HIIT, it’s the buzzword that I hear lurking around the gyms, everyday at the moment. But, what is it and how can you ensure that you support your body, if you’re going to start doing some High Intensity Interval Training?
More and more of us are searching for the most efficient way to get lean, get conditioned, and incorporate healthy eating into our gym routine to get that beach ready body right? With the likes of Joe Wicks, and other insta-famous personal trainers, all over the news just now, there’s no wonder that HIIT has become a HIT!
I can’t promise that this type of training is a walk in a park, but it sure does get results, but only if you take onboard the right nutrition and nutrients too.
But what is high intensity interval training?
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is when you alternate between high and low intensity exercise(s) or between high intensity exercise and a short period of rest.
For example, 30 seconds of bodyweight squats with 15 seconds rest over 8 sets is interval training. Or a set of burpees followed by kettlebell swings. If you’ve ever done a proper HIIT session, you know that alternating bodyweight conditioning exercises for 15 minutes can be a lot more challenging than a 30 minute run on the treadmill.
Why does high intensity interval training work so well?
It’s physiologically and mentally impossible to sustain maximal intensities during exercise for an extended amount of time. This is because of how our bodies use fuel. So you must get your nutrition spot on, to propel your body into a HIIT session.
What are the stages of HIIT and what happens to your body during these stages?
Stage 1 – Phosphocreatine
the first 10 to 20 seconds you will go like a bat out of hell. That’s because you’re using a high-intensity energy source known as phosphocreatine.
Stage 2 – Lactic acid and anaerobic glycolysis.
But after about 20 seconds, your phosphocreatine starts to deplete, and anaerobic glycolysis would take over. So at this point, more lactic acid would be produced and used as your main fuel.
You will feel like you are running on sand, and running as hard as you can, but you’ll be slowing down, and your heart and lungs are working overtime and your body will be screaming stop! But you do need to be conditioned first before you jump yourself into a proper HIIT session otherwise you will get injured
So why can’t you work at your top intensity for long periods of time?
Oxygen – The Magic Molecule
One reason is the supply and demand of oxygen. Nature is full of trade-offs. In this case, we trade efficiency for intensity. When you work at a lower intensity such as an easy bike ride aerobic metabolism predominates.
Your body uses oxygen to break down carbs and fat for energy. This is very efficient, but you can’t work at top speed. With aerobic metabolism, you gain efficiency but lose intensity and eventually lose your form. Our bodies are designed to go for long periods, but as we are more sedentary, we have to train our bodies harder to master the explosive short sharp workouts as most of us are tied to a desk.
On the other hand, when you work at a higher intensity (such as sprinting), anaerobic metabolism takes over.
Your body can’t get the magic molecule-oxygen to where it needs to go fast enough. This is very inefficient, but it lets you produce small amounts of short sharp burst of high intensity exercise, which is very handy when you’re running away from a cheetah or a gorilla.
So, in a nutshell we have two systems, both of which have certain benefits. What if we could have our daily muffin or cake and eat it too? (Or, in this case, lose the fat we gained by eating the cake in the first place.)
Welcome to HIIT – it’s not magic and it still takes work, but it works.
With HIIT, you do short bursts of very intense exercise (such as 10-20 sec of sprinting) with periods of lower intensity (such as 1 min of walking)
- The higher intensity periods create a metabolic shock that is very effective for long term fat burning and overall conditioning
- The lower intensity periods like hiking let you recover and use the aerobic energy system.
Hormones – When we train hard for short periods, our body releases stress hormones. Gentle movements such as yoga, tai chi, or a pleasant stroll outside can lower stress hormones, which can help to lower belly fat.
If you’re adding HIIT to your own training routine, it’s important to understand the nutritional needs to support it from start to finish. While this does vary by individual and training program, the following ideas for pre and post-workout nutrition can help.
If fat loss is your goal, then you need to add some high quality proteins to every meal so remember, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper!
Forget about eating 5 small meals a day like body builders. Or you will over eat and undo all the work you’ve done in the gym! Plus when doing such high intensity exercise, it’s all about nutrient timing!
A new study(2) concludes that when subjects were given a high protein intake (3g/Kg) and worked at high intensity, they experienced less psychological stress and a better recovery compared to normal protein intake. (1.5 g/Kg). “Effect of Increased Dietary Protein on Tolerance to Intensified Training,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal.
Protein is vital, but your body will not be able to consume more than 30-50g of protein per meal, anymore than this can be used to create more body fat. Choose cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, as they are very thermogenic and should be consumed often. Also don’t forget medium chain fatty acids like coconut oil, which have been found to increase metabolism by between 48-65%.
Don’t forget whether you are doing HIIT or a normal weight-training program. It’s important to get your nutrition spot on, both pre-training and post-training too. Remember to go easy on your body and it’s always about the journey.