Myth-busters: HIIT fat in no time

  • By richard watson
  • 05 Jan, 2017

Burn more Fat not more time?

weight training to lose fat
HIIT Training

Although, all of the information that is presented in this article is geared toward the benefits and/or effectiveness of anaerobic high intensity interval training (HIIT) vs. low intensity aerobic training with regards to fat utilization, there is an understanding that some reasons for aerobic training supersede the outcomes. For the sake of pure enjoyment, personal goal setting (training for a triathlon, marathon, road race, etc), and the challenge of competition are all viable and respectable reasons for interacting with long slow distance (LSD) activities. For many people these types of activities are suitable for their lifestyle and enjoyable means of living an active life. The goal of this article is not to discount or diminish the value of physical activity in all its modalities, but to merely present data with regards to optimum fat loss, hormonal indicators, and other factors of cardiovascular and cardio respiratory markers as they pertain to exercise intensity prescription.

Misinformation is Costing Money

People today are on sensory overload with achieving a “lean or sculpted” physique. This has made weight-loss a billion pound industry (46.3 billion to be exact as reported by, 2004). If you have ever been to a gym, talked about working out, or even remotely have expressed interest in health, you have probably had the “I need to lose weight” or “shed a little fat” talk at some point. Marry this desire with the endless supply of jargon in magazines and infomercials that promise miracles with the use of their products and we see the weight loss industry getting richer and richer. The unfortunate part is that most people have little or no educational means to differentiate between what is effective and what is merely an elaborate marketing effort. Oddly enough, there is a gym on virtually every street corner and new weight loss supplements are coming out on a daily basis. Yet, the obesity rate in the UK has grown to epidemic proportions. With this many products and weight loss systems available that claim to give you a rock hard physique or fitness model quality body, how can so many people be overweight? One word, misinformation!

So now that both your mood and pocketbook have been suppressed, how can we ensure that our efforts toward weight loss, and moreover fat loss, are attainable? The answer is more effective training. This article is intended to share what has been reported in the scientific literature for decades. In the following section several myths associated with fat loss will be discussed and debunked. It is important for the reader to understand that the information about to be presented goes beyond the author’s opinion and is based on scientific research, not claims or gimmicks. So, stop buying supplements that claim you don’t have to work out to lose fat or to be lean. The only thing they make smaller is your disposable income. You MUST exercise to burn fat effectively. Quit joining the fad diet crazes! Over half of those people gain back the weight. In fact, many of these diets promote calorie reduction without exercise. As a result, lean muscle may also be lost in conjunction with fat and causes a reduction in the resting metabolic rate. Frequently, when people return to their pre-diet weight they are actually fatter in terms of body fat percentage than before they went on the diet.

apache brave personal training
personal training

Get Educated

What is the solution to this endless cycle? Education. It is time to START LEARNING! Odds are you did not get your job by ordering a magic pill or following some fanatical routine, so stop treating your health the same way. If you truly desire to lose weight or to get leaner, you must learn how the body works, even if it is from a crude or rudimentary standpoint. Otherwise you will continue to waste money on ineffective products and gym fees for the rest of your life!

Here are some facts about why aerobic long slow distance training (LSD) may be less effective and possibly even counterproductive for fat loss when compared to high intensity interval training (HIIT). First of all, LSD and interval training both increase fat oxidation (burning). However, the positive effect for LSD can take up to two weeks to be effective whereas interval training demonstrates an immediate return. This is generally due to the nature of glycogen (sugar) depletion. With HIIT, glycogen is depleted rapidly. But in LSD training, depletion requires much longer duration as the intensity of exercise is exceedingly lower. Fat oxidation will markedly increase with depleted glycogen levels.

Does this sound familiar? This is essentially the basis of the ever so famous “low carb” diet craze. With depleted glycogen (carbohydrate), the body will initiate higher levels or fat oxidation. However with this type of diet, protein and/or muscle loss may be affected as well. Glycogen levels are important and all the macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, and protein) play a significant role in overall nutrition and health.

