There’s nothing quite like a high-intensity workout to get your day started. Your blood is rushing, your heart is pumping, and the sweat is dripping so much that you’ve almost soaked through your towel.
If you’re looking for a major wake-up call, that’s one way to do it. But high-intensity interval training offers more than just an energy boost. It’s quite possibly one of the best ways to ignite your metabolic engine to burn calories, torch fat, and sculpt your body.
HIIT is consistently shown to trump steady-state cardio in the fat loss department in just a fraction of the time. In fact, studies show that metabolic-style workouts can actually burn up to 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise 1. So, why spend hours on the treadmill when you can achieve better results in less than 30 minutes?
We’re big fans of HIIT because it gives amazing results, and we want you to get on board. So, we’re giving you our top 6 tips for getting the most out of your morning HIIT workouts. Ready for some insane results? Let’s go.
What is HIIT?
Fat loss is the name of the game when it comes to fitness goals for a lot of people. When they want to burn calories and melt away fat, steady-state cardio is where they go. Think the treadmill, spin bike, elliptical, or stair master.
But what if we told you that there’s a much more efficient way to maximize your fat loss that doesn’t involve being a running robot… It’s called high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and it’s one of the best ways to burn calories and melt fat.
HIIT is nothing new in the fitness world, but many people opt for hours and hours on cardio machines rather than a quick and dirty workout that will achieve better results.
Technically speaking, high-intensity interval training is a style of workout that involves short, intermittent bouts of intense anaerobic exercise interspersed with periods of total rest or low-intensity exercise 2.
Research shows that HIIT can serve as a highly effective alternative to traditional forms of endurance training that can induce tremendous changes in a wide range of physiological, performance, and health-related markers.
The purpose of doing work at such high intensities is to repeatedly stress the physiological systems used during a specific endurance-type exercise to a greater extent than what is actually required during the exercise 3. As such, it improves the cardiometabolic system to ultimately improve the performance of endurance athletes.
With that said, there’s not just one way to do HIIT—there’s actually four (and they’re easily modified to suit your athletic abilities):
- Tabata: Pick a movement (jumping jacks, squat jumps, burpees, sprints, etc.) and complete it for 20 seconds maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of complete rest. Repeat for 8 (or desired number of) rounds.
- The Little Method: Pick a movement and go hard for 60 seconds, then lower the intensity for 75 seconds. Repeat 12 times for a total of 27 minutes.
- Turbulence Training: Choose a strength exercise and complete one set of 8 reps. Once finished, do 1-2 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (running, jumping jacks, skipping, etc.). Choose another strength exercise for eight reps followed by 1-2 minutes of cardio. Repeat for a total of 45 minutes (including warm-up and cooldown). Essentially, you’re creating a circuit using weight or bodyweight movements combined with cardio.
- AMRAP or EMOM: As many rounds as possible. You don’t stop until the clock stops with AMRAP. Set a timer and complete as many rounds of your set exercise as you can before time runs out. Alternatively, pick a movement and complete a set number of reps every minute on the minute (EMOM) for a designated period. This one is a killer.
The Benefits Of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
There’s no denying that regular physical activity offers profound health benefits for the body, but different types of exercise offer different benefits. Here are some benefits you may find doing HIIT 3-5:
- Improves aerobic fitness
- Increases fat oxidation (fat burn)
- Increases time to exhaustion
- Enhances oxidative capacity (VO2max)
- Improves endurance performance
- Boosts calorie burn
- Reduces resting heart rate and blood pressure
- Improves blood sugar
While this may not be an exhaustive list of benefits from HIIT, it’s a wise idea to trade in your steady-state cardio to reap the benefits that high-intensity workouts have to offer.
And if you want to kick it up a notch, combine HIIT with resistance training—what’s called metabolic resistance training or MRT—to maximize your body’s muscle-building, fat-burning abilities.
What’s more, training in a fasted state has been said to maximize fat burn because your body has to draw on stored resources (glycogen + adipose tissue) for energy.
Once your glycogen stores are depleted from a combination of an overnight fast and high-intensity exercise, your body turns to an alternative source of fuel to provide it with energy.
While research is still mixed on the efficacy of fasted cardio for weight loss, some studies suggest that aerobic exercise performed in the fasted state increases fat oxidation to a greater extent than exercise performed in the fed state 6.
Top 6 Tips For Morning HIIT Workouts
- Stay hydrated: HIIT is intense, and there’s no question about whether you’re going to sweat. To avoid any decrements in your performance, you want to ensure you’re staying hydrated. Whether that’s with a natural electrolyte beverage or electrolytes in your pre-workout, they guarantee that your mineral levels stay balanced and your cells stay hydrated for optimal performance. Research shows that exercise-induced dehydration reduces aerobic endurance performance and causes increases in body temperature, heart rate, perceived exertion, and may increase reliance on carbohydrates as a fuel source 7. What’s more, a modest 2% fluid loss is enough to cause decrements in performance.
