I point out elsewhere that running does not burn that many calories. Anaerobic exercise burns even less, but it contributes to your health goals by stimulating your body’s natural production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Testosterone. These hormones contribute to increased muscle mass, which in turn burns more calories in the long term. Well, since it is anaerobic, interval training for weight loss accomplishes a similar effect.
While interval training for weight loss is a relatively new concept, interval training is not new. Any high school or collegiate distance runner can tell you that it is an essential part of a competitive distance runner’s training cycle. But that was purely for competitive performance purposes.
Now recent studies seem to show that interval training has benefits far beyond just improving one’s competitive distance running performance.
Interval training, sometimes called High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Burst Training, has been shown to enhance the body’s natural production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Testosterone in much the same way as weightlifting and other high-intensity anaerobic exercises. Don’t get too hung up on the first impression that comes to mind, like the bodybuilders with bulging muscles. You couldn’t look like that if you tried!
In reality, HGH and testosterone…
- Promote muscle growth
- Promote fat burning
- Reduce stored fat
- Prevent/Slow muscle loss
So anything you can do to spur the body to naturally produce more of that stuff is GOOD.
Definition of interval training for weight loss
Interval training is simply the alternating of short intense efforts with slow easy recovery efforts. You can do intervals in running, cycling, swimming, or on rowing machines, StairMaster (or real stairs or stadium steps), or elliptical machines, or pretty much in almost any activity that uses large muscle groups for short bursts of very high intensity effort. For my discussion I’ll usually apply it to running.
There are many kinds of interval workouts you can do, but for maximum health results (i.e. HGH/Testosterone production), it’s best to focus on 20-30 second bursts with 90 second to two minute easy jog recovery periods.
A fairly standard interval workout involves an easy 5-10 minute warm up followed by 6-8 repetitions of 30 second sprints followed by 90 second slow/easy recoveries, followed by another easy 5-10 minute warmdown.
For each sprint period you should shoot for a nearly 100% effort.
To get the greatest benefits you should sprint FAST – nearly all out – and recover fairly thoroughly between sprints. When in doubt, err on the side of shorter, faster sprints and longer recoveries.
IMPORTANT: If you haven’t done any kind of sprinting (in whatever activity you’ve chosen), then make sure to build up the speed of the sprint portions gradually. The first time you try an interval workout make your “sprints” just a little faster than your normal pace. The second time, go a little faster, etc. In other words, BUILD UP SPEEDS GRADUALLY.
Is long, steady paced cardio actually BAD?
Long, steady-state type activities like running and cycling do burn a lot of calories, but the short burst interval type training burns more fat in the period following the workout than running/cycling.
Interval training for weight loss works because it has been shown that for around 36 hours following an interval workout your body’s production of HGH and testosterone are elevated.
But there are studies out there now that seem to show that long, steady-state exercises like running and cycling actually SUPPRESS testosterone and HGH production.
Additionally, if you only do long, steady-state aerobic exercise, your “fast twitch” muscle fibers will tend to atrophy. Only high-intensity (anearobic) exercise builds fast twitch muscle fiber.
Fast-twitch muscle fiber does too many great things for your body to just let it die! So long, steady paced cardio exercise may not be “bad” per se, but it must at least be augmented by anaerobic exercise.
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