While there are many different ways to help encourage your body to lose weight, High-Intensity Interval Training or ‘HIIT’ exercise is undoubtedly the best way to achieve rapid weight loss when paired with a good diet.
Before we get into why HIIT is so good at shedding calories, let’s quickly look at what weight loss is all about.
Losing weight is a matter of a relatively simple formula: your body must burn more calories than you consume, which leads to a process by which your body instead starts to use fat stores as energy. When these fat stores are burned, you’ll lose weight. This requires being in caloric deficit (eating less calories than you burn.)
With all of that in mind, the best exercises for weight loss are evidently those that make you burn the most calories, right? Well, not always.
The cold hard truth of exercise is that you sometimes can’t outwork a bad diet. Even hitting the gym hard for an hour every day won’t help if your calorie consumption is higher than you can burn off. Before you get into any exercise routines, you need to understand that eating less calories is key to losing weight.
You also need to recognise the role of carbohydrates and protein in your diet. Carbs help fuel exercise by replenishing glycogen stores. Protein helps muscle reknit after training, leading to muscle growth. But when you’re losing weight, you might think building muscle is a bad thing.
Muscle gain is complementary to weight loss
Don’t be worried about getting ‘too bulky’ if you’re considering lifting weights, you’d have to eat an excess of calories and lift heavy to achieve that. Muscle also weighs more than fat, so even if the numbers on the scales aren’t changing, your body composition might be. There’s more to losing weight than just reducing your actual weight - it’s about losing body fat and getting healthier.
People with more muscle mass also burn more calories at rest - so gaining some muscle during your exercise will actually help you lose fat, even if you’re not technically losing ‘weight’.
The best exercise for losing weight
Based on the above, we need an exercise plan that incorporates high-calorie burn, fat cell activation and muscle growth to fuel a better metabolism. According to a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, bursts of HIIT were found to be more effective than longer less intensive workouts.
Intense workouts in the study were categorised by short bursts of intensity followed by recovery periods. There are many types of exercise that use rounds to do this, such as boxing, but HIIT workouts take that science to the extreme and create plans that focus solely on intensity with brief rests.
HIIT is beneficial not only for weight loss, but also for building cardiovascular endurance, muscle tissue and mental fortitude. It can be done anywhere, anytime - provided you have as little as 10 minutes to spare.
In our guide to exercising without going to the gym, we offered the following HIIT plan which still applies to weight loss:
“Ready? Let’s go. Remember, ‘rest’ is up to you – we’d advise at least 30 seconds at a time.
- 30 secs of high knees – bring each knee up to your chest quickly, then place it back down and lift the other leg. Aim for explosiveness.
- 30 secs of squats – go for as many as you can do in the timeslot. Aim to squat with your knees at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
- 1-minute bicycle abs – lie down on your back with your hands behind your head, lift your legs into the air and then ‘cycle’ your feet so that your knees come to your chest. Touch your knee with your opposite elbow.
- 30-secs front plank
- 30 secs of star jumps
- 30 secs of press-ups – feel free to do these from your knees if you struggle with full press-ups.
- 30 seconds of burpees – there’s no way around it, burpees are the worst. But they’re also incredible for cardio and worth doing. Grit your teeth and get it done
- Repeat for 3 rounds, or more if you’re able to. “
Remember: losing weight is not just about ditching the number on the scales. It’s a fitness-based process that involves reducing your calorie intake, enhancing your metabolic rate and swapping fat cells for muscle to equip your body with a more powerful metabolism. Hit the HIIT workout above regularly with a good diet and you’ll start to see results.
If you’re looking to up your protein intake, try our range of protein snacks - but factor in their total calories when you’re working out your daily intake.