A very common question any trainer will get is ‘what’s the best way to burn fat?’ Some people still believe long bouts of low intensity exercise are best to whittle away extra body fat. But is it?
A lot of research points to intensity being much more important than duration of the workout. Something like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to burn much more body fat than traditional, slow cardio work.
One of the earliest studies, done by researchers at Laval University, kept it basic, using two groups in a months-long experiment. One group followed a 15-week program using HIIT while the other performed only steady-state cardio for 20 weeks. Interestingly the steady-state training subjects burned 15,000 calories more than their HIIT counterparts. But, those who followed the HIIT program, lost significantly more body fat. Nine times more!
A 2001 study from East Tennessee State University demonstrated similar findings with subjects who followed an eight-week HIIT program. Again, HIIT proved to be the better fat-burner. Subjects dropped two per cent body fat over the course of the experiment. Meanwhile, those who plodded through the eight weeks on a steady-state program lost no body fat.
The most recent study, out of Australia, reported that a group of females who followed a 20-minute HIIT program consisting of eight-second sprints followed by 12 seconds of rest lost an amazing six times more body fat than a group that followed a 40-minute cardio program performed at a constant intensity of 60 per cent MHR.
So your workouts can actually be shorter but get more results. And another bonus to all this is discovering that shorter exercise sessions will allow you to hold on to more muscle. The last thing you want to do on your journey to a toned, shapely body with less fat is lose your muscle mass.
Endurance training can rob muscles of size and shape. Short hard bursts, on the other hand, will help you preserve your hard-earned muscle mass.
To illustrate the point, think about the size of a marathon runner’s legs compared to a sprinter’s legs. The sprinter, whose entire training schedule revolves around HIIT, can possess significantly more muscular thighs. Next week we’ll talk about how to bring some HIIT training into your routine.