As a fitness instructor that teaches a HIIT cardio workout I sometimes see people completely opt out of the recommended pushes, sprints, and/or resistance fluctuations cued during class. I’ve had many people come up to me and express how they choose to maintain a consistent pace throughout the ride instead. Many of these riders also experience plateaus, or experience results at a slower rate. Why? It’s because they are not taking full advantage of their specially designed HIIT workout.
What is HIIT training?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This style of training can be used both in weight training and cardio and has tremendous benefits, especially for people looking to burn fat without sacrificing muscle mass.
What are the main benefits of HIIT training?
You burn more calories in less time. Efficiency? Yes Please. HIIT training requires intervals of all-out exertion (around 85% of your max heart rate) followed by periods of recovery. This push of your heart rate so close to this max zone burns more calories than maintaining a steady pace. According to Men’sHealth.com “There's science to back up just how crazy-efficient [these workouts] are. ‘You can get the same, if not greater, results in half the time of low-intensity longer-duration workout sessions,’ says Holland, citing a 2013 study in the Journal of Physiology. That study found that sedentary men who did 40-60 minutes of cycling at 65% of their max five times a week, and those who did sprint interval training for less than 12 minutes each time three times a week saw similar results, including reduced aortic stiffness and increased insulin sensitivity.”
These periods of intense exertion get your body into a “fat burn” zone. Not only do you burn more calories overall, but these calories burn your fat directly. When you participate in steady endurance training techniques, like marathon training or cycling at a low intensity, it is harder to maintain that muscle mass as it is more likely to become catabolic, meaning that it breaks down.
Your metabolism increases. It takes your body more time to recover after HIIT workouts, about 24 hours. This also means that your body continues to work during periods of rest post-workout and in turn increases your metabolism. This is mainly due to something called EPOC (Exercise Post-Oxygen Consumption).
Your body does not get used to it. Because you are always pushing towards your full potential based on your heart rate and perceived level of exertion during HIIT training, your body does not get accustomed to it and you keep progressing and burning calories and fat.
The next time you are considering opting out of your HIIT training for a more endurance-based workout, you should ask yourself what your true goals are and make sure that you are not cheating yourself out of what could potentially be the best way to achieve your desired results.