HIIT – The Most Targeted Relief From Belly Fat
High Intensity Interval Training is one of the most effective ways of targeting visceral fat (the hard belly fat), improves your physical fitness in a tenth of the time that normal cardio would take and can help to prevent chronic disease.
We know that diet is the most important factor for improving body composition, but what role does exercise play?
There is a lot of conflicting information going around about exercise, some people will spend an hour a day doing cardio because they are convinced it’s the only way to drop body fat.
Other people will tell you that if you exercise too much you will start to break down muscle for energy and obviously we want to avoid this.
I think the simplest way to look at it is the same with any other problem, look at what the professionals are doing and model them.
So if we were to look at professional runners for example we would find that sprinters tend to have very muscular physiques whereas long distance runners tend to be very skinny often to the point of looking malnourished.
What does this tell us?
The sprinter who runs at maximum effort for a very short distance will develop a more toned muscular body .
The long distance runner’s body on the other hand will need to adapt to conserve energy so building muscle will be seen as irrelevant and a waste of much needed energy.
Both athletes have minimal body fat.
If you want to build a toned body designed for power then we need to model the training methods of the sprint athletes.
WHY ARE THE SPRINTERS SO BUFF?
Running at full pace switches on your flight-or fight mode, flooding the body with hormones like adrenalin and noradrenaline which allow your muscles, heart and lungs to perform at their highest capacity.
This high-intensity exercise places a huge amount of stress on your body to produce high amounts of energy very quickly and as a result your body adapts and you become fitter.
High Intensity Interval training or HIIT models this type of training.
It involves sprinting at 100% effort for short intense bursts, followed by a rest period where you might run at 20% effort or rest completely for a similar period of time.
An example might be 30 seconds of all out sprinting followed by 30 seconds at 20% effort, this can be used for any type of cardio exercise like running, cycling, swimming or rowing.
The most exciting part about this type of training is that it gets your heat rate up and keeps it there so that you burn more fat for energy in a shorter period of time without cutting into your muscle stores.
Interestingly, the receptors for the same hormones that your body releases during flight-or fight are found on fat cells, in particular, visceral fat (belly fat and the hard fat that you can’t pinch between your fingers).
For this reason scientists believe that we can reduce visceral fat, the dangerous fat, believed to a contributing factor to heart disease and diabetes with HIIT.
A study of HIIT performed by young men resulted in an average of 17% reduction of their visceral fat.
Because HIIT is so demanding it requires a shorter training volume, most HIIT programs go for around 20 minutes.
As long as the intensity is high enough, you could make big improvements in a fraction of the time.
Why spend an hour running on a treadmill in a gym, breaking down your hard-earned muscle for energy when you could do 20 minutes of HIIT a week and get a better result?
HOW DOES IT WORK?
This might come as a surprise but oxygen is actually very destructive to most of the cells in your body.
The reason why we need to breathe oxygen so badly that it feels like our lungs will explode if we don’t is because it is used by the body to generate the majority of the energy we need to survive and without it our cells start to die pretty quickly.
Oxygen is turned into ATP energy by mitochondria, which you can think of as tiny energy factories located inside each cell in the body.
Each individual mitochondria is smaller than a grain of sand but they are critical for your overall health.
The average person has billions of mitochondria in their skeletal muscles and the fitter you are the more mitochondria you have.
This is why we become ‘out of breath’ when we run because our mitochondria are working overtime and need to breathe more oxygen to keep up.
The amount of oxygen that our mitochondria can consume when we push ourselves to the limit is the ultimate measure of fitness, it’s called ‘VO2 max’.
A low VO2 max is correlated with a higher risk of developing all sorts of illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer.
When you push your body to its limit, your mitochondria respond by becoming more efficient at converting oxygen into energy and the amount of mitochondria in the targeted muscle cells increases.
Without exercise mitochondria will naturally decrease in both number and function over time, researchers believe that this could be a reason why some of us become prone to disease as we get older, why we lose energy as we age and why our bodies begin to deteriorate over time.
An increased amount of mitochondria in your body’s cells on the other hand can drastically improve your health and fitness, and the best part is you can do it in less than 20 minutes a week!