Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training

Most of us are aware that the difference between calories taken in and calories spent seems to the key to either gaining or losing weight (Dionne, Johnson, White, St-Pierre, & Tremblay, 1997).

Raising your metabolic rate – by means of exercise – seems to be aimed towards getting very equation (‘the calorie equation’) to work for you. However, over the years, health and fitness researchers have reported that exercise increases appetite (especially in women); this can potentially lead to weight gain. If, however, on the other hand, these exercisers are prescribed a high-protein and low-fat diet, they end up losing body fat and packing on lean muscle mass. Although a number of factors are at play, the fact remains that protein contains less calories per gram as compared to fat – which helps in getting the calorie equation right especially if combined with an exercise program to burn most calories, not only during workout but also during the rest of the day. So, how do you know what kind of exercise programs would require burning of more calories during and post workout?

Combining exercise with a low-fat diet can shift the balance in favour of calories burned and thus the results (Tremblay, Almeras, Boer, Kranenbarg, & Despres, 1994; King & Blundell, 1995).

Does Intensity of Exercise Matter?

The intensity of exercise does seem to make a difference. Strength and conditioning coaches have always known the fact that those who indulge in high intensity interval training (HIIT) are generally leaner than the ones who utilize other modes of training. Research findings now support such an idea (Yoshioka et al., 2001).

Some Interesting Facts Related to High Intensity Interval Training

HIIT seems to not only cause better ‘calorie control’ (Yoshioka et al., 2001) but has a number of other benefits as well; these can be summarized as under:

• A study conducted way back in 1994 which directly compared a low to medium intensity weight loss program to HIIT, drew some interesting conclusions from. In comparison to a ‘traditional’ 20-week program for weight loss, HIIT was shown to cause significantly more fat loss over a 15-week period. This, in spite of the fact that the traditional weight loss program expended twice the amount of calories per session than each session of HIIT (Tremblay, Simoneau, & Bouchard, 1994).

Appetite suppression (as opposed to a low intensity exercise session burning the same amount of calories) (Imbeault, Saint-Pierre, Almeras, & Tremblay, 1997).

• Increased post-exercise energy expenditure and post-exercise oxygen consumption (a measure of metabolic rate) compared to that after a low intensity exercise session (Sedlock, Fissinger, & Melby, 1989; Bahr & Sejersted, 1991; Bielinski, Schutz, & Jequier, 1985; Phelain, Reinke, Harris, & Melby, 1997). Although, negligible changes are seen after an acute bout of HIIT, long term effects are quite significant (Yoshioka et al., 2001).

In addition to increase in post-exercise energy consumption, resting levels of energy expenditure as well as oxygen consumption are elevated after HIIT.

Increased subcutaneous fat loss (Tremblay et al., 1990).

• Has great residual effects – individuals who lose fat using HIIT protocols are more likely to maintain their low body weights and continue to keep losing fat (Doucet, Imbeault, Almeras, & Tremblay, 1999).


HIIT, in short, seems to the ideal method of training for almost everyone: athletes, men looking to get that lean look or women looking to get toned.


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Yoshioka, M., Doucet, E., St-Pierre, S., Almeras, N., Richard, D., Labrie, A. et al. (2001). Impact of high-intensity exercise on energy expenditure, lipid oxidation and body fatness. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord, 25, 332-339.

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Dr. Deepak S Hiwale

Dr. Deepak S Hiwale, a.k.a "The Fitness Doc" specializes in sports medicine in addition to being an elite personal trainer. He currently runs an elite personal training company in West London. As a sports injury and fitness writer-presenter, he tries to disseminate as much knowledge as possible for the benefit of all. MBBS (University of Pune); MSC, Sports and Exercise Medicine (University of Glasgow); Diploma in Personal Training (YMCA Dip. PT, London).

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