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HIIT benefits

Slow or fast? Long or short? Is HIIT the best type of training? Here’s everything that you need to know to make sure you’re training smart every time.

Cardio. It seems to be one of the most controversial subjects spoken about in any gym. There’s just something about it.

You either love cardio, taking to it like a duck to water, or you don’t. Many people believe that they know how to lose fat and gain muscle, and cardio is really not necessary. They feel that any form of cardio and HIIT is a complete waste of time and energy.

Others think the opposite is true. They feel that it’s an essential part of the how to lose fat and gain muscle process.

There is, however, one undisputable truth: No matter how much muscle the body can hang on to, no one will ever see it if the body fat isn’t stripped away to show off a lean physique. Granted, cardio can be a dull activity.

How dull?

There’s the boredom of the stationary bike, the burning bounce of the StairMaster or the repetitive pounding of the treadmill. Pick your poison. Whichever option you choose; 30 to 45 minutes can seem like a lifetime!

Can muscle and cardio fitness mix?

It’s true that you can’t maximize cardiovascular condition and muscle mass or strength simultaneously. But, you can blend both beginner weight training, how to build muscle mass, and cardio, to burn fat effectively with the right approach.

Now you can plod through grueling cardio workouts and hate every minute of it. You could also freshen it up and make it fun and effective with the one purpose: How to get lean and burn body fat.

HIIT Cardio

There Are Many Cardio Perks

Burning body fat is one effect. With that said, there are many health benefits of cardio and HIIT that can’t be ignored.

What are they?

It increases metabolic rates, which burns body fat. Cardio improves cholesterol levels. It boosts growth hormone secretion. Cardio also increases blood flow to the brain, increasing alertness.

You can expect improved digestion. As well, it reduces stress levels. If that weren’t enough, it also boosts immune system resistance.

If you’re 20 years old and planning to live forever, these health benefits might not be of interest to you.

The benefits are clear. But there’s still the question of which way is best.

Is it the increasingly popular high-intensity interval training (HIIT)?

Or, is it the more traditional long duration, low-intensity training?

Looking At HIIT

First, let’s look at HIIT. This form of training is no secret and has now been practiced for years. The main reason many people, including myself, love this is because it works!

Research shows a marked increase in calories and fat burned after a short (15 to 20 minute) HIIT session as compared to an hour of low-intensity cardio.

The next question is, if this is so much better, why waste time with the low-intensity form or anything else?

The fact is it’s hard to take this intensity every day. And, it’s so intense it might start to wear away your muscles over time. You’ll notice that this HIIT style is very effective when you have a limited amount of time, especially when your schedule requires that you do cardio right after a weight-training workout.

Most think of HIIT and equate it with running. The truth is that running is a great option, but by no means the only way to do HIIT.

There are many methods of putting it to good effect. Sprint intervals are very effective and intense. On an intensity scale of 1 to 10, the sprint interval portion of the interval training is a 10. Sprint intervals can vary in time and distance.

For instance, a runner may sprint a 100-yard interval with a short jog and then another 100-yard interval, several times around a track. The sprint intervals can be as short as 15 seconds.

The rest intervals of sprints are generally short in length. The idea is not to stop exercising. Simply exercise at a lower intensity than the sprint.

HIIT and Cycling

Cycling Intervals Are Effective With HIIT

Cycling intervals are also great. Interval training is especially useful for this type of indoor cycling or spinning classes. The intervals simulate various obstacles a cyclist may encounter on the road.

A great example of this is three sets of 40-second sprint intervals with a 20-second recovery period in between each set. You could also cycle for five minutes in the saddle, five minutes in the hover position and five minutes out of the saddle in a standing climb. Then repeat the intervals.

Tabatas are commonly used in cycling classes. These are short intervals of no more than four minutes in length. They consist of 20-second sprints with 10 seconds of recovery and eight reps.

Interval training keeps the spinning participants from getting bored and allows them to increase their intensity for the next set.

There Are Benefits To Heart Rate Interval Training

Heart rate interval training helps you measure how effective your workout is by tracking your maximum heart rate. Since interval training involves varying the intensity of exercise, the heart rate will also vary.

In this type of training, you wear a heart rate monitor and track your heart rate throughout the exercise.

To learn your maximal heart rate, take the number 220 and subtract your age. Then subtract that number by your resting heart rate.

This is best measured just before you get out of bed in the morning. This number should be the upper range of your maximal heart rate.

When you’re doing the sprint interval or HIIT portion of the exercise, your heart rate will be in this maximal range. As you recover, your heart rate will drop significantly.

