Why HIIT is Not Enough for Losing Body Fat
HIIT also known as interval training has become the chosen form of cardio for fitness fanatics like myself for a long time. I remember when I used to read popular magazines that stood by HIIT as the better form of cardio. It completely overshadowed old school cardio also known as steady state cardio.
Joggers at the gym started to look more silly by switching back and forth from speed 10 to speed 5 on their treadmills. Everybody started to become obsessed with being able to burn more body fat in 20 minutes with intense exercise than 60 minutes of light exercise.
But wait a second. Are people really suggesting that 20 minutes of HIIT burns more calories than 60 minutes of jogging? The truth behind this is that 20 minutes of sprints does NOT burn more calories than an hour long jog.
Like most myths this one seemed to have come out of thin air. When it comes to losing body fat, a major part of it comes down to how many calories are burned. But calories burned while you exercise is not the only thing that determines weight loss. Hormones play a big role, too. An exercise that does not burn many calories but can sustainably change the concentration of certain hormones in the human blood may promote weight loss post-exercise, long after the exercise is done.
So now let's step back and think about this for a second. Let's look at the pros and cons of both HIIT and steady state cardio.
HIIT Vs. Steady State Cardio
HIIT cardio has a key advantage here. It does something that light exercise does not. And that is releasing HGH. HGH stands for human growth hormone. It is known as the fat burning hormone responsible for the “afterburn effect”.
Whenever you read about HIIT you usually read about the benefit that intense interval training speeds up your metabolism and burns calories for hours after your workout. That is true. But many people overestimate how many calories really get burned.
Studies show that our bodies only burn about 14% of the calories that were burned during the workout. For example, let's say you did sprint intervals for 20 minutes and burned 300 calories during that 20 minutes. So because this is HIIT you would also burn 14% of that for the afterburn. That comes to a total of around 345 calories burned.
But if you were to perform moderate exercise such as jogging for an hour you would burn about 700 calories. That is nearly double the calories!
So why is it that everybody has turned their back on steady state cardio in favor of HIIT? Probably because of all the confusion out there within magazines and what not.
Alright so what does this mean? It means that each form of cardio has their benefits. Steady state cardio burns more calories. But HIIT triggers your fat burning hormone more so than steady state cardio which is also important because it breaks down fat cells.
How to Break Through Your Fat Burning Plateau
What does this mean? It means that if you really want to take your fat loss to the next level you should get the best of both worlds. Perform steady state cardio and HIIT. You will increase HGH levels and burn a lot more calories. Perform them in same workout.
Ideally you should perform HIIT first for about 20 minutes as usual. Then go back to moderate exercise for 20 minutes to a half hour. There are a couple reasons why you should do moderate cardio right after intense cardio.
One is because you want to use most of your energy on the intense exercise. That way you are not burnt out. The other reason is after performing HIIT you will have a lot of broken down fat cells. But they will not be burnt off. That is when steady cardio comes into the equation.
After HIIT you will have this window of opportunity to burn off those broken down fat cells to finish the job. This makes for a very effective fat loss workout. Be sure to perform this workout 3 times a week if fat loss is your main goal.
Another thing to note is that you don't have to stick with running as your form of cardio. You can pretty much do any type of exercise as long as you can do it intensely. You could do body weight circuit training for your HIIT workout followed by 20 minutes of light jogging.
How intense the workout is should be based on how you feel. The key to fat loss is perceived effort. Meaning you need to judge how intense your workouts are. This is especially true as you get leaner and start to hit a fat loss plateau.
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