A question I often get, how often should I perform HIIT (high intensity interval training) for fat loss or to keep lean without losing muscle. Well it may be that you don’t need to do as much as you think.
People rely on HIIT training too much, thinking they can go and eat a jar of cookies because the HIIT training will rev up your metabolism for 24 hours after the workout, but in truth there are many other methods of training that have a very similar effect meaning you don’t have to perform HIIT 5 times a week to get the same benefits.
Don’t get me wrong - I absolutely love HIIT training and the benefits of it, but I want to show you that you don’t need to rely on it for fat loss.
So what is overtraining?
When your muscles and body become very fatigued, you see less and less (even no) progress and the volume and intensity of your training is too high for your body to recover fully. Overtraining can be seen in many ways from persistent muscle soreness to lack of motivation or progress and even insomnia.
Why is HIIT so effective?
HIIT training is fantastic for a time efficient method of burning lots of calories fast and increasing metabolic stress on the body causing an effect called EPOC (excess post- oxygen consumption), this is where the body has used more oxygen than your providing it with and therefore it will continue to work to replenish your muscles with oxygen post workout. You will therefore burn more calories post workout than you would at rest had you not done a workout, this can be for 24 hours after the workout – known as the after burn effect.
Recent studies have shown that weight training can have a similar after burn effect and in fact supersets have been seen to nearly double your metabolism compared to normal sets – supersets have fantastic metabolic benefits due to their high volume.
The nature of HIIT training is very high intensity and puts a lot of stress on your body, you need to ensure you are having adequate rest and recovery because completing too much HIIT training on top of your weight training could be preventing progress.
So what should you be doing?
So there is more than one way to ramp up your metabolism and get that after burn effect, you don’t need to be doing 5 HIIT sessions a week! Incorporate a mixture of weight training (high volume, e.g supersets) and HIIT for similar effects.
I often recommend 2-3 HIIT sessions a week, MAX, if your completing no other cardio sessions (no cheeky spin classes added to that). If you are completing other cardio sessions or classes I would drop this down to one HIIT session a week. There is no need to be doing more if you are weight training as you can reap the benefits from both while ensuring your body gets the recovery you need.
I keep my HIIT sessions to 10-15 minutes, short and sweet – although it doesn’t feel like it at the time! I complete them at the end of my weight training sessions 2 times a week.
Another way to ensure you don’t overtrain is to get adequate recovery. If you’re performing high volume weight training and HIIT sessions I would recommend 2-3 days rest a week, never less than 2.
So in summery HIIT does have great metabolic benefits and provides you with an after burn effect, however, weight training when performed at a high volume can give similar effects. There is a danger of over training if you perform HIIT too often with too little recovery, so stick to 2, max 3 HIIT sessions a week with your weight training for maximum progress.