The goal of heart rate training is to make sure your high-intensity intervals are allowing you to reach your maximal heart rate.

HIIT outdoors

What About Slower-Paced, Longer Cardio?

This is often done for 30 to 60 minutes as the body takes some time to switch over to fat being used as the preferred fuel source. If you’re training in a gym, you don’t have to use the same machine for the entire time.

Often, doing the cardio across several different machines will challenge the body in different ways. It can increase the amount of calories being burned.

Unlike HIIT, which requires explosive intervals followed by a relaxed state of recovery, this option involves working at a moderate heart rate zone for a longer length of time.

This means more calories will be burned during a session of this than HIIT when compared to time alone.

If you’re a beginner, this is physically and mentally easier than HIIT. Combine this with weight training and healthy nutrition, and your endurance will increase over time. You should realize that although long duration cardio is less efficient than HIIT, it does burn fat.

While body fat might not go reduce as fast, it will still drop. And, from my experience, since long duration cardio is easier, you’re less likely to skip workouts or quit.

I’d recommend long duration cardio if you have little endurance. Don’t forget, cardio without super strength training and healthy nutrition is useless and a waste of time. Keep it to moderate intensity.

Do it at 60 to 70% of your max heart rate (which is 220 – your age). Three times for 45 minutes is ideal. Start with 15 minutes. Add one minute each workout until you can do it 45 minutes.

Many people enjoy the elliptical trainer the most, but anything works. You could use the rower, stationary bike or do outdoor runs. Just keep it fresh and remember proper running form.

carb meal plan

Nutrition Is Key

There are a few points on pre-training nutrition to keep in mind. HIIT training will completely deplete your body of its stored fuel so pre-training nutrition is vital if performance is the ultimate goal.

If the desire is purely on how to reduce body fat, exercising in a fasted state would be a far better idea. Whichever way you choose, for most people, it’s uncomfortable to exercise on a full stomach. Be sure the food has time to digest.

Carbs are the main source of fuel for interval training. During exercise, it’s important to consume enough fluids.

For most interval training, it’s unnecessary to refuel during exercise since it’s usually so short. But, it can be good to rehydrate throughout the exercise. That’s especially true for lengthy bouts of interval training such as in a spinning class.

As for post training, it’s crucial to replace any fluids lost after HIIT. The general rule is to drink 20 to 24 ounces of water for every pound lost due to sweating. Combining carbs with protein in the two hours after interval training nearly doubles the glycogen storage in the body. The optimal ratio is four carbs to each one of protein.

An example of this type of refueling would be a whole grain bagel with two tablespoons of peanut butter. Restoring your glycogen will provide your body with enough fuel to allow you to interval train again the next day at the same or higher intensity.

So it’s clear to see that both forms of cardio have their benefits and downfalls. Either way you choose, there are some ways that you can introduce some freshness and energy to your cardio training.

HIIT Goals

Here Are Four Top Factors to Think About…

#1 Set A Goal

Just as it is for your resistance program, you should establish some kind of goal. No matter how simple it is a goal will help. It connects your cardio routine with a purpose.

If you just go through the motions of cardio, it’s going to be a painful and marginally rewarding activity at best. In addition to the physical perks you receive, cardio has the added benefit of a challenge.

It’s good to have some measurable objective to push yourself and improve. This is key to both enjoyment and adherence. Sadly, many overlook this.

#2 Pick Your Exercises

When it comes to picking the best exercises for you, it’s vital that you select what works for you.

What does that mean?

It means picking what’s right for your schedule and your life. I believe what’s best is relative.

Science shows us there are optimal exercises for burning fat, for burning calories and for maximizing VO2Max. There are optimal cars for driving. A Porsche would qualify. But, if you’ve got a family of four, the Porsche is not optimal no matter how good it looks!

It also comes down to what you can do and what you will do. Always remember to select what works best in your busy life and for your own goals.

When picking a cardio exercise, a good tip is to look at it from these three ways: Its capacity to burn body fat, its effect on cardio conditioning (improving the VO2Max) and whether it will keep you engaged.

#3 Set Your Schedule

Research supports early morning cardio (before eating anything) for maximal fat utilization. It works. But, it’s also true that there isn’t always time to train in the morning.

#4 Train In Your Target Heart Rate Zones

It’s easier to find intensity levels when weight training than when doing cardio. That’s why it’s wise to train with a heart-rate monitor. It’s one of the best tools for monitoring your training.

Each workout, you can put yourself in a fat burning state or you can push harder and improve your VO2Max, hence your cardio conditioning. Most cardio programs include both.

