Scientific Nutrition Update 9: Hack Your Cardio with High Intensity Interval Training

In this episode we again discuss something I have talked about before and that is High Intensity Interval Training.  High Intensity Interval Training is one of the few actually useful and interesting exercise hacks I have ever come across, because it lets you do so much more in less time.  As always script and episode is right below the fold here.

For today’s episode we are going to talk about a topic that blew my mind the first time I learned about it.  It is called High Intensity Interval Training, and it is truly one of the most interesting and effective exercise hacks I have ever come across.


It truly allows for incredible gains with a minimal investment of time. As always here we are looking for the greatest results we can get with the smallest amount of work.  What I’m going to show you here is a way to get huge benefits from exercise in a tiny fraction of the amount of time.


When most of us envision cardio we imagine long plodding runs, or extensive bike rides.  That is absolutely not what we are going to be discussing here. Instead we are going to trying to get the same or better results in a tiny fraction of the time.


This is accomplished using something called HIIT which stands for High Intensity Interval Training.  And this is basically what it sounds like, short periods of high intensity work, interspersed with rest periods.  This form of exercise can accomplish quite a few different benefits, and it takes significantly less time than the equivalent traditional cardio.


Okay first things first, you need to understand what a HIIT workout might look like.  There are several different variations, however, they all rely on a single concept and that is maximal effort for a short period, and then a rest period.  One example would be to do ten 20 second sprints with a 40 second rest break. This ends up being just over three minutes of actual work, but has huge benefits.And in my opinion this is actually too much work! Most people will benefit from both fewer sets and a shorter time period.  What I have used for effect is a 100 meter sprint followed by a 40 second rest. I do three of these and then add a longer 2 minute rest. Finish with three more sprints. This ends up being only about a minute and a half of work, but has huge benefits. Or what I also love to do is hop on the rowing machine and do 20 seconds of effort, and then alternate with 40 seconds of rest for five or six sets.


This may seem too good to  be true, however there is compelling scientific evidence that it can work.  Gibala and McGee found that using a HIIT protocol that subjects doubled the length of time they could perform submaximal cardio.  So they doubled their ability to do what I call “traditional cardio”in only two weeks well only training three times a week (Gibala McGee).  Muscular adaptations were also the same for HIIT groups doing 2.5 hrs of work a week as compared to a group doing endurance work for 10.5 hrs per week (Gibala McGee).


There is also evidence that shows that HIIT can change your body’s carbohydrate metabolism in a similar way to endurance cardio (Burgomaster and Heigenhauser).  These changes show evidence that the changes closely mimic the beneficial changes of endurance cardio in a fraction of the time. This suggests that for cardio at least, a lot of people are wasting their time doing low and slow.


Plus, I haven’t even told you my favorite form of High Intensity Interval Training yet, it is hill sprints.  I know this is a controversial choice, and many of the other former athletes in here are probably looking at me like I’ve lost my mind, but I love hill sprints.  Being able to see the top of the hill provides an intense and visceral motivation for me. So all I will do is find a suitably large hill, and then sprint up it as fast as I can, and then walk down slowly.  Once I get to the bottom I start again. I’ll do sets of ~4-5 sprints and normally do about 2 sets with a longer 2-3 minute break in between the sets. By the end you are thoroughly gassed. Or maybe I’m just more out of shape than I want to admit


In a world where the reason many people giving for not exercising is lack of time, HIIT provides a solution.


If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting consider checking out my book The Optimized Guide to Intermittent Fasting and if you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review, it helps more than you know.  Thank you for tuning in, and remember live long, live healthy, but most of all live happy

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