Let’s face it, losing fat is hard. Losing fat becomes especially hard when you’re doing it wrong. I learned that the hard way (check out my story for more details). Thankfully, there are tools that make fat loss come quicker and easier. One of these tools is high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is basically alternating intense bursts of activity with rest intervals. Simple as it sounds, it’s proven to be the most effective cardio method for fat loss and I 100% believe this based on my personal experience. What exactly makes HIIT the King of fat loss? I’ll explain below and also provide you with a HIIT workout plan so you can start shredding off fat right away!
10 Benefits of A HIIT Workout Plan for Fat Loss
1. You lose fat while maintaining (and even growing) muscle.
This is one of the key factors that make a HIIT workout plan such as powerful tool. With long steady-state cardio, you risk losing your hard earned muscle mass. Studies have shown that combining both strength and endurance training can hinder your muscle gains when compared to just strength training alone. Research has also shown that the longer your cardio sessions are, the more they can impair strength and muscle growth.
However, this doesn’t mean that cardio directly impairs muscle growth. It simply means that too much cardio does. The good thing about HIIT is that it’s intense and short which minimizes the risk of losing muscle. Not only that, a lot of the strenuous movements performed during HIIT workouts help build muscle as well.
For example, look at sprinters compared to marathon runners. The majority of a sprinter’s training routine is composed of HIIT in the form of sprinting. Whereas marathon runners train using steady-state cardio. If you look at the body composition of sprinters and marathon runners, you’ll see the true power of HIIT.
As you can see from above, both the male and female sprinters look much leaner and have more muscle mass than the marathoners. This is a result of using a HIIT workout plan as their primary training method.
2. You burn more calories during a HIIT workout.
HIIT can burn quite a bit more calories compared to lower intensity exercise. Since fat loss is governed by energy balance (energy in vs energy out), the advantage here is clear.
For example, let’s say you jog for 15 a few times a week and burn around 150 calories per session. However, better though would be high-intensity workouts of equal duration that burn for instance 300 calories per session which would result in more fat loss.
And the crazy thing is, the calorie-burning doesn’t stop there. When you perform HIIT you continue to burn calories after your workout as a result of the strenuous exercise you put your body through. This is something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) which I will explain in the next point.
3. HIIT boosts your metabolism and you continue to burn calories after your workout.
This is one of the many special things about HIIT that give it another advantage over moderate exercise. As mentioned above, EPOC represent the oxygen demands needed by your body after your high intensity workout. Basically, after your workout your body needs to perform several processes to return to its resting state. These processes require oxygen, meaning oxygen consumption will rise after exercise (especially after HIIT) which costs energy, thus more calories are burned to return your body to its resting state after your workout. This is called the “afterburn effect“.
Although the magnitude of the afterburn effect is not as great as we once thought, it can still make a big difference in fat loss. For instance if you performed HIIT 3 times a week for 15-20 minute sessions, you could burn an additional estimated 200-400 calories a week. This would result in 10,400 – 20,800 calories in a year, or 3-6 pounds of fat lost just from the afterburn effect! Think of it as a quick start to your metabolism.
4. HIIT increases the level of fat oxidation in the muscles.
In simple terms, fat oxidation is a process in which our body breaks down giant lipid (fat) molecules into their smaller parts. This process is necessary because we eat more lipids at a given time than we need at that time and the excess is stored as fat in/on your body. Fat oxidation breaks down these molecules for our body to use as energy throughout the day. Without fat oxidation, fat molecules would stay in their larger forms (and as fat on our body).
Now here’s where HIIT comes in. A study at Laval University discovered that the muscle fibres of subjects doing a HIIT workout plan had significantly higher markers for fat-oxidation (fat-burning) than those in the steady-state exercise group. Several other studies have shown similar findings as well. Basically what this means is that HIIT makes it easier and more efficient for your body to burn fat. This will make it easier for you to get rid of stubborn fat such as on your back and help reveal your abs and Adonis Belt.
5. HIIT spike certain hormones which aid in fat loss
One of the primary hormones HIIT affects is the human growth hormone (HGH). HGH affects many things in the body, including the following:
- fat loss
- energy levels and sexual performance
- improved cholesterol levels
- increased exercise performance
HGH decreases as we age (starts to decline soon after puberty), which partly explains why we have a harder time losing fat as we age. The good thing about a HIIT workout plan is that it actually increases your HGH levels. Studies have shown that HIIT can increase your HGH levels by up to 450% for 24 hours after your workout! Since higher HGH levels provide increased caloric burn and “slow down” the effects of aging, it’s a win-win.
