HIIT Me With Your Best Shot: Time Efficient, Fat Burning Workouts

Lack of time is cited as being one of the biggest reasons people don’t work out. Traditionally the thought is that doing cardio (the longer the better) is the way to lose fat. Well, that sounds time consuming, doesn’t it? In the past few years, a great deal of research has proven that we’ve been wrong. HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training has been shown to be far more effective than standard cardio training for fat loss.

Interval training is doing a certain number of bouts of exercise with a set rest period between. HIIT is taking those work intervals and pushing ourselves as hard as we can. HIIT has been getting more and more press as of late, possibly because of the popularity of CrossFit, P90X, Turbulence Training, Spartan Workouts, etc. which base their programs on the principals of HIIT.

If you’re interested in reading some of the research, check high-intensity interval training out on PubMed.

One of the reasons for HIIT’s increased fat burning capabilities is EPOC: Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption or more commonly known as the AFTERBURN! Steady state cardio is great for the calories that it burns while doing the activity, but HIIT can not only burn more calories during the activity, but can also increase your resting metabolism for up to 32 hours after the bout of exercise. You burn more calories simply recovering from it.

Now there are many different protocols (work/rest combinations) for HIIT that will give similar results, but I’m currently focusing on one in particular.

Enter Izumi Tabata (Department of Physiology and Biomechanics, National Institute of Fitness and Sports, Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan) and his landmark research resulting in “Tabatas” (Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max).

The Tabata Protocol:

20 seconds of “exhaustive” work, 10 seconds rest, 8 rounds = 4 minute program

Some of benefits of HIIT are (not a complete list):

  • Increased fatty acid utilization (fat burning)
  • Increased VO2 max (your body’s efficiency of using oxygen)
  • Increased anaerobic capacity (how hard you can push i.e. sprint)
  • Increased anaerobic threshold (how hard you can push before can no longer sustain the pace)
  • Increased resting metabolic rate – EPOC (afterburn)
  • Increased growth hormone response (increases in muscle tissue and fat loss)
  • Decreased time demand (yea!)
  • Decreased participant boredom (more yea!)

Sounds like a more effective way to go, don’t you think?

Here’s an example of the Tabata protocol in action. *Note of caution: you need to build up your capabilities to withstand these intensities. Start just walking through the exercises, then gradually increase the intensity as you can tolerate safely.

Tabata #6 Ski Conditioning

Have you tried Tabatas?

Mark Nutting, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT-AR*D, National Strength and Conditioning Association’s 2009 Personal Trainer of the Year, holds 12 certifications in the field and has 30 years experience in personal training. A national presenter and an educator of Personal Trainers, Mark’s areas of expertise include weight loss, post-rehab conditioning, and brain fitness. Mark contributes regularly to the Guiding Stars Blog.