Want to get the weight loss benefits of increased mitochondrial function without potentially damaging your metabolism?
The good news is that there is a way to lose weight fast and it actually has a ton of other benefits too. It’s called HIIT – and you’ll see what makes it so effective in a moment. HIIT training, in addition to lesser known weight loss techniques such as resistance cardio, Tabata, steady state cardio, and waist trainers, can all be combined for even faster weight loss and progress toward the ultimate goal of a smaller waistline.
What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and the clue is in the word ‘interval’. Essentially, this is a form of training that incorporates short intervals of high intensity alternating with periods of lower intensity. So for example, you might exert yourself at maximum effort for 1 minute and then jog lightly for 3 minutes to recover before starting again. This is in contrast to ‘steady state’ exercise which is the normal approach to cardio that involves running at mid-intensity for 30-60 minutes.
Traditionally, it was thought that exercise was best for losing weight when performed at a mid-level of intensity, around 70% of your MHR (maximum heart rate). The theory behind this belief was that training at this intensity would put your body in a state where it would need to use the aerobic system and would be going slowly enough to get the energy using that method. Conversely, if you train at higher intensity – say 90%of your maximum heart rate – then you will be going too fast and that will force your body to rely only on anaerobic systems that don’t burn fat, and thus are not as efficient when trying to lose weight.
The assumption ultimately was that training at 70% must therefore result in the maximum amount of fat burned. And in the short term – it does.
But if you can alternate between 90% and 70%, then what you’re actually doing is forcing your body to use multiple types of energy systems. First, you use anaerobic systems which completely reduces the blood sugar level and available ATP and then you use the aerobic system. Because you’ve previously exhausted your blood sugar though, the body is going to be even more reliant on those fat stores and you’ll burn even more fat, even more efficiently.
What’s more, is that you’re forcing your body to get energy when blood sugar is rock bottom. What does this do? It does the exact same thing as lowering your blood sugar via fasting or other methods. This means that you can see many of the same benefits that come from challenging your body’s energy systems such as super fast weight loss and improved mitochondrial count and function.
And as an added bonus, using HIIT also improves your calorie burn throughout the rest of the day because you’ll have reduced glycogen stores and blood sugar. This is what some people refer to as the ‘after burn effect’ and it means that you can continue to increase your active metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories) for hours after your training finishes. HIIT can be used with any type of exercise, it just requires you to break the session down into periods of intensity and of active recovery.
You can alternate between sprinting and jogging on a treadmill for example, or you can switch between skipping rope quickly or slowly. This is where using your fitness tracker comes in handy – workout your MHR by training as hard as you can and seeing what the maximum your heartrate will reach is. Then use your watch to switch between periods of training that hover around that number and less intensive training at around 70%.
An added bonus of HIIT? You can have a very intensive workout in about 10-20 minutes as opposed to an hour! So you essentially get the weight loss and fat burning effects of a one hour workout in just a fraction of the time. This is a much more efficient way to train and a method that many people find much easier to fit into a busy schedule.
Similar to HIIT is to alternate between high intensity and short periods of complete rest. You can do this with a training method that is known as the ‘tabata protocol’. This is a 4 minute training routine that involves 8 intervals of all-out intensity, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
So for example, you might sprint on the spot for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds and repeat. Or you might punch a punch bag at full intensity for 20 seconds and then rest for 10. This should take 4 minutes in total and you shouldn’t knock it until you try it – it absolutely devastates you.
Tabata is an advanced level workout that seriously taxes the heart and the energy systems and it’s not recommended for those without experience. If you’re new to training, then consider starting with a 2 minute version or a 1 minute version and building up. Eventually though, Tabata can be your secret weapon in training.
Lose Weight Fast With Resistance Cardio
The danger with HIIT is that it can still risk cannibalizing some muscle for energy and you’ll still drastically raise cortisol.
One way to get around this (and this works for fasted cardio to some extent too) is to train using ‘resistance cardio’. Resistance training refers to weights, refers to resistance machines and refers to anything where you are pushing or pulling against a force or resistance.
Cardio of course is any kind of exercise that uses the aerobic energy system. Put these together and what you have is a form of resistance training that taxes the aerobic system. A good example would be riding a stationary bike on a high resistance setting for instance. Another example might be swimming.
In this case, you will be burning more calories than if you were doing cardio without the resistance because it will take more energy for your muscles to push you past the resistance they’re facing.
At the same time though, you’ll also create all the same triggers that lead to muscle growth.
“When you add weight to your cardiovascular exercises,” says Stan Yan of aimvein, “you create microtears and you’ll see a build-up of metabolites in the muscles that lead to growth, such as testosterone and growth hormone.”
