HIIT it! What you need to know about High Intensity Interval Training


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High Intensity Interval Training, more commonly known as HIIT, has become a hugely popular form of exercise, thanks to its reputation for helping you get maximum results in less time than traditionally paced workouts. For fitness enthusiasts looking to burn fat and get in shape efficiently, HIIT hits the mark. Fitness website Daily Burn describes HIIT as “a training technique in which you give all-out, 100 percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods.” The American College of Sports Medicine, or ACSM, explains that these bursts are often “performed at 80 to 95 percent of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate,” with recovery periods lowering that percentage to anywhere from 40 to 50 percent. These short periods of pushing your body to a higher level of intensity have a lasting impact for those who practice HIIT safely. Shape magazine reveals that HIIT not only lets you burn more fat during a workout than traditional cardio, but also actually helps you burn more fat in the 24-hour period following your workout as well.

According to Daily Burn, this effect is due to Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, which results from causing your body to crave more oxygen to burn off the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles during intervals. This can also eventually lead to increased endurance. Daily Burn pinpoints 70 to 80 percent of maximal heart rate as optimal for reaping the benefits of EPOC.

There are some important factors to take into consideration when deciding whether or not HIIT is right for you. The ACSM asserts that this is not a training method for exercise novices but for those who have already established a regular workout regimen to learn proper form and prepare the body, particularly the muscles, for the increased level of exertion and speed involved. The ACSM also recommends that those beginning to explore HIIT workouts talk to their doctor before beginning and mentions “an increased coronary disease risk to high intensity exercise” for those with certain risk factors such as hypertension, a sedentary lifestyle and diabetes. Personal trainer Shannon Clark at Bodybuilding.com recommends slowly building intervals into your regular cardio routine. Another tip from Clark is to carefully plan your HIIT day, cautioning readers to avoid “leg day” workouts the day before or after a HIIT workout to allow the body to properly recover. Once you’re ready to begin full HIIT workouts, the ACSM suggests starting with one session a week.

Eating before and after your HIIT workout is a must. Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder tells Elle magazine that nuts and oatmeal are good choices to fuel up with beforehand, while at Eat This, Not That, registered trainer and dietician Jim White offers a recipe for protein oatcakes, a portable power pairing of oats and egg whites, as a pre-HIIT snack. As for what to eat afterwards, Snyder says that post-workout protein is essential to muscle reparation and making the most out of your sweat session and recommends protein rich foods such as eggs and quinoa.

The popularity of HIIT workouts means that there are a lot of them out there, so choosing the right one for you may be difficult. Newcomers to HIIT workouts will find a number of beginner sequences using common exercise moves such as jumping jacks, lunges, squats and sprints. Justin Rubin, Daily Burn’s True Beginner program trainer, has created three HIIT workouts so newbies can get started in as little as ten minutes.

A popular fitness website with a variety of HIIT workouts on YouTube is Fitness Blender. There are a number of features to these videos that make them user friendly such as a progress meter that includes an approximate range of calories burned during each workout. Try their Fat Burning HIIT Pilates Workout, a blend of Pilates and cardio, for a workout that will tone your body, torch up to 312 calories and has a nice cool down stretch component full of yoga poses such as downward dog and a modified pigeon pose.

Another source for HIIT workouts is Tone It Up. The TIU trainers are big fans of HIIT workouts, often incorporating the training method into the weekly exercise schedules they create for their adoring fans. Their HIITy Bitty Bikini workout is a seriously challenging cardio and toning mash up. The routine is also available on a printable sheet explaining each move so you can work out on the go. What’s more, they even include a recipe for a post-HIIT recovery protein smoothie.

Check with your doctor to make sure you are fit to handle the intensity of HIIT, and get ready to rev up your routine.