BUILD Protein


In addition to healthy nutrition, regular resistance and cardio exercise will have a huge impact on the quality of your life. Regular cardio training may not be something that comes naturally. That doesn’t matter.


There are ways to make it work in your life. As for which is best? It depends. The best is the way that works for you.

-By Keith Cormican, RD

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is crossfit right for you

The truth about CrossFit may surprise you.

Here’s all you need to know about the workout trend that everyone can’t stop talking about.

You see people do it all the time. You see the hype. You see the before and after pictures. Still, you’re just not quite sure if CrossFit is for you. Maybe you already have a gym that you like and a workout that suits you.

Or, maybe you have your own social circle at the gym that you like and don’t want to leave. But there’s no harm in trying something else and meeting new people along the way. There is an abundance of benefits you can get from CrossFit.

Yes, it’s high intensity and will most likely leave you sore for the next couple days, but no pain no gain, right?

Whether you like running in the park, jumping rope at your house or lifting weights at the gym, CrossFit might just be for you.

Either way, if you’re happy where you are or want to kick up your gym routines, we’re here to help you decide if CrossFit is right for you.

What Is CrossFit?

One thing is for sure, it is not for the faint of heart. CrossFit is a high-intensity workout that combines all kinds of diverse workouts and has you do different workouts of the day that could include burpees, snatches, dips, push-up, cartwheels, deadlifts, scales, holds or sit-ups.

The workouts also are complete with different types of equipment like Olympic weights, rings, parallel bars, medicine balls, jump ropes or heavy ropes.

All of these different workouts and equipment are aimed to target areas such as cardio, strength, flexibility, speed, power, balance and stamina. It is also important to note that CrossFit is not just one workout that is repeated day after day.

Each day you are working an entirely different group of muscles so that every day you are strengthening different muscles.

That’s A Lot of Dough!

CrossFit definitely isn’t free and isn’t $10 a month like Planet Fitness would be. On average, joining a CrossFit gym costs around $125 to $200 a month. You could also drop in on classes that range from $15 to $25 dollars per session. But, if you look at the amount of equipment at the gym, the space itself, the benefits and the knowledge of the coach, if it is worth it or not all depends on your personal preferences.

If you are someone who is happy jogging around the park for free, maybe CrossFit isn’t for you. CrossFit classes are normally about an hour. That is one heck of a workout you’ll squeeze in just one hour.

Consider doing that instead of performing 45 minutes on the elliptical, 30 minutes of weights and another 10 minutes of stretching.

You’ll Look Good!

A 2013 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning examined the effects of a CrossFit-based high-intensity power training program on aerobic fitness and body composition.

This study took 23 adult males and 20 adult women who had completed 10 weeks of CrossFit, which consisted of deadlifts, squats and overhead presses in a circuit fashion and done as quickly as possible.

The participants varied when it came to fitness levels and body recomposition but at the end of a 10-week CrossFit workout, they showed noteworthy levels of decreased body fat percentages and increased aerobic capacity. It can be very difficult for people to figure out how to reduce body fat. Interestingly enough, regardless of gender, starting body composition, fitness level and changes in their fat and muscle percentages, they all lost the substantial amounts of body weight.

If you are a beginner, CrossFit will definitely be more of a challenge. But, if you are looking for workout routines for weight loss, then CrossFit might just be for you.

crossfit time

“I Just Don’t Have Time to Workout!”

We touched on the fact that doing CrossFit is definitely a time saver when it comes to working out and you can get a bodyweight workout in just an hour while a standard workout may take two hours and you only get half as much out of it. A study done by the Department of Kinesiology at Kansas State University in 2013 examined the different effects of a high-intensity workout compared to a moderate-intensity workout.

The results of this study showed that people who did high-intensity workouts, like CrossFit, were able to maintain exercise enjoyment, as well as spend much less time in the gym each week.

Most people claim they don’t enjoy working out because of the time commitment and how easily they get bored. So, if time management is an issue for you, then go ahead and try squeezing CrossFit into that busy schedule of yours.

You’ll end up saving yourself time in the long run and, at the end of the day, you’ll likely be much happier with your workout.

CrossFit Is A Group Thing

You may have your own group of friends, but you can never have too many friends, right? A major part of CrossFit is the sense of community it provides. You constantly have people supporting you and pushing you to be the best you that you can be.

There have been many studies done that prove that working out in a group will help you enjoy the class more, stick to the program and increase your own motivation. CrossFit isn’t easy. No doubt! But, having that extra support group keeps you on track and will push you to do it harder, faster and better with each and every workout.

