If you don’t have time to exercise, then you had better make time to be sick, because so much of our health depends on getting the right amount and the right types of exercise. We all know it, but we get distracted with life, and guess what gets put off until tomorrow or someday when there is more time. Someday means never, and I’m going to give you a tip that can change today.
There is a simple form of exercise that will save you hours and hours of time on the treadmill or bike. In as little as 22 minutes, three times per week, you can lose weight, lose body fat, increase muscle tone, increase energy and performance, and boost your sex drive while you’re at it. It’s called High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is a series of quick intense efforts that will maximize the hormones that build muscle and burn fat.
A 2010 research study done in the cardiology division at Massachusetts General Hospital examined the effect of exercise on 200 different metabolites. They found that only 10 minutes of brisk exercise would increase 20 beneficial metabolites that work to burn fat and normalize blood sugar. They also found this effect lasted for several hours after exercise. And, wait for it — they found that high-intensity exercise achieved these results in far less time.
More research at Auburn University has shown that HIIT will increase the mother of all health hormones, growth hormone (GH). As the leader of “anti-aging” hormones, GH will help build muscle, burn fat, and stabilize blood sugar. All this leads to improved insulin sensitivity, which is one of the hallmarks of healthy metabolism and good weight control.
Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking or running, is important for stamina and cardiovascular health. Regular strength training is necessary for strong quick muscles and bones. But neither will affect metabolism to the same degree as HIIT.
There are three major types of muscle fibers in the body — slow, fast, and super-fast. The slow fibers are red muscle, rich in oxygen and power producing mitochondria. The slow fibers are in action during aerobic or high-repetition strength training and can go for hours before tiring.
Fast fibers are about five times faster than slow fibers. They too are red and can burn oxygen, but about half their energy is from anaerobic metabolism in which no oxygen is required. These fast fibers are designed for quick activities and shorter amounts of time, such as sprinting and low-repetition strength training. With anaerobic fast fibers the byproduct lactic acid will build up and limit the ability to make more energy.
The super-fast fibers are completely anaerobic and they are fast! Able to contract about 10 times faster than slow fibers, these babies are for maximum intensity sprinting. HIIT is the only type of exercise that will stimulate the super-fast fibers and produce the high-yield, hormone-assisted, fat-busting results.
The HIIT Workout
HIIT is broken down into three phases — warm up, workout, and cool down. Let’s use my 22 minute bicycle routine as an example. The warm up is three minutes, work out 16 minutes and cool down the last three minutes. Just 22 minutes is all it takes. HIIT may be walking with spurts of walking fast or running. Bicycling with varying intensity is perfect. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise as long as you are getting to peak intensity during the workout phase. And it doesn’t have to be 22 minutes with 8 cycles, that’s just one idea.
During the workout phase it is critical to reach maximum effort. This is done every two minutes, with 30 seconds of peak intensity, then 90 seconds of recovery. In a 16-minute workout phase, this peak intensity cycle would repeat eight times. Each time the heart rate will zoom slightly higher into the working heart rate range and stay there until after the cool down period.
How hard is it? The peak intensity bursts need to be maximum effort. I mean maximum. This means all out, as hard as you can go. After a few cycles you should be sweating. After each peak intensity burst you should find it hard to talk due to labored breathing.
When starting HIIT, please be careful. Go at your own speed. Don’t try too hard during the first few weeks and injure yourself. If you have medical conditions such as heart disease by all means do HIIT, but get your doctor or an exercise trainer or physiologist involved to monitor your progress.
A fat-burning tip is to watch what you eat or drink after a workout. Research has shown that consuming too much sugar or fructose after a work out will negate the increase in growth hormone and obliterate the blood-sugar benefits. Watch out for the “energy” drinks that are soaked in high fructose corn syrup. Instead hydrate with plain water or specific recovery drinks. For detailed information on sports nutrition see my 3 part article.
Many studies show the benefits of post-workout intake of recovery drinks, which do contain some sugar, just not way too much. An added bonus would include essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. A really good sports drink should have some fructose and whey protein concentrate. An example homemade recovery drink is about 12 ounces of cold water, 10-20 grams of whey protein isolate, and a handful of frozen berries thrown into the blender.
The timing of your workout is also worth consideration. That said, exercise whenever it works for you! But, some research shows a quick workout in the morning, before breakfast, will produce the best fat-burning results. I notice that patients will usually get into a more consistent routine by working out in the morning as most of us are tired and ready to rest when we get home from work.
Don’t forget stretching, aerobic and strength training. They are all important for overall fitness. But for high-yield results in no time flat get going on the 22-minute HIIT routine. I guarantee you will feel better right away and see results in just a few months.
Author Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call (970) 245-6911 for an appointment or more information.