Unless you’ve lived hidden under a rock for the last 5 years, you must have heard about High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, and already know that it delivers incredible results. Because they involve both the aerobic and anaerobic energy channels, Crossfit, F45 and other HIIT workouts are great to improve cardiovascular, speed, power, well your fitness in general.
During HIIT, the disturbance to your metabolism is so great that it doesn’t return to normal immediately after the workout is over. Instead, post-exercise oxygen consumption is triggered which allows burning calories for hours later as the working muscle cells restore physiological and metabolic factors. That’s why HIIT is particularly effective for weight loss.
The only downside? HIIT workouts are strenuous and very taxing on the body. There are a lot of ways to do HIIT wrong, which not only leads to injury and fatigue but also prevents you from accomplishing your goals.
Luckily, every day, trainers do their best to pick us apart and put us back together inside the gym. But we have uncovered that the biggest performance changes people can make and experts have recommended when following a high-intensity interval training regime actually take place outside of the gym.
We are referring to the basic lifestyle adjustments many of us (initially unwillingly) make to keep up with the physical demands of a daily dose of high-intensity interval training. Centered around recovery and nutrition, these lifestyle choices could impact the results of your next HIIT session as much the physical effort you put in to move your body. Here are the top 5 external points you need to focus on is you want to keep reapin’ all the benefit of HIIT.
1. HYDRATE - DRINK MORE WATER
Our muscles are over 75% and our brain is over 80% water and they are the two essential drivers of all physical performance and body function. During the day the average person loses around 2 litres of water just through respiration and normal body function, and another 2 litres per hour depending on the type of physical activity they perform. When we feel thirsty, the body is already in a dehydrated state by 2%. And a 2% body weight loss through dehydration reduces athletic performance by as much as 20%.
Consuming a glass of water first thing in the morning and with each meal is a good way to ensure your body maintains optimal hydration levels, especially before a HIIT session. You’ve got it, on a normal training day you should drink at least 3L of water.
2. EAT ENOUGH CARBOHYDRATES
Consuming a low carbohydrate diet is great for rapid weight and fat loss but is difficult to sustain long term, especially with the energy demands of HIIT training. This is your typical catch 22 where people undertake HIIT to lose weight but also need to perform well to effectively maximise weight loss in the first place. Consuming the right amount of carbohydrates is essential. Most commonly seen are people removing carbohydrates completely from their diets which results in physical and mental fatigue. Remember that the aerobic energy system relies on stored carbohydrates for energy during workouts. Recommendations range from between 30% to 50% of daily calories being consumed as quality carbohydrates depending on personal physique goals and energy requirements.
3. EAT MORE PROTEIN
Under the stress and the energy demand of HIIT workout, the muscle tissues are damaged and required amino acids from protein to repair muscle fibres. The body’s demand for protein literally doubles when you perform regular physical exercises. Rule of thumb is to consume 1gram of protein per Kg of body weight and 2 times that amount if you are physically active. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, the body does not store protein which means that we must consume protein through food sources each and every day. Protein plays a particularly important role in recovery as it repairs muscle tissue which in turn boosts your metabolism, builds lean muscle, reduces muscle soreness and improves muscular endurance - all of which contribute to improved body composition and fat loss. Almost every active person uses protein powder to help meet their daily protein needs as it provides a convenient, effective, high-quality nutrient source particularly post workout when your body needs it most.
4. GET SOME SLEEP
Sleep is the best lifestyle change anyone can make but typically the first that is sacrificed. Aside from the obvious cognitive effect, studies show that a lack of sleep increase stress levels which in turn cut fat loss by up to 50%. Yes up to half of the gains made by a HIIT workout could be lost due to lack of sleep. Not only this but sleep loss also triggers a hormonal imbalance in cortisol levels which directly cause weight gain, fluid retention and the feeling of exhaustion. Unsurprisingly, sleep-deprived subjects crave unhealthy, fatty, high-calorie foods in order for their bodies trying to compensate for the energy lost due to lack of sleep. Anything less than 7 hours of sleep per night is considered to be entering deprivation.
5. STRETCH MORE OFTEN
No need to beat around the bush here. Stretching is something we should all be doing more of but are guilty of skipping. Mobility exercise and stretches will help through injury prevention and recovery. Flexibility increases joint range of motion which has been shown to reduce injury risk significantly. This reigns true especially in the high-rep high-intensity world of HIIT as participants need to maintain the integrity of their form and movements, particularly when the body and concentration levels fatigue. An increased range of movement will ensure the correct muscles are being put into use when performing key movements through the hips, knees, ankles or shoulders, protecting joints from injury. Stretching has shown to reduce joint and muscle inflammation, effectively preparing the body for its next sweat session. Anyway, after 3 days in a row with a HIIT session, you surely won't need us to tell you that your muscles need to stretch!
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
HIIT is a super effective training method taking the world by storm with the rise of functional F45 and CrossFit style training regimes. Its no secret that a good diet boosts the effects of any physical exercise but meeting key lifestyle requirements when performing HIIT is especially important too, particularly due to the increased physical energy demands. Paying attention to simple principles outside of the gym will have effects on your overall wellbeing, improve your training, and help in achieving weight and fat loss goals.
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