You walk up to the treadmill with a sickening feeling in your stomach. It’s time to do cardio, and you can’t wait to get it over with. As much as you want to skip that specific portion of your workout, it has to be done. We both know it.
Although… who ever said that cardio has to be 30 minutes long?
I mean, is there a way that you can do 10-15 minutes of cardio and get the same results as if you had done it for 30 minutes?
My dear friend, let me introduce you the concept of HIIT – my favorite acronym and your saving grace.
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training.
Just like the name implies, HIIT implements high intensity and low intensity workouts. The best way to understand it is to think of it like a superset of short bouts of effort followed by a brief recovery time repeated over a period of 10-20 minutes. The idea is to get your body to perform 70-80% of your max effort during the high intensity portion of your workout and 40-50% during your recovery time.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
There are numerous benefits to high intensity interval training, which is why it has gained popularity throughout the years. Some of them are…
- Aerobic and anaerobic fitness
- Cardiovascular health
- Boost in metabolism due to the EPOC effect
- Release of muscle-building hormones
- Quick and effective
What is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic fitness?
Since most of us are not experts in our body’s chemical functionality, it’s important to understand the basic idea. Simply put, the aerobic system in your body is responsible for providing the energy your body needs during prolonged exercise, such as running on the treadmill for 40-50 minutes; whereas the anaerobic system is responsible for fueling your body during short periods of maximum effort.
As you can see, HIIT training combines both systems in an efficient manner.
What in the world is the ‘EPOC’ effect?
First of all, EPOC stands for excess post exercise oxygen consumption. In simpler terms, it’s the amount of oxygen you need to produce to ‘refill’ your oxygen tank after your workout session. Informally, it’s referred to as your body’s ‘after-burn’.
This beautiful thing is the explanation to how your body keeps burning calories long after your workout. I’m not educated enough to go into the details of how it works, but you can definitely read more about it here.
According to what I’ve read, the easiest way for you to understand the EPOC effect is by thinking of it as an algebraic equation. That is, if I tell you that x = oxygen and y = calories and they have a direct relationship, what does that mean?
Simple: the higher the amount of oxygen consumed during an activity, the higher the amount of calories burned.
When you’re exercising, your body tends to look for ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the fuel your body uses for energy. It is produced by oxygen in the aerobic or anaerobic pathways. The aerobic pathway has a greater amount of ATP stored than the anaerobic, which is why your body can last longer when performing aerobic exercises.
In the case of HIIT, while you’re doing the high intensity portion of your workout, your body tends to seek ATP in the anaerobic pathways instead of the aerobic. Since the anaerobic pathways don’t have a tremendous amount of ATP stored as the aerobic, your body undergoes an oxygen deficit. That oxygen ‘debt’ has to be repaid after your workout so that your body can go back to homeostasis, which is when the EPOC effect takes place.
How does HIIT release muscle-building hormones?
According to multiple studies, HIIT tends to increase the IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) hormone.
Once again, the studies that have been done to prove the link between the two are either conflicting or dependent on a number of factors. Therefore, I cannot tell you that HIIT will significantly boast your IGF-1, but I can tell you that in my personal experience… it has.
So, can HIIT only be done during cardio exercises?
No. Despite popular belief, HIIT can be done through high-intensity resistance training or circuit training.
Personally, I rather do circuits than sprints on a treadmill, but that’s just my preference! In fact, you can take a look at one of my previous leg day workouts. It’s based on super-sets and tri-sets, and it can act as a HIIT workout.
How about you try to build your own HIIT routine?
I really hope that you try incorporating HIIT workouts into your routine. They’re honestly the best way to maximize your workout within a short amount of time.
If you have any questions, suggestions or just want to chat, feel free to reach out!