6. HIIT suppresses your appetite.
Although it’s commonly thought that exercising makes you hungry, recent evidence actually suggests that HIIT can help suppress your appetite. A study conducted by the University of Western Australia revealed that grehlin (which is a hunger-stimulating hormone) was suppressed in subjects who were doing a HIIT workout plan. This then caused a decreased appetite in the subjects of a period of time after exercising. Thus, this will make it easier for you to stick to a caloric deficit and keep losing fat.
7. It’s super quick to do (but not easy).
A HIIT workout does not take long to complete. In fact, most HIIT workouts can be completed from anywhere between 10-20 minutes. And better yet, you’re only actually working for less than half of that time.
In fact, according to a recent study by McMaster University, just 1 minute of HIIT can bring you the same physiological benefits of 45 minutes of moderate cardio. But don’t get fooled, HIIT is not easy. You need to push your body to as hard as you can during the work intervals to ensure you reap all of these benefits.
8. HIIT improves insulin sensitivity.
For those of you who don’t know, insulin is the hormone that stores the extra glucose your body doesn’t use. And in simple terms, insulin sensitivity has to do with how well your cells respond to insulin. Those who are highly insulin sensitive requires very little insulin to store carbohydrates. But those who are insulin resistant (e.g. type II diabetics) need larger amounts of insulin to move glucose (carbohydrates) around.
How does this relate to fat loss? Well, basically when insulin gets too high fat loss comes to a halt. Those with low insulin sensitivity (high insulin resistance) will have higher insulin levels. These individuals will have a harder time losing fat, as their release of fatty acids becomes inhibited.
Luckily for you, another great thing about a HIIT workout plan is that it improves insulin sensitivity better than traditional steady-state cardio. Research has even shown that just 3 minutes of HIIT per week for four weeks improved participants’ insulin sensitivity by an average of 24 percent. This will in turn aid with your fat loss as well as several other aspects of your health.
9. HIIT is great for your heart.
The reason why a HIIT workout plan is so good for your heart is because it forces you to push your body and overload your cardiovascular system every workout.
A study from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology looked at HIIT versus moderate intensity exercise in patients with stable coronary artery disease. One group performed HIIT three times a week for 10 weeks while the other group did moderate intensity exercise. The results showed that the VO2 max (a measure of aerobic fitness) increased by 17.9% in the high intensity group and only 7.9% in the moderate intensity group. By improving your aerobic fitness, you will keep improving in your workouts and avoid fat loss plateaus.
10. You don’t need any equipment!
Another great thing about a HIIT workout plan is that most workouts don’t require any equipment. Sprinting, jump roping, and squat jumps all work great for HIIT and you don’t need any equipment to get it done. This means they can be done in the comfort of your own home or local park.
The HIIT Workout Plan
Now that you know the advantages of HIIT for fat loss, let’s get you started with a HIIT workout plan. The key to an effective HIIT workout plan is to progressively overload your body by making your workouts harder and by doing them more often. This helps you avoid fat loss plateaus and enables you to burn more fat every week. This program will last 10 weeks and will get progressively harder. Keep in mind that you must have a separate weightlifting routine and a solid diet with a caloric deficit in order to see the best fat loss results. A HIIT workout plan alone is useless without a proper caloric deficit diet and should not replace your weightlifting routine.
What I want you to do is a pick a few HIIT workouts you know you can do consistently. This includes sprinting (on the treadmill too), swimming, the elliptical, cycling, circuits, and many more. Just make sure you’re consistent. You don’t have to do just one either. Mix them up every few weeks. Or do a couple different HIIT workouts each week. Also, you have to make sure that for whatever exercise you choose that you’re putting in max effort. The benefits of a HIIT workout plan for fat loss only come if you work out hard enough.
Also, do a proper warmup and cool down for each HIIT session. A warm up can include walking/jogging for a few minutes and doing some leg swings, butt kicks, high knees, etc. For a cool down, simply do a light jog or walk for a couple minutes after your workout.
Now, here’s what a sample HIIT workout would look like:
Work interval = Chosen exercise (sprints/rowing/cycling/circuit/etc.): performed at maximal exertion (as fast and hard as you can) for 20-30 seconds
Rest interval = Walk/pace around: 60-90 seconds
Alternate between the work and rest intervals for a certain number of rounds. One work interval and rest interval counts as one round. I’ve listed how many rounds in the HIIT workout plan chart below to ensure you progress every week.
As you can see from the plan above, the workouts get harder each week. But your body will get stronger and fitter each week to handle your workouts. And you don’t have to stick to just one HIIT exercise. If you get bored of one, switch to another. As long as you’re consistent with your workout sessions and rounds completed.
Keep in mind too that you must have a caloric deficit to lose fat. It’s the basics of fat loss! But I guarantee that by incorporating this HIIT workout plan with a current weightlifting routine and caloric deficit, you will see amazing results. I’ve seen the results myself and with several of my clients. This is not easy, but it is definitely worth it! Give it a shot and let me know what you think! Enjoy.