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Is HIIT Good For Weight Loss? (Should You Do It)

Exercise can help speed up the weight loss process. The right kind of exercise even more. Is HIIT good for weight loss or not?

HIIT or high intensity interval training is a more intense version of cardio exercises.

Should you do HIIT or is there another kind of exercise that’s better for weight loss?

HIIT for weight loss for beginners

High-intensity interval training is a more intensive training method than regular cardio. Instead of keeping up the same medium-low tempo for extended amounts of time, you do the exercise alternately between high intensity and recovery tempo.

Intense tempo is not the same for everyone, your heartbeat determines what is considered an intense exercise. For example you could be a 70 year old grandma who isn’t in the best shape. In that case walking up a flight of stairs might be high intensity exercise.

The point is that you should focus more on your heartbeat and how tired you get instead of time-dependent goals to determine what HIIT exercise means for you.

You can define high intensity as +80% of your maximum heart rate. A very general rule to get your maximum heart rate is doing 220 – [your age].

However, your actual maximum heart rate depends a lot on other things like your activity levels, how much you weigh, genetic factors,…

If you’re doing cardio/HIIT exercise a good general rule is that the faster your heart beats the more calories you will burn. Using more energy means a higher calorie deficit each day which means more weight loss.

There is no exact one method or one perfect workout plan for high intensity interval training. You just need to pick a sport that you like and do it in intervals of high intensity. Running, swimming,.. they can all be done the HIIT-way.

Who should stay away from HIIT

If you have not exercised in a while or if you have a history of heart problems it might not be the best idea to start doing HIIT exercise immediately. HIIT exercise can be very intense for your heart and other muscles.

It might be smart to talk to your primary care provider before making drastic changes in your workout routine.

HIIT for weight loss for beginners

Cardio versus HIIT versus Weight Lifting

All forms of exercise can be divided into 3 main categories. These 3 categories are cardio, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting. In terms of what parts of your body they impact you can bucket cardio and HIIT together.

Each workout will inevitably use both your cardiovascular system and muscles. However, usually one of the two really stands out.

The way cardio and HIIT help you lose weight is slightly different from how more muscle helps you lose weight. One or the other can be better depending on the situation.

HIIT will most likely help you build more muscle than cardio due to the more intense movements of your muscles.

Weight lifting

Weight lifting helps you burn more calories by increasing muscle mass. How much you weigh is an important factor of how many calories you burn each day. That’s how many weight loss plateaus happen, you lose some weight and you start burning less calories with the same habits.

Building more muscle helps you add healthy weight. A certain amount of muscle also burns slightly more calories than the same amount of fat.

This means that by spending a little time building muscle you can increase the amount of calories you burn 24/7.

Cardio and HIIT

Cardio and HIIT help you burn more calories by increasing the intensity and quantity of movement right now.

This makes those kinds of exercise great for short term energy usage. The flip side of the coin is that once you stop doing these kinds of exercise the extra calorie burning will stop fast.

HIIT is basically cardio but faster. So depending on your tempo you are doing one or the other. The higher the intensity of the exercise you are doing, the more calories you burn.

HIIT can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stopped the exercise.

man doing cardio and HIIT for weight loss

Do this for long term weight loss

So cardio and HIIT are good for fat loss in the next hour or so.

For long term weight loss weight lifting can be a lot more time and effort efficient.

You can also do both. The extra muscle will help you burn more calories during your cardio workout.


Often people forget that your choice of exercise isn’t only about how efficient the calorie burning is.

If you really don’t like doing only weight lifting, chances are you won’t stick to it. In that case you might want to choose a cardio workout and do it at a high intensity.

Is cardio or HIIT better for weight loss?

Because HIIT is more intense it will burn more calories than just doing exercise at a cardio tempo speed for the time you put in. HIIT will also most likely help you build slightly more muscle.

So for most people HIIT is better. It’s true that you will probably be able to do cardio for longer but if you are busy you are probably looking for the most time-efficient exercise method.

Can HIIT make you gain weight?

HIIT, like any kind of exercise, can also damage your health and indirectly disturb weight loss efforts.

Not everyone is in the shape they need to be to exercise, certainly not HIIT. If it has been a while or you have a history of heart problems it might be smart to start slow and build up exercise intensity gradually.

By overdoing it you could also possibly get injured which would stop you from doing any exercise at all.

How often should you do HIIT to lose weight?

How often you should do HIIT again depends on what you are used to. If you’re not very physically active even once a week might be too much.

The exact amount can probably vary from 0 to 7 or more times a week.

Exercise isn’t the only thing that matters

One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to see weight loss results from exercise will also depend on the amount of calories (and other things) in your diet.

One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results.

You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence whether or not you will lose weight with your current routine.

If you do decide to exercise HIIT can be a good weight loss workout to burn calories right now. That being said, weight lifting might be a more time and effort efficient workout for long-term weight loss.


Matt Claes

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.