The Truth about HIIT, Slow Cardio and Fat Loss

If you want to burn a ton of calories in a short period of time you need to be doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT is short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a brief rest period. HIIT speeds up your metabolism and forces your body to burn more fat in the following hours, something regular cardio doesn’t do which results in faster fat loss.

When I was in high school I accidentally figured this out but didn’t fully understand it at the time. I played football in the fall, so every summer I would try to bulk up by lifting heavy weights and eating as much as I could. I would put on weight eating more food and lifting heavier weights but avoided cardio conditioning until six weeks before the season because I wanted to keep my weight up as high as I could. I figured when I started running I would start to lose weight, which was counterintuitive to my size goals, but I needed speed for the sport. I was naturally lean but didn’t have shredded muscles. When I started sprinting at near maximum speeds for 5 to 60 seconds per sprint, I began getting much leaner with these brief workouts. I started to notice my six-pack would pop out more even though I wasn’t adding additional abdominal exercises or doing anything different with my diet.

As you can see I never worked in the fat burning zone, yet I was able to attain a lean toned body with interval style training and heavy weight lifting. When you start exercising at a higher level you’ll start burning more total calories and your body will respond as mine did.

Another great example is the comparison of the muscle definition of a long distance runner and a sprinter. The long distance runner runs at a lower intensity and the sprinter runs at maximum speed for very short distances. Yes they both carry low body fat but who has more muscle definition? It’s the sprinter every time; and it’s attained by working at intensities much higher than the fat burning zone.

Here’s the proof

In 2007 researchers looked the effects of long-term aerobic training for fat loss. The subjects were all sedentary men and women aged 40-75 years old. They all did moderate to vigorous aerobic activity for 60 minutes six days a week for 12 months.

The results were shocking. After 360 minutes of exercise for an entire year the average weight loss was 3.5lbs…after a year! That’s only 0.3 pounds per month.

So if you think all those calories you add up every treadmill session is doing something for fat loss, think again.

Obesity, June 2007. 15:1496-1512. Exercise Effect on Weight and Body Fat in Men and Women.

Yet another research study looked at the impact of fat loss on endurance training for 20 weeks versus interval training for 15 weeks.

What they found was the endurance training group burned 28,661 total calories and the interval training group burned 13,614 total calories (less than half), but the interval group showed a NINE TIMES greater fat loss than the endurance group.

Metabolism, July 1994. 43, 814-818. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism.

The moral of the story is simple if you want to burn fat start doing HIIT and stop looking at the calories the machine says you’re burning because it doesn’t take into consideration the extra calories burned after the workout you get from HIIT.

How to do HIIT

Option A: 40 yard sprint. Mark off 40 yards and after a brief warm up sprint hard from start to finish, walk back to the start for recovery and repeat six to eight times.

Option B: Stair run. Find a staircase or stadium bleachers with 40 to 50 stairs. Run up and walk down. Repeat six to eight times.

Option C: Cardio Strength Training. This is one of my favorites. Perform 8 rounds of kettlebell or dumbell swings. For each round do swings for 20 seconds and rest for 20seconds.

Each of the workouts beats the slow traditional cardio training for fat loss and take less than 20 minutes including your warm up and cool down.

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