The things people say about CrossFit communities are nothing short of amazing. They all talk about what a judgment free zone it is and how it encourages acceptance because you leave your title at the door. You are all there for the exact same reason.

It doesn’t matter who is a CEO and who mops floors.

There are even social networking apps that are based around different CrossFit gyms. If being social, making new friends and getting super toned is something that interests you, then we certainly think CrossFit might be for you.


You may have heard some scary rumors about CrossFit and how it has higher risks of injury than other workouts, especially rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is a condition caused by overworked muscles in which the muscles explode. It can cause muscle soreness and weakness.

It could even lead to kidney failure and, in extreme cases, even death. Well, those stories are false.

A study done in 2013 discovered that there is no evidence that shows that CrossFit injuries are more common than other forms of high-intensity exercise. Yes, CrossFit is hard. And, yes, CrossFit will make you muscles sore.

But, it is all about how you handle the workout. When you run around the park there are risks. You could fall and break an ankle. Or, you could trip and break an arm.

The CrossFit community, the members and the coaches aim to teach anyone that participates in CrossFit about the right and wrong kind of pain and other health risks linked with CrossFit (or other workouts). Just like with any form of strength training workouts, you need to make sure you aren’t overtraining.

You also need to stretch after every workout and, though it is important to push yourself, you have to make sure you know your limits.


This is one of our favorites. A lot of the CrossFit community chooses to follow the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet or hunter-gatherer diet, is a lot different than you think.

It consists of foods that can be hunted, fished or gathered. Well, years ago they were hunted, fished or gathered. Today, they are bought.

The Paleo diet includes foods such as eggs, fruits, veggies, mushrooms, nuts and seeds. When it comes to meat, according to Paleo diet experts, 60% of food energy should come from animals that you could catch in the wild like bison, fish, deer and turkey. But, here comes the tough part: No processed grains, beans, peanuts, raw dairy, salt or oils.

What does the Paleo diet have to do with CrossFit?

After that killer workout, your muscles need lots of glucose to repair them and this is where all those fruits, veggies and no processed foods come in – along with all that protein that helps with fat-burning.

Needless to say, this diet isn’t easy and not everyone in the CrossFit community follows it. But, it is really beneficial when it comes to doing CrossFit on a regular schedule.

At the end of the day, you need to find a healthy eating approach that you can follow and that fits your own specific lifestyle because what is the point of muscle building workouts if you don’t get to indulge and actually eat what you want?

healthy for crossfit

Your Heart Loves CrossFit!

Who doesn’t love a healthy heart? Another awesome benefit of CrossFit is how much it improves your heart rate. If fasted cardio is one of your favorite parts of working out, then you will fall in love with CrossFit. Throughout the entire workout, your heart rate is elevated. This also helps to boost your endurance.

According to the American Council on Exercise, there was a study done that showed that participants’ heart rates were elevated to 90% of maximum heart rate.

Also, studies showed that during a CrossFit workout you average 80% of VO2max. That is the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during a high-intensity workout. Moreover, fitness guidelines suggest 40 to 85% of VO2max for cardio fitness improvement. Basically, you are getting one healthy heart and two healthy lungs after that CrossFit workout.

Skip the run in the park. If you truly love doing cardio, then head to the CrossFit gym.

Not So Fast!

Whether CrossFit is right for you or not, there are some precautions that any CrossFit beginner should take. First off, don’t go too hard, too fast. Pace yourself.


Simple, it isn’t worth the potential injury. It is also important to be consistent. You aren’t going to get in the shape you want in a week. Take your time. Let your body adjust and become accustomed to these much more difficult workouts.

Something else that goes along with that is focusing on short-term and long-term goals. If you go into CrossFit only thinking long-term, you might be a little disappointed because you should really be focusing on your short-term goals. Those are the goals that are achievable. Make short-term goals. Once you achieve them, make more. You’ll find accomplishing them is very fulfilling. And, they’ll help you get to your long-term goal.

BUILD Protein


There are a lot of factors involved when trying to figure out if CrossFit is right for you. It is a very high-intensity workout and it costs more than the average gym membership.

But, if a killer workout in less time and also joining a community that aims to better you in more ways than one sounds like fun, then go ahead and give CrossFit a try.

There are some hazards involved, like any workout, but just be sure to listen to your body. Always warm up, cool down and stretch like you would with any other workout. Being a beginner at CrossFit isn’t easy. It’s really hard. People will definitely welcome you with open arms and support you, but make sure to know your limits.

Give CrossFit a try. You might think it’s not for you at first, but once you build up your strength and endurance you might find yourself wondering why it took you so long to start.


– By Sarah Bayard


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