High intensity interval training (HIIT) – The ultimate workout or not?

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High intensity interval training

High intensity interval training consists of a short burst of high intensity exercise, followed by a low intensity exercise. This creates an environment within the body that leads to sustained fat loss, best of all, long after the exercising is over and can last up to 36 hours!

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is proven to promote lasting fat loss, even after exercise is complete. How is this possible, you may ask? Well, high intensity interval training  promotes the use of two metabolic environments. First, the low intensity exercise, such as walking, utilizes the aerobic metabolism.


Related: What are some of the benefits of endurance training?


This metabolic environment encourages the body to use oxygen in order to use fat and carbohydrates for energy. This is highly efficient in the low intensity; however, this is not efficient for high intensity exercises. The Body is unable to use this oxygen fast enough when performing a high intensity interval training exercises. That is why it is so hard to for example run full out for a long period of time…


high intensity interval training guidelines


This leads us to the second metabolic environment, that of anaerobic metabolism.

Anaerobic metabolism is the condition that occurs when the body is working at a high intensity such as running; and is unable to intake enough of that oxygen to burn those carbs and fat as energy. This condition in turn creates an environment where the body will continue to burn calories and fat well after the initial workout is completed.

This is possible in part because of Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, for short. The intensity of the exercise makes the body overwork to get back to a “resting” state. In order for the body to get back to that resting state we just discussed, the body must work to repair the damage from that high intensity blast. This “work” in turn utilizes fat stores and turns them into energy.

The beauty of this is the harder the exercise; the more benefit of fat burning and the longer the body stays in this repair stage. It could last up to 3 days and burn fat the entire time; with the body resting.


This has huge implications as being the real solution to fast weight loss. Other benefits include:

  • Fat loss, even when resting.
  • Increased Cardiovascular Output.
  • Feeling great and strengthening the mind & body
  • Retaining Muscle while burning fat.
  • Building endurance
  • Low impact & short duration
  • Gaining athlete like performance abilities
  • Increase anaerobic performance & lung capacity

How to start with high intensity interval training

All types of cardio can be used with interval training. Some low impact exercises that I recommend would be cycling, swimming, the elliptical and go at a pace that gets you sucking the air in; that’s how you know you’re on the right track.


Related: Some great high intensity exercise ideas to get your blood pumping here


However, you will want to start slow in the beginning and a good ratio to go by is 30 seconds of intense exercise followed by 60 seconds rest, or what I like to refer to as a cool down. This is a good pace to start with and over time you can set goals to get that down to 30 seconds high intensity and then 30 seconds to cool down.

After you build up a tolerance you can introduce weight training into the mix and maximize the benefits. This is the ultimate way to lose weight, retain muscle, get in great cardiovascular shape and build athlete like endurance.

What mistakes should you avoid with this interval training?

Beginners, in particular, sometimes make mistakes with HIIT. It is vital to warm up for at least ten minutes before each workout. Light gymnastic exercises, for example, are suitable for this. Sports scientists also advise not to overdo HIIT. About six intervals with 20 seconds of load and 60 seconds of rest are recommended for beginners. It is essential to keep the breaks. And after each training session, it is a good idea to take a break for several days.

What changes does HIIT bring about in the body?

But what does the HIIT method do in practice? Australian researchers have studied what effect HIIT has on people with obesity. Their study participants took part in short-term or medium-term programs. Especially in the long-term group with a training duration of twelve weeks, the body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage decreased. In addition, blood pressure decreased, and several laboratory values indicated a lower cardiovascular risk. A normal-weight control group also benefited from the training. In particular, their oxygen uptake improved.

British and Swedish researchers also studied the issue. They included young, normal-weight, but untrained men in their study. They completed a reasonably short program with a total of six days of training. Before starting and after completion, doctors took blood samples. They found that blood glucose, insulin, and blood fat levels went down even after a comparatively short time. Other studies show that HIIT is suitable for cardiac rehabilitation: The method is safe and effective.

The afterburn effect is called oxygen deficit or compensation of oxygen deficit in science.

What happens in our body during the “afterburn”?

When we exercise, our body needs significantly more oxygen than in a normal state. You will notice this most clearly the next time you consciously see your pulse and breathing rate during training – both are significantly higher than at rest.

The harder we train, the more oxygen our body needs. The higher breathing rate is accompanied by higher metabolic activity, which ensures that our body temperature also rises.

The more significant the difference between our metabolism at rest and during training, the longer it takes our body to return to normal. And the more energy it burns on the way there.

This is what we call the afterburn effect. The afterburn effect is a very effective way to lose fat. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) triggers the afterburn effect.

The important thing is that you get your heart rate up properly. There’s a pretty good reason why traditionalists recommend lots of steady pace endurance training for fat loss: This type of workout burns a lot of energy. The formula is simple: the longer you work out, the more energy you burn.

While your metabolism quickly shuts down after regular endurance training, you continue to burn more energy for hours after the end of a short but intense training session – through the afterburn effect. This is precisely the idea behind High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

A HIIT workout is structured as follows:

High-intensity phase: you go to the limit of exertion for a certain amount of time. Usually, this is 30-60 seconds, but I consider 15 seconds in “anything goes” mode sufficient.
Recovery Phase: You then recover at an effortless pace for about three times the duration of the load phase.
Restart: Then start the cycle again with the high-intensity phase – and so on.
The change between the two load intensities is much more demanding than a training session at a steady pace. Therefore, HIIT also creates a higher oxygen deficit, a much longer after-burn effect, and more fat loss.

You won’t (and don’t have to) keep up HIIT for too long: 2 to 3x 15 to 30 minutes per week is enough.

Tip: Don’t be surprised if you do HIIT at your gym while wearing a heart rate belt. At Fitness Coaching, a client once became uneasy because the cross trainer showed him a warning message: “Warning, your heart rate is too high!” The reason lies in the software design of cardio machines: they were designed for prolonged but not high-intensity interval training. But that’s exactly what we want to achieve with HIIT: The pulse should go into the anaerobic range for the high-intensity phase.

The perfect HIIT training plan

You can get started with HIIT training with a 10-minute session. However, if you are interested in muscle growth simultaneously, you should do HIIT after your strength training – you can read more about this in my report on the correct training sequence.

Your body will get used to the HIIT load over time, so you can expand the duration after a few weeks. Here is a sample HIIT workout plan for beginners:

Week 1-4: 15 seconds HIIT, 45 seconds recovery, total 10 minutes (3x per week).
Week 5-8: 15 seconds HIIT, 45 seconds recovery, total duration: 12 minutes (3x per week).
Week 9-12: 15 seconds HIIT, 45 seconds recovery, total duration: 14 minutes (3x per week)

If you feel that 15 seconds is too easy for you after a few runs, you can lengthen the high-intensity interval and switch to a 30/30 split, for example.

Tip: You can further increase the afterburn effect by intensifying your strength training, for example, via circuit training, supersets, or complex exercises such as pull-ups, squats, and push-ups that target many muscle groups at once. The kettlebell swing is also an excellent challenging exercise.


Combined with a healthy eating plan and there’s no limit to the fat you can lose! Alkaline foods are proven to be an excellent way to cook healthy, click here to have a look at this truly great Alkaline Cookbook.

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