Yan also states “these metabolites can be detected by simple blood tests. More blood will be directed to the muscles and that will increase protein synthesis.”
In other words, when you use the muscles more during cardio, you can simultaneously protect them against being broken down!
This makes resistance cardio one of the very best forms of cardio available for anyone hoping to lose weight. And in fact, lifting weights in general is a great way to lose weight. Not only does this burn calories directly but it puts the body in a more anabolic state – which as we already discussed helps you to burn more calories.
At the same time, simply having muscle actually burns more calories as it takes energy to maintain muscle mass. This is another reason that your active metabolic rate is not an accurate measurement of your fat burn: it doesn’t take into account the proportion of your body weight that is muscle vs fat.
When you build muscle then, you improve your hormone balance further, making yourself even more efficient at burning fat. What’s more, you’ll send energy to the muscles and you’ll burn more calories throughout the day and during sleep. This is what makes the kettlebell the optimal tool for weight loss.
And as an additional added bonus, many of the people who think they want to lose weight actually want to tone muscle. In other words, muscle is often what gives you the ‘dream physique’ and not low fat. That cellulite you ladies want to get rid of? Burning calories won’t do it – only toning the muscle underneath the flesh will get rid of that appearance and make you look toned and wrinkle-free. In addition, when trying to find out how to lose weight fast for men, the kettlebell is king.
Introducing the Kettlebell
So what is the best form of resistance cardio? Arguably that would be the kettlebell. Kettlebells are weights that are made up of a large iron ball and a handle protruding from the top. You can hold on to the handle with both hands at the top and then swing the weight in order to train and this will add an element of imbalance and momentum to your regular weight training. This immediately makes it more effective and more ‘functional’ because you are forced to use your supporting muscles to counter the angle and trajectory of the weight. It makes your training less predictable and more challenging.
At the same time, kettlebells are ideal for resistance cardio and fast weight loss as they can be used for long, continuous sessions. The kettlebell swing is a move that involves swinging the weight between your legs and then up into the air while performing a squatting motion. This allows you to maintain constant movement against the weight, thereby helping you to keep your heart rate high.
Better yet, this movement also challenges you to use the legs, core and arms. By using multiple muscle groups at once – and especially the legs which contain the largest muscle groups in the body – you can increase the subsequent release of anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone and thereby burn more fat. This is something that’s very hard to do any other way because you normally need a barbell and a squat rack in order to use these movements – which take up a lot of space in the home.
You can incorporate kettlebell training into your HIIT workouts or use it with the tabata protocol. Another way to use them is as a form of steady state cardio.
Perform 100 reps with a kettlebell and you can burn a lot of additional calories and trigger the release of all the right hormones.
While it’s true that HIIT can do a lot of good for you, again the key is not to be reactionary and claim that it is the only form of exercise worth doing! Just as important is to continue with steady state cardio for a number of reasons…
Benefits of Going Steady
Steady state cardio would be any form of cardiovascular exercise that you continue at a set pace for a specific amount of time. This can truly be anything ranging from typical exercise like walking or jogging, but it can also include the less well known, such as jumping on trampolines for adults. Adult trampolines are rapidly growing in popularity due to the many benefits they can provide for those who don’t want to be “hardcore gym junkies”. For starters, trampoline jumping as a form of steady state cardio is very good for your heart and improving your resting heart rate. When you use trampolines at higher levels of intensity, this causes the heart to beat so fast that the left ventricle (which stores oxygenated blood before pumping it out) isn’t able to refill entirely between contractions. At a lower intensity this doesn’t happen and that allows you to train that left ventricle and cause it to grow (just like any muscle!).
Eventually, this allows you to increase its capacity which improves your resting heart rate. This is very important because an improved resting heart rate will allow you to pump more blood around your body with each contraction and because it will improve your ‘parasympathetic tone’. What this means is that you’ll have a better ability to relax, recover and focus. It will reduce your blood stress levels too and thereby reduce your fat storage.
Meanwhile, steady state cardio also trains your lungs and your VO2 max. VO2 max is the amount of oxygen unis per kilogram of bodyweight per minute that the body is capable of using. HIIT can improve VO2 max but steady state cardio will do it better because you can train the lungs for longer. Specifically, training at your aerobic threshold – the hardest point at which you can still use your aerobic system – can enhance your VO2 max and thereby further improve your energy efficiency and fat burn.
Steady state cardio also has the advantage of allowing you to recover more quickly and is much less unpleasant and more enjoyable. Again, this will probably ultimately come down to individual differences but the best option is likely to do both types of training.
Justin Arndt is the author of the upcoming book, Lose Weight Fast: Weight Loss Secrets of Professional Athletes. He is also the Senior Editor at https://loseweight.io.