- Supplement wisely: The point of fasted cardio isn’t necessarily to pack on muscle, but you don’t want to be losing it in the process of trying to lose fat. If you’re training in a fasted state, be it cardio or strength training, having the right supplement stack is of the utmost importance. We’re not talking about just an electrolyte blend and some caffeine, but rather ingredients that safeguard against muscle loss. For ages, we’ve always jumped to the BCAAs to support MPS during periods of caloric deficit, but more recently, we’ve seen other, more effective compounds hit the limelight. For us, we’re partial to HMB—a byproduct of leucine breakdown that’s one of the best compounds for maintaining lean muscle mass. Studies show that HMB may exert its actions by suppressing genes and enzymes that promote muscle protein breakdown 8.
- Get enough sleep: Getting up before the crack of dawn to hit the gym may seem like a great idea, but if you haven’t had a good sleep, then it could do significant damage to your body. Aside from supporting cognitive function, sleep plays a major role in overall athletic performance (including fat loss) and recovery. While you may think just an hour or two less a night isn’t a big deal, even slight sleep loss can hinder your performance, as well as your ability to lose fat. A 2011 study found that sleeping just 5.5 hours a night (from the recommended 8.5 hours) was enough to reduce the extent of weight lost as fat by 55% and increased the loss of fat-free body mass by 60% 9. That’s likely because sleep deprivation is often accompanied by increased hunger, higher circulating concentrations of ghrelin (the hunger hormone), and reduced concentrations of leptin (the satiety hormone), along with increases in the catabolic stress hormone, cortisol. So, if you want to burn up fat stores and maintain lean muscle with fasted cardio, you need to be getting 7-9 hours of good quality, uninterrupted sleep every single night.
- Eat enough protein post-workout: As with strength training, you want to make sure you’re fueling up properly after training. That means a solid 30-40g of protein combined with complex carbs if you want to build muscle and replenish glycogen stores, or cut the carbs and opt for veggies if you’re trying to maximize fat burn. Either way, make sure you’re consuming protein to prevent any possible muscle loss once your training is finished.
- Grab a buddy: Getting yourself up and to the gym early morning can be a challenge regardless, but no fuel in the tank can make it even more difficult. Recruit a friend (or multiple) and get it done together! It increases motivation, and your pals can push you to keep going when you think you’re on the brink of exhaustion.
- Listen to your body: Although we’re one to tell you to grind it out and push through, if your body is telling you NO when you wake up, honor it. The last thing you want to do is push yourself beyond your breaking point and end up injured because you got dizzy or weak. Sometimes as much as our minds want to rip out an intense cardio session, our bodies have another plan. Maybe you need more sleep, maybe you need a good meal, or maybe your body just needs time to chill. Respect it and get back to it the next day.
Sample HIIT workouts
Need some HIIT inspo? Here are some killer workouts to get your sweat on.
Tabata (2-3 rounds, 20 second ON, 10 seconds OFF):
- Jumping lunges (alternating)
- Prisoner squats
- High knees
- High plank hip dips (left)
- High plank hip dips (right)
- Jumping squats
- Mountain climbers
EMOM (4-5 rounds):
- 15 KB swings
- 10 burpees
- 15 DB thrusters
- 15 weighted goblet squats
- 15 barbell rows
Treadmill HIIT (8-10mph for 20 seconds ON, 10 seconds OFF):
- 0-20s: 8-10mph
- 20-30s: REST
- 30-50s: 8-10mph
- 50-1:00m: REST
Repeat for 4-8 minutes (or desired length)
Whether you’re looking for better endurance or fat loss, if you’re going to do cardio exercise, you may as well make your time count.
HIIT is by far the most time-efficient and effective style of cardiovascular training that delivers some amazing results. There’s no set “HIIT routine”, so choose your weapon, set your timer, and get it done!
- PH Falcone, CY Tai, LR Carson, et al. Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(3):779-785.
- MJ Gibala, JP Little, MJ Macdonald, JA Hawley. Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease. J Physiol. 2012;590(5):1077-1084.
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- TP Aird, RW Davies, BP Carson. Effects of fasted vs fed-state exercise on performance and post-exercise metabolism: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018;28(5):1476-1493.
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- M Holeček. Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate supplementation and skeletal muscle in healthy and muscle-wasting conditions.J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2017;8(4):529-541.
- AV Nedeltcheva, JM Kilkus, J Imperial, DA Schoeller, PD Penev. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(7):435-441.