HIIT 101: Busting the Myths and Revealing the Facts
Do you want to jumpstart your weight loss and amplify your fitness training routine? If so, you may have heard that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the way to go.
If you’ve never heard of HIIT before, the concept is relatively easy to grasp. It’s an exercise regimen that combines intense intervals of physical activity with low-to-moderate exercises that allow you to rest and recover in between.
Though it’s taken the fitness world by storm, there are also many questions and misconceptions around HIIT. If you’re considering this approach, it’s important to know the facts. Today, we’re busting the myths and spilling the truths about what this type of workout means, and whether or not you should pursue it.
What Is HIIT?
Before we go too deep, let’s take a closer look at what an HIIT workout actually looks like. There’s a lot more to this routine than the basics.
The cornerstone of HIIT is short, very difficult bouts of hard work, interspersed with longer periods of recovery that can be either active or inactive. While it’s technically a form of interval training, you can actually train in intervals without doing HIIT.
The intent of HIIT is to push your body close to its max with every high-intensity circuit. In this way, it’s the antithesis of a relaxed, casual jog, where your heart rate stays at about the same level the entire time. With that type of cardio, you’re able to sustain adequate stores of energy for the duration, which increases your endurance and helps you last longer.
Your Body at Work: Anaerobic Respiration During HIIT
What happens to your body when you’re pushing it during HIIT?
In short, your anaerobic pathways are pulling a majority of the weight. This type of respiration breaks down glucose to create energy without the presence of oxygen. If it weren’t for this process, your muscles would lack the energy they required to perform any type of high-demand exertion, such as sprinting.
Anaerobic respiration delivers energy to your body during HIIT, supplying it with an immediate burst of fuel. However, it’s important to realize that the amount of energy you’ll receive is very limited. As such, you’re unable to sustain the motion for a long period of time.
Instead, in a true HIIT, the maximum work interval is only around 20 seconds. After pushing your body toward its top capacity, you’re rewarded with plenty of recovery time. During this time, you can rest or you can engage in low or moderate levels of gentler activity.
In most cases, the ratio is around 2:1 or even 3:1 in terms of rest vs. work. Using a real-world example, this would mean someone doing 10-second sprints would rest for 20 to 30 seconds before entering the next interval.
Common Myths About HIIT
Now that we’ve covered how HIIT works and what it means, let’s get into a few of the top myths circulating about this workout. Knowing the facts can help you determine if it’s right for you.
1. HIIT Training Is For Everyone
Think about it this way: Not everyone will start at the same level when they decide to start training for a marathon or a half-marathon. Instead, you would approach those workouts from your personal comfort zone.
If you’ve never tried any form of high-intensity exercise before, you risk injury if you push through a powerful workout on your very first try. Plus, you’ll also experience some pretty uncomfortable muscle soreness in the days that follow!
Instead, start small. Try low-intensity, aerobic exercise at first, especially if you’ve never done many activities that increase your heart rate. Running or jogging can help prepare your body for the strain it will experience when you’re in a full-fledged HIIT workout.
Gradually build up your stamina until you can run for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity without getting winded. Once you’re comfortable with that routine, try a gentle HIIT workout and work your way up from there.
2. Recovery Periods Should Be Short
One common misconception about HIIT is that your recovery intervals need to be short, while your work intervals should be elongated. Yet, it only takes a few rounds for you to realize that you’ll quickly burn out this way.
To maximize the efficiency of your workout, stick to the ratio listed above. By keeping your recovery periods longer than your work ones, you can sustain the movements for longer, which will lead to better results. Those slower periods are crucial, as they help prepare your body to perform at its max during your upcoming high-intensity spurts.
3. SMIT Is the Same as HIIT
In the world of fitness, it’s easy to get similar acronyms confused with one another. Take SMIT and HIIT, for instance.
Standing for supramaximal interval training, SMIT is akin to HIIT in the sense that it also includes bouts of all-out, high-intensity exercise. However, the main difference between SMIT and HIIT is that the former requires periods of total rest in between intervals, while the latter allows for low-to-moderate activity during that time.
If you’re weighing your options, many fitness experts agree that SMIT could be a more effective approach to training. In fact, one comparison study found that SMIT resulted in greater physical improvements over HIIT. It was also more beneficial for physically active people, especially women.
The only caveat?
An SMIT-based routine will more quickly train your muscles to react to the work/rest ratio. Over time, they’ll become conditioned to the stimulus, and will adapt accordingly. This can cause your workout to become less effective.
To maximize your results and make your exercise time more interesting, consider combining aspects of both SMIT and HIIT. Rest between some intervals, or perform a low-intensity exercise, such as jogging in place.
4. HIIT Is an Ideal Daily Exercise
When it comes to HIIT, less is more. You don’t want to push your body to max capacity every day of the week. Instead, be sure to pencil in plenty of rest days to help your muscles recover.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should limit HIIT to one day only. If you’ve built up your stamina and you’re comfortable with the exercises, you should be able to do it about three times a week for best results. Try to mix it up to keep your interest, doing leg day one day and upper-body workouts the next.
