Weight Loss: Is HITT The Key?

Weight loss. For some, it’s the unreachable holy grail that beckons all to come forward and achieve by using the latest gadget or diet program. Sure, we all want to be heathy, but what we really want more is to look good. One of the buzz words held up as a guide to supreme weight loss, HITT, is making the rounds again. High-Intensity Intermittent Training or HIIT has its fans and its foes when it comes to weight loss. Studies have shown that exercising with a bit more effort can make all the difference in the world, but not all of the experts agree on how effective it is.

An example of HIIT training would be like this: Instead of jogging at a leisurely pace for say ten minutes, you might jog for one minute and then run very fast for 30 seconds before going back to jogging, repeating the process for a total of 10 minutes. The total number of calories you’ll burn will be a lot higher for the latter approach. In fact, studies suggest that those who train with HIIT experience greater weight loss.

“HIIT may be suitable as an alternative to continuous exercise training in the promotion of metabolic health and weight loss,” researcher Charlotte Jelleyman from the University of Leicester told Popsugar. Nathane Jackson, CSCS, a personal trainer and author, agrees, saying that “The higher the intensity, the more calories your body will burn from the time spent exercising as well as the calories burned throughout the rest of the day from a process known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also known as the calorie after-burn effect.”

Jackson also states that depending on how hard you work out, your EPOC can last up to 24 to 48 hours after your gym time. “When it comes to fat loss, calories consumed need to be less than calories burned, and, nutrition being equal, higher intensity training, outside the fat burning zone, accomplishes this best,” said Jackson.

However, Kathleen Blanchard of EMaxHealth disagrees. Sort of. “There is no question that higher intensity exercise burns more calories. Studies comparing what happens in the ‘burn phase’ of exercise have shown HIIT doesn’t change EPOC enough to suggest it is better than a steady tempo cardio workout. It’s also not a good idea to push for HIIT because not everyone can do it. People who are already overweight or just beginning a diet and exercise program would have difficulty.”

Blanchard mentions that claims that HIIT burns more fat after exercise is not scientifically supported and points out that the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA) says that the best approach to weight loss is through long-term, sustained exercises. The benefits from HIIT probably come more from increased insulin sensitivity, or in other words, those who experience weight loss from HIIT may really be a matter of your family’s gene pool history. However, Blanchard does recommend increasing your intensity but a little at a time.

Jackson, whose book, Nathane Jackson’s Whole Health Revolution (which comes out later this year), agrees with this statement as well, saying that there are many health benefits in low-intensity works, but still rests on the idea that the harder the workout, the faster the weight loss.

Still, one thing that pretty much everyone agrees on is that we all need to exercise more. The Journal of Applied Physiology notes that U.S. public health guidelines recommend that adults should work out for about 150 minutes each week of moderate intensity. Not everyone has the time to do so, and by switching things up to an HIIT workout, people can get by with just 75 minutes a week in the gym. And while some may find the idea of HIIT training a chore, some studies have shown that young males enjoy the fast-paced, harder workout more than the slow and steady approach.

The bottom line is, whatever system you can stick with will work best for your weight loss goals.

[Photo by Don Arnold / Getty Image]