HIIT - Is it worth it?
Raul Stones looks at High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and considers: is it worth it, does it work effectively, and are there any drawbacks?
You have probably heard about HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training. It is a type of workout that typically takes less than half an hour to complete and consists of a short burst of high-intensity exercise, followed by a brief, less intense recovery period, before being repeated until the subject is too exhausted to continue.
HIIT has made the headlines in recent years due to the fact it is a great way to burn fat quickly, and its popularity has risen partly due to the ease with which people can fit this type of workout around a busy modern lifestyle. But is it worth it? Does it work effectively? Are there any drawbacks? Let us look at how HIIT works.
Why HIIT burns fat
The reason HIIT is so good at burning fat is that it never allows the body to adjust to the intensity of a workout. Once your body gets used to being used at maximum capacity, the intensity drops. Then when it gets used to being pushed at a more sedate pace, the intensity increases again. This constant change in intensity increases the resting metabolic rate within the body for up to 24 hours post-workout. So yes, that means that even when you stop exercising, your body continues to burn more fat than usual.
Is HIIT for everyone?
HIIT is generally thought to be safe for everyone to do, although some experts do recommend building up to the 30-minute mark, and perhaps start with a 15-minute workout. It should also be noted that the 30-minute mark is the longest you should be training in this way. If you feel you could carry on longer, then the chances are you are not doing it right. It is also important to allow your body time to rest. Doing HIIT every day will be detrimental to your health, and if you push too hard too often, you could experience muscle tears, ligament damage. In extreme cases, cartilage abrasion and as such is not recommended for more than four workouts per week. Your body needs time to rest, and your results will be better if you do just that.
What else should I know about HIIT?
The time when you perform your HIIT can affect your results. Experts generally agree that performing HIIT in the morning is the best way to maximise the fat-burning properties of the workout. Have a light breakfast, and after an hour, you should be able to perform your training without that horrible sickness that can sometimes accompany early morning workouts. Doing HIIT in the morning means that your body will be looking to burn fat whenever possible during the whole day. Doing HIIT at night isn't exactly a bad thing but doing it in the morning does mean your body is in 'fat-burning mode' for the whole time you are awake, rather than when you are asleep (and not eating anything). Eating the right food is equally as important, so for those of you that are new to exercise in general, do yourself a favour and research what your body needs to help you train to the max.
It is also crucially important to warm-up properly. HIIT is just that, intense. So, if you push your body as hard as possible from the first second, expect to get injured at some point. Make sure you stretch and make sure you push your body through the same movements that your HIIT will involve, but at a slow pace before you start. This will stretch the muscles that you are about to use, and hopefully, make them less prone to getting injured. There are plenty of health benefits when it comes to exercising, from physical to mental health, but if you do not prepare correctly, you could end up doing yourself some damage, which in turn will slow you down in your pursuit of fitness.
Recovering from HIIT
HIIT could take quite a toll, both physically and mentally, which is why we advocate a good balance throughout. As any fitness guru will tell you, a well-balanced lifestyle requires doing what you love in the right doses. It will also help you to take your mind off how much your muscles are aching, a good strategy to adapt to hit your goals. So, sit down, put pen to paper, and list all the things you enjoy doing but which also induce an element of relaxation (it is useless saying you enjoy swimming if this will only exhaust you further). Do you want a good shot at the latest FIFA video game? Or perhaps an escape into a fictional world? The possibilities are endless.
Why not watch a Netflix series while you work out? This will help you concentrate less on how much your body is aching. After you train, listen to an audiobook on your favourite armchair with your feet up. If you prefer a more stimulating experience, why not try an online game to get your mind off the burn? There is no end to the things you can do to ease back smoothly into the routine.
So, there you have it, all you need to know about HIIT and its benefits. While it is not a workout that builds much muscle mass, it is a fantastic way to get fit and burn fat. So, if you are short on time, but want great results and to build strength, give HIIT a go, and see what all the fuss is about.
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About the Author
Raul Stones is a freelance writer, based in London, who specializes in 'all things tech' with a side order of sport, fitness, and wellbeing. After spending five years in the corporate field, he has found himself now writing for various publications across the web on subjects that are close to his heart and is much happier for it.