During your recovery days, take the time to truly treat your muscles to the relaxation they deserve. This is a great time to soak in a warm bath with a dose of kratom powder! Choose a strain known for its sedative properties, such as Green Borneo Kratom Powder.
On the go and don’t have time to indulge in a bath? You can still enjoy the relaxing effects of kratom, thanks to convenient capsules that are a cinch to transport. Strains like Red Sandai Kratom Capsules offer a gentle, calming effect that can soothe your mind and body.
5. HIIT Is the Only Weight-Loss Exercise to Try
Are you among the 51% of Americans who want to trim down their waistline? While 60% want to simply feel healthier all around, more than half are looking to improve their diet and exercise routines to lose weight.
In this case, HIIT does offer plenty of benefits. It gets your heart rate going, burns calories, and helps you break a sweat. However, in your efforts to shed the pounds, don’t neglect the importance of strength training.
It’s easy to underestimate just how important muscular growth is to your weight-loss efforts. When you begin lifting weights, you’ll not only look stronger, but your body will also be stronger and more capable of helping you reach your goals.
At their core, muscles are simply metabolically active tissue. These tissues are located throughout your body, and they serve as the area where fat is burned and turned into energy.
Thus, as you increase your lean muscle mass, you give your body more bandwidth to burn calories and fat throughout the day. This process occurs because muscle tissue requires more energy from your body.
How does this apply to HIIT? Sticking to high-interval training alone can only take you so far. To truly see the results you want, it’s best to combine your cardiovascular exercises with some form of strength training. To boost your efforts, consider taking beneficial supplements to support muscle growth.
6. Steady-State Aerobic Training Is a Thing of the Past
For many, HIIT is an exciting new way to approach cardio. However, while this routine can be beneficial to a degree, there will always be a place for steady-state aerobic training.
Examples of this type of training include:
- Jogging slowly on flat terrain
- Walking on the treadmill
- Riding a stationary bicycle
- Leisurely swimming
- Certain forms of gentle yoga
During steady-state cardio, your heart rate will elevate to a degree. However, the goal is to not let it exceed 50% of your maximum heart rate. Once you get started, you should continue with the activity for at least 30 minutes to optimize results.
Not sure how to calculate your maximum heart rate? To get the ideal number, subtract your age from 220. If you’d rather measure intensity by your heartbeats alone, aim to keep your beats per minute (BPM) between 120 and 150.
Worried that you’ll cancel out any HIIT gains with low-impact aerobic exercise? Don’t be. Incorporating these activities will not interfere with the progress you’ve made at the gym, affecting neither the strength nor the bulk of your muscles.
In fact, low-intensity training can be a great workout to pursue on your rest and recovery days! It’s relaxing, easy, on your joints, and an excellent form of stress relief.
7. HIIT Increases Blood Pressure
Many HIIT newcomers are understandably worried that the exercise will cause their blood pressure to spike. However, similar to other, related endurance exercises this type of training actually helps improve your resting blood pressure.
In addition, another benefit of HIIT workouts is that they improve your body’s natural insulin resistance. This helps regulate your blood sugar and allows you to sustain and maintain your energy levels.
8. Power Matters More Than Form
As long as you’re pushing your body and elevating your heart rate, form doesn’t matter, right? Not quite!
Your form is critical to HIIT, and compromising on it could lead to injury. It could also take away from the beneficial gains that this workout can provide. If you fail to complete the entire range of motion, you’ll drive your heart rate up without fully contracting your muscles.
This can put you behind on your goals. You may find that you’re exhausted at the end of the workout, but you never see the full results you expected. Be sure to warm up fully to get your body prepared for what lies ahead, and perform each motion completely before moving onto the next one.
9. HIIT Can Make You Sick
Has your gym buddy told you that HIIT made him sick the next day? It’s true that doing too much of any physical activity can make you uncomfortable.
While regular workouts deliver a powerful boost to your immune system, it’s important not to overdo it. To know your limit, calculate your individual Vo2 max. This is the maximum number of milliliters of oxygen that your body consumes in one minute, divided by your body weight in kilograms.
If you’re consistently pushing your body to 85% to 95% of your Vo2 max, you’ll begin to release different types of hormones. Some of these are feel-good hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and various endorphins. However, others are stress hormones that put a strain on your body.
An abundance of stress can reduce your immune system function, which can make your body more susceptible to viral attacks.
10. You Can Do HIIT Any Time of the Day
To feel your best, try not to do any type of HIIT workout first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. This type of workout depletes your body of its energy stores, so you want to make sure you’re properly fueled up!
Wait about 30 minutes after you wake, and eat a light, healthy breakfast before heading outside or hitting the gym. This way, you’ll be able to power through the workout without compromising hunger pains.
Is HIIT Training Right For You?
There’s no denying the powerful benefits of HIIT training. This type of workout can help you build endurance, shed weight, and become more toned.
However, it’s not ideal for everyone, especially beginners. If you’re new to this approach, start by gradually building your aerobic stamina before moving onto high-intensity intervals. For best results, be sure to incorporate some form of strength training and steady-state aerobic exercise for a well-rounded fitness approach.
Ready to see gains every time you head to the gym? Check out our guide on how to find supplements and training methods to help you do so safely.