You can change up your weight loss workouts in many ways. Find out whether HIIT is good for weight loss and what potential downsides there are.
One of the benefits of high-intensity interval training is that you can challenge your body more in a shorter amount of time.
As long as your body can deal with it, that also means that HIIT can be great for weight loss if you look at the results per minute of exercising.
Besides the “regular” increases in calorie burning from going at faster speeds, you can potentially get some additional benefits from the afterburn effect.
At the same time, you need to know that HIIT can also be very challenging for your body. Especially if you have a lot of pounds to lose and were not that active up until now.
For that reason, many people also want to start strengthening their bodies with other workouts first before turning to HIIT weight loss workouts.
You also want to keep in mind that no matter what workouts you do, your habits in areas like your diet will play a big role in whether you lose weight and to what extent.
Is HIIT effective for weight loss?
While there are other positive effects too, two of the main ways working out benefits weight loss is by increasing the energy you use during the workout and by building muscle (which increases long-term energy usage).
For certain people, this could happen but HIIT will generally not be enough to build a lot of muscle. That means most of the energy-burning effects will be more short-term.
How fast you move influences how much energy (measured in calories) your body uses. As an example, let’s take a look at the calories burned by running at different speeds.
A 155-pound (70 kg) person would burn around 152 calories while running 5 mph (8.1 kmh) for 15 minutes.
By picking up the pace and running at 8.6 mph (13.8 kmh), the same person would burn 225 calories in 15 minutes which is an increase of 48%.
On top of that, exercising at high intensities can cause something called afterburn (1).
This is where you use up more energy than usual for some amount of time (typically not more than 72 hours even after you stop the HIIT workout.
In simpler words, thanks to the intense speeds HIIT workouts can be very effective for weight loss from the perspective of the results per minute of exercising.
One thing you do want to keep in mind is that only a few suboptimal meals can undo a lot of your calorie-burning efforts.
Potential downsides of using HIIT for weight loss
The things above should make it clear that HIIT has the potential to benefit weight loss a nice amount. At the same time, there are also some potential downsides to this type of workout.
First of all, HIIT workouts can be very challenging for your cardiovascular system. Similar to other parts of your body, overdoing it can lead to injuries and in the case of a cardiovascular system, worse.
If you are new to cardiovascular exercise, you likely want to play it safe and start with lighter workouts.
Secondly, the brusque movements require to move at high intensities can also be challenging for other areas of your body like your muscles, tendons, and joints.
That means HIIT also includes a higher injury risk for these areas. To avoid injuries and be able to exercise more for weight loss, many people will want to strengthen their bodies with other exercises first.
Lastly, HIIT is so intense that you can likely only keep it up for a somewhat shorter amount of time. This can be helpful for losing weight with a busy schedule but many people also enjoy exercising.
If that applies to you, you may prefer a hike of a few hours or a tennis match of 90 minutes over a 20-minute sprinting HIIT workout. Even if the weight loss results are similar.
How long should you do HIIT a day to lose weight?
To lose weight you need to get to a point where you burn more energy than is coming in.
This makes it hard to say anything general about how long you should do HIIT a day to see results since your energy intake influences things so much.
It is even possible to lose weight without any exercise at all. On the flip side, it is possible to do 30 minutes of HIIT a day and only see tiny weight loss results.
In theory, you could estimate that a 20-minute HIIT running workout would burn 350 calories in your situation which is about 0.1 pounds (0.04 kg) of body fat.
That being said, this does not take into account what is coming in. Additionally, different calorie types can have a different impact on your weight loss results.
The solution to all these ifs and buts is making a good weight loss plan, following it for a few weeks, measuring your progress, and making changes if your results are not as desired.
When it comes to HIIT workouts you likely want to start too light than too heavy to avoid injuries. This can help you get an idea of what your body can take.
What kind of HIIT is best for weight loss?
HIIT is more of a way of doing exercises instead of a specific step-by-step workout you follow. In turn, you may wonder what exercises are the best for weight loss results.
If you look at the calories burned per 30 minutes of exercise, it should become clear that running, jump rope, and swimming HIIT workouts are the best for weight loss in terms of pure results per minute.
On the other hand, you want to keep in mind that burning a lot of calories is not the only thing that should influence your choice of HIIT workouts.
More specifically, choosing a workout you enjoy and one that does not get you injured can benefit your consistency a lot.
If you do the calorie-burning calculations, you will notice that consistency is a big aspect of seeing weight loss results from HIIT workouts.
In simpler words, it can be worth giving up a few calories per minute to choose a sustainable HIIT workout you actually enjoy.