HIIT It and Quit It: An Introduction to HIIT Cardio



When it comes to leaning out and burning fat, no one can deny that cardio, or more specifically,  true High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)-style cardio, is key to helping you reach your goals.

What is HIIT, and How Does It Differ from Standard (Steady State) Cardio?

Before we delve into the world of HIIT, let’s first differentiate it from that Steady State cardio that we love to hate.

Steady State Cardio is simply engaging in any cardiovascular exercise where your energy output and effort remains at the same level for the duration of the workout. Steady State workouts tend to be of low-to-moderate intensity and on the lengthier side. For the purposes of a greater energy output, which translates into a higher overall calorie burn. For example, walking at a brisk pace of 4.0 on the treadmill for an hour, without changing the speed or incline at any point in the workout, would be considered steady state.To further break it down, there are three classes of Steady State: low-intensity, moderate-intensity, and high-intensity cardio. It bears mentioning that operating at high-intensity for a lengthy duration is not recommended. Yes, it will burn a lot of calories, but it will also burn the body out and waste muscle (muscle catabolism), especially if performed in a fasted state. Muscle catabolism occurs when exercise causes muscles to break down, and there are no nutrients in your system available to immediately begin the process of repairing tissues and rebuilding muscles. HIIT-style cardio training can prevent muscle catabolism, and is also where high intensity comes into play.

As opposed to Steady State, true HIIT cardio, on a basic level, involves varying your energy expenditure and intensity, alternating between maximum effort to low effort throughout a shorter duration of a workout. HIIT training is not to be confused with standard interval training, which does involve varying intensity throughout the duration of the exercise, but doesn’t involve maximum effort during the higher energy bursts. True HIIT is not sustainable for long periods of time, but interval training can be. In HIIT, you give 90-100% effort in a very short, very intense burst, and then follow that up with an active recovery period. These intervals are then repeated until the desired training time is completed. For example – sprinting at a speed of 12 on a treadmill for 30 seconds, followed by a minute and a half of walking at a speed of 3.5 would be considered HIIT. You would repeat this for 16 minutes, or 8 rounds to completion.  

The benefits of HIIT training are numerous. These include shorter durations, not running the risk of catabolism (since you aren’t training for too long), boosting your body’s production of human growth hormone (which can increase overall caloric burn, slowing the aging process), improving heart health (entering the anaerobic zone – where your heart works harder – improves blood flow), increasing endurance levels (your body with time adapts to higher levels of intensity), and preventing workout boredom ( you can’t be bored when your heart is flying out of your chest and you’re running as fast as your legs will take you).

The biggest benefit of HIIT is its ability to boost your body’s calorie burning potential for a full 24 hours after you engage in the workout. This, of course, translates to a greater calorie burn for your day, and greater fat loss overall. The Guerilla Chemist and Laurin Conlin did a fantastic video on the topic, in case you wanted to know more about how HIIT differs from steady state cardiovascular training.  

How to HIIT It

Now that we have defined what true HIIT training is – let us now explain how to actually engage in it. As previously mentioned, true HIIT training involves a very short burst of 90-100% effort, followed by a slightly longer active recovery period. The easiest way to engage in HIIT training, in our opinion, is with a good old fashioned treadmill. The following is an example of a HIIT cardio workout:  

3-5 minutes of warming up, at a brisk pace – about 3.5-4.0 mph

15-30 seconds full sprint, at a pace of 10-12 mph

60-90 seconds active recovery – walking at a pace of 3.0-4.0 mph

Repeat the sprint/walk intervals, for 5-8 rounds

3-5 minutes of cooling down, at a brisk pace – about 3.5-4.0 mph

HIIT-style training of course isn’t limited to the treadmill, or even equipment, for that matter. If you prefer a no-equipment approach, engaging in plyometric-style exercises work well, too. For example, doing burpees, as quickly as possible for 30 seconds, followed by a minute of light jogging works well as a HIIT interval.   

Fasted vs Non-Fasted Training

In discussing cardio training, one of the greatest questions is which reigns supreme – fasted vs non-fasted cardio? We aired an excellent podcast on the topic, with the gist of it being this: they both have their benefits! Fasted cardio is said to be an effective tool in fat loss, because low insulin levels ensure that your body is able to mobilize and utilize fat stored for energy. However, engaging in fasted training for extended periods of time also runs you the risk of burning precious muscle, along with the fat.  

Conversely, non-fasted (fed) training will burn through whatever it is you ate prior to exercising. Fed training means you can train harder, for longer periods of time, since your body is properly primed and fueled for your workout. You are also at a lower risk of losing muscle when your cardio training is fed, since your muscles have the nutrients they need readily available.      

Supplementation During HIIT Cardio

As with any type of training, proper supplementation will give your HIIT training the boost it needs. Here are the supplements you can use before, during, and after engaging in HIIT-style training:

Before: Prior to training, you may be looking for a bit of an energy boost. To that effect, Cobra 6P Extreme Powder packs an energy punch, filled with fat-burning ingredients like caffeine and BioPerine. Just don’t overdo it on the powder, since HIIT already pushes your heart rate up to very high levels. If you are stimulant-sensitive, or just want to boost your overall fat burn, Trojan Horse, our stimulant-free fat burner, works very well, and can even be stacked with other stimulant-based fat burners.   

During: No matter what type of cardio you are engaging in – intensity or duration – sipping on BCAAs while working out will ensure that your body keeps its precious muscle. Resurgence will not only supply you with much-needed amino acids and vitamins, but also with focus-centric ingredients, to keep your head in the game.  

After: After an intense workout, it is important to restore both glycogen and available proteins in the body to prevent muscle wasting. Towards that end, Isolation is pure whey protein in isolate form – which is the quickest-absorbing protein available. If muscle-building is your goal, mixing in Fast Food will ensure that muscles are refueled quickly, and that available nutrients get pushed right into your depleted muscles, fast.  

All in all, there are a vast number of benefits to incorporating HIIT training into your workout regimen. If you are short on time, looking to increase your fat burning potential, or both, go ahead and give HIIT a try, today.