Author: James O’Sullivan • Fact checked by: Gainful Registered Dietitians • May 19, 2022
If you’re looking for a workout that doesn’t require a huge time commitment, works your body from head-to-toe and makes the most of those random bursts of energy you get during the day, then HIIT is the workout for you.
So what exactly is a HIIT workout? What does HIIT even stand for?
Keep reading: Below, we walk you through all the aspects of HIIT.
Before we get into the components of HIIT, we have to begin with the most basic question: What does “HIIT” stand for?
“HIIT” is an acronym for “high-intensity interval training.”
Now that we’ve deciphered the acronym, we can move onto the big question: What is HIIT?
HIIT is an anaerobic workout. Anaerobic workouts involve exercises that do not rely exclusively on oxygen; instead, these exercises are fueled by mostly stored carbohydrates. (This differs from aerobic exercise, which is the category that most steady-state cardio workouts fall under. Aerobic exercises require oxygen to generate energy.)
In HIIT, you try to perform an activity or movement as hard as you can for a short period of time. Often, the pace is 90-100% of maximal capacity, with the aim to reach the 80-90% range of your maximum heart rate (MHR). After going all out on that activity or movement, you then have a quick rest interval. This recovery period allows for faster removal of the lactic acid in your muscles. (Lactic acid is what produces muscle fatigue during intense exercise and muscle soreness afterward.) In a complete HIIT workout, you alternate between those intense periods of exertion and short periods of recovery. Because participants quickly switch between short bursts of intense exercise and rest intervals, the efficiency and endurance of the muscles increase and oxygen consumption is improved.
So what are these “activities” and “movements” mentioned above? A high intensity work interval might include an activity or movement like sprinting, jumping jacks, burpees, sprints, squat jumps and push-ups. As you can tell by this list, most HIIT movements are bodyweight exercises. This factor is what makes HIIT a great workout for everyone, especially for those who don’t have access to a ton of equipment. HIIT movements can be done anywhere — no gyms required.
Thanks to its accessibility and time efficiency, HIIT is a type of workout that people of all fitness levels and time commitments can utilize.
There’s no question that HIIT is the epitome of an efficient workout. You’re able to get in quality, heart-pumping exercise in a relatively short amount of time. Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, but not everyone has an abundance of time that he or she can commit to working out. HIIT allows busy people to get a great workout without devoting hours at the gym.
For the best results, a HIIT workout should total around 30-60 minutes. For a quicker 30-minute HIIT workout, try to get in 4-8 rounds or cycles of 30-second intervals with 120 seconds of rest in between. For a 60-minute HIIT workout, attempt 6-10 rounds of 60-second intervals with 60 seconds of rest in between.
A duration of 30 minutes will give your body a great, full workout, but if you have the time, bumping up your HIIT workout to a 60-minute session might be worth it. A 2019 study showed that 60-minute HIIT workouts produced the best results. Participants' aerobic capacity increased significantly after six week, while those who participated in 30-minute HIIT workouts over the course of six weeks didn’t see significant changes in their aerobic capacity.
HIIT is an excellent workout for people with weight loss goals. HIIT burns a lot of calories in a time-efficient way — an excellent combo for anyone who’s short on time but still wants to work off a significant number of calories in an effort to lose weight.
Research published in the journal Obesity Science & Practice shows frequent HIIT workouts lead to a reduction of body fat. In fact, the study suggests HIIT can result in an even greater reduction of body fat compared to traditional cardio exercise. Participants who saw the greatest reduction of body fat completed HIIT workouts that involved 4 to 12 repetitions of activities with intervals of 10 seconds to 4 min. The intensity of the exercise varied from 70?100% of the MHR.
Additionally, participants who did HIIT workouts over traditional cardio exercise also saw a greater improvement of cardiopulmonary fitness and insulin sensitivity.
Even better news for people turning to HIIT to lose weight: Regularly engaging in HIIT workouts also helps your body burn calories even after the workout is done. A recent study published in the journal Sports Medicine - Open shows that HIIT has the ability to increase a person’s metabolic rate for hours after exercise, thanks to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
That’s right: HIIT has the power to up both your metabolism and your calorie burn even hours later.
There are so many health benefits your body gets from just one short HIIT session, and protein powder can help maximize these benefits. Protein is one of the most crucial nutrients for building muscle and fat loss, but the body naturally breaks down protein during workouts. To make up for the protein that the body breaks down during HIIT, you should consume a high-quality source of protein, such as a protein supplement, around the time of your workout.
So what’s the best protein for refueling post-HIIT? Gainful offers a complete sports nutrition system that includes a Personalized Protein Powder made for your body.
Start by taking Gainful’s quiz: In the quiz, you’ll answer questions about your workout routine and overall wellness goals. The sports nutrition experts at Gainful will then use your answers to create your personalized sports nutrition system. Each system includes a Personalized Protein Powder that’s formulated based on your diet, body composition and lifestyle habits. It also includes a Pre-Workout formula that gives you a boost during your warm up and a Hydration formula that helps you stay hydrated before, during and after your workout. The Pre-Workout helps you maximize your endurance and minimize your recovery time, while the Hydration formula delivers an effective amount of electrolytes that allow you to perform your HIIT workout at your best. There’s also a handful of Performance Boosts you can add to your system as well — Creatine, Fiber and Collagen. Together, your complete sports nutrition system makes each and every HIIT workout more impactful.
Don’t forget: Every subscriber is able to email RD@gainful.com to get in touch with a Registered Dietitian, who can answer any questions relating to your HIIT training, the benefits of HIIT and properly fueling your workout.
Head over to the Gainful’s quiz and get started with HIIT.
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