by JJ Virgin
You see these folks at your gym, huffing away on elliptical machines and waiting impatiently for aerobics classes. What if I told you the right exercise could give you better fat-burning, muscle-building, metabolism-boosting benefits than the hours treadmills and aerobics classes require, in just minutes a day.
I know: it sounds like an infomercial, but I’ve got the science and experience to back it.
What Is Burst Training?
High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called burst training, involves short bursts of high-intensity-style exercise for 30 to 60 seconds followed by one-to-two-minute recovery periods.
You don’t need special equipment to do burst training. If I’m attending a medical conference and don’t have time for the hotel gym, I’ll find the nearest stairs. You can get those same benefits at your mall stairs. (Sure, you might garner a few stares from curious passersby, but so what?)
See those guys running up the giant hill at your local park? That’s burst training.
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How Burst Training Blasts Fat
When you burst, your body creates what scientists call oxygen debt, which it must then work to repay. This recovery requires energy, which your body utilizes via fat oxidation. Literally, you’re burning fat to meet this increased demand.
Sure, you also burn fat while you ride that treadmill, but the lower intensity doesn’t require any metabolic post-exercise repair, so you get limited overall metabolic benefits.
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Put another way: the more intense your exercise, the bigger metabolic cost you create and more fat calories you burn when you’re done.
Trust me, burst training is intense.
Studies Show Burst Training Superior for Fat Loss
Studies prove burst training is superior to cardio for fat loss. One study in the journal Metabolism, for instance, compared a 20-week endurance-training (ET) program to a 15-week burst-training program. The HIIT group showed a nine-fold greater fat loss than the ET group.
Numerous other studies confirm those benefits. A study in the Journal of Obesity, for instance, found that burst training forces your muscle to utilize more fat both during and after exercise.
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And another study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that moderately active women burned impressive amounts of fat doing just two weeks of burst training.
Burst Training Optimizes Fat-Burning Hormones
Numerous events elevate your stress hormone cortisol: your boss yelling about your under-performing third-quarter report, lack of sleep, and endurance exercise. Yep, plugging away for hours on the elliptical machine can raise your stress hormones. Two things cortisol does very well are stall fat loss and break down muscle.
Now, here’s the deal. All exercise raises cortisol. Unlike endurance training, though, burst training also raises your anabolic (muscle-building) hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH).
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HGH is also called your “fountain of youth” hormone. Among its benefits, it boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, and helps you burn fat faster. To maintain optimal HGH levels, get 8 hours’ sleep every night and do burst training.
Ready to Get Started?
I hope I’ve convinced you burst training is the optimal workout for fast and lasting fat loss. The key involves full-out maximum speed for up to 60 seconds.
If you can do burst training over one minute at a time, you’re not doing it hard enough. You need to step up the intensity: you should be breathless after that burst-training minute. You’ll subsequently slow down to a normal pace to catch your breath for one to two minutes, and then repeat.
Lack of time no longer provides an excuse to skip exercise, since you can complete a burst-training workout in about 15 minutes. Which, coincidentally, is about the amount of time it takes for those elliptical-machine loving folks to find a parking place at the gym.
Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin is author of The New York Times Bestseller The Virgin Diet.
Featured photo by Greg Westfall
Boutcher SH. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. J Obes. 2011;2011:868305. Epub 2010 Nov 24.
Talanian JL, et al. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. J Appl Physiol. 2007 Apr;102(4):1439-47.
Tremblay A, et al. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8