant live without. Whether you are new or a fitness veteran, supplementing yourself with foods high in amino acids will insure the best overall results.
Alternating speeds in your cardio routine is known as HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training.
- A few of the most notable benefits are: Significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat, and insulin resistance. HIIT may therefore represent a viable method for prevention of type-2 diabetes. Source
The body responds best to these changes in pace from a dead sprint to walking slow.
Matt Gaither, a friend who has placed top 5 in multiple Mens Physique competitions recommends 30 minutes of running with alternating pace. To get even greater fat loss, this exercise in the morning on an empty stomach.
Practicing intermittent fasting with HIIT will burn the most fat and can be practiced by anyone with some will power and patience. You can read more about what it is and it's benefits here. It leads to even faster fat loss and can improve other aspects of your health as well. I get the best results by eating small meals throughout the day, so I don't practice this.
So you're telling me I can quit running/walking 5 miles a day and still feel and look good?
Absolutely, you can feel better. I have friends and family age 50+ that do little to no endurance cardio and have very low amounts of body fat for their age group. Several men I know even have six-packs. (Maybe I'll get a few of them on the podcast to talk about their experience without endurance cardio).
- The secret to fat loss and maintaing a strong, healthy core while doing cardio is just to keep the intensity high, distance is not as important. At first, you will not be able to sustain energy with this routine. Getting your body to operate at your maximum speed takes several months, and if not increased slowly, you could injure yourself and lose all motivation. Start slow!
- The average jogging pace for someone on a treadmill is around 5mph. This is much healthier than not jogging at all since the intensity that jogging requires compared to walking is considerably more. However, sprinting around 7mph+ is where the extreme fat loss is going to occur. I honestly don't record my sprinting speed I just know that I move as fast as I possibly can for about 40 yards, then walk for 30 seconds or so and continue sprinting. (If you are in a gym with a typical oval track it would be equivalent to sprinting the straights and walking the corners.
- If you feel that keeping track of your speed using numbers is too difficult or time consuming, just listen to your body. If you are mentally confident, you can run much faster than you think you can. Sprinting requires confidence, your brain will allow faster speeds than previously thought. If I need some speed and intensity motivation, I imagine running from the neighbors giant German Shepherd when I was a child.
Some safety key points to attempting reducing the distance of your cardio but increasing the intensity are:
- Increase cardio intensity in correlation with a shorter distance/time. If you are currently walking 3 miles/30 minutes about 3 times a week, try switching to half jogging, half walking for half the distance. Increase amount of jogging slowly until you are able to begin sprinting.
- If available, use an infrared sauna to warm your muscles and prime them for exercise. Wendy also wrote an amazing article about the comparison between conventional saunas and in infrared. Do some jumping jacks, jog in place and loosen up all your muscles. People get very picky about their stretching methods, do what feels comfortable for you. There is an art to stretching if you would like to get more serious and read about it.
- Drink water through your exercise, but not too much! Don't worry about the exact number of ounces of water, just drink a few gulps every so often. Drinking too much water can make you feel bloated or just uncomfortable with all the water sloshing around. The main point is, don't allow yourself to experience any signs of dehydration:
People are always searching for the perfect number of reps to build muscle or the amount of food they need to eat to lose weight.
The truth is, optimal results will differ for each person depending on hormone levels, sleep patterns, diet, amount of sunshine exposure and many other factors.
Do what feels right to you, push your limits, not someones opinion of your limits.
Good luck, I hope you keep getting results and stay on the path to health and happiness, it's something that everyone needs to do!
We are slowly becoming a healthier society and it is a beautiful thing. Keep your head up and smile, you are doing great, much better than the old you right? Maybe you were even better in the past, that's okay too, you'll get there!