Fat Burning Zone

Secondly, do not get caught up in the “fat burning zone”. This is generally in reference to the percentage of heart rate (HR) max. This has typically been displayed for unsuspecting users of cardio equipment in health clubs. The typical “fat burning zone” is promoted as being near 65% of HR max. While there is truth in the statement that at 65% of HR max, a higher level of fat will be oxidized when compared to carbohydrate consumption, the overall training effect utilizes less fat.

Let’s take a closer look at this for caloric burn and also from what is called EPOC, or excess post oxygen consumption. EPOC generally accounts for the energy expenditure during recovery from the exercise bout or the “post exercise burning" of calories (9). Typically this EPOC is fuelled by fat and the intensity of work performed. The higher the intensity, the higher the EPOC. When compared to post exercise fat oxidation, moderate to low intensity exercise barely compares. Take for example the work done by Tremblay et al. This study compared an aerobic group and an anaerobic group of subjects for caloric burn and fat loss. The aerobic group trained for 20 weeks while the anaerobic group (interval) trained for only 15 weeks. The results showed that although the aerobic group burned nearly 50% more calories, the anaerobic (interval) group burned nine times more subcutaneous fat than their counterparts (11).   For those not paying attention, in summary, that is five weeks less work and nine times the fat lost.

Cellular Hydration

Cellular Hydration is the third point of interest. There is a surprising thermogenic affect of water. A study of seven men and women who drank 500 millilitres found that after merely 10 minutes of ingestion the subjects resting metabolic rate rose by 30%. Interestingly, this influx was fuelled by fat in the male subjects and carbohydrate with the female subjects (1). Typically the rule of thumb for water consumption is near one gallon per day. Not too many people reach this goal on a daily basis. Water also aids in nutrient absorption and also helps flush out toxins accumulated from exercise.

Muscle Burns Fat?

The caloric utilization of tissues in the body differs too. The old adage that “muscle burns fat” is not entirely true. But when compared, muscle tissue burns 7-10 kcal/kg/day whereas adipose tissue only consumes 2-3 kcal/kg/day. Some of the additional benefits that the high intensity interval trained may experience in conjunction with increased fat loss include, greater improvements in VO2max, increased growth hormone response (due to lactate accumulation), and positive blood pressure response (4, 5).

V02 testing


The VO2max may seem surprising to those who have been told that the LSD training will elicit the highest level of VO2max. This too has been shown to reach higher levels with HIIT when compared to moderate intensity exercise. Tabata et all compared a “fat burning zone” group vs. a HIIT group and found that although the fat burning group improved VO2max by 10%, they did not produce any concomitant improvement in anaerobic capacity. Conversely, the HIIT group improved their VO2max by 14% and their anaerobic capacity also rose by 28% (10). Furthermore, a third party University study showed that the 1992 Canadian Alpine ski team (predominately HIIT) demonstrated higher VO2max markers than their Nordic (highly aerobic) counterparts.

Still think that your aerobic work is the ticket to success? Here are some other contributing factors to think about. High levels of aerobic exercise increases adrenal stress which can increase the potential for such symptoms as insomnia, depression, reduced memory, frequent influenza and most importantly – the ability to lose weight (12). Also, aerobic training has an effect on local muscular power (3, 6, 8) and lastly, training aerobically diminishes testosterone/cortisol ratio, which in turn also impedes your ability to burn fat (7). Read more about V02 here


The traditional school of thought for exercise prescription and fat loss has been long assumed to be accomplished through aerobic activity. However, with the plethora of research that has been geared toward finding the best means of fat utilization, we now know that HIIT is by far a better method for attaining this goal. Keep in mind that HIIT is very demanding and that it is important to ensure that your client/athlete is cleared for such activity through a medical professional. Also understand that the chronological age and training status of your client will determine what might be HIIT for each person. A 55-year old untrained client will quite easily reach an anaerobic state and for much shorter duration than will a 25-year old moderately trained client. If these parameters and considerations are kept in mind, HIIT can benefit people from all walks of life and all levels of fitness.  Detailed personal training programmes are a good way to gain the best out of your workouts


1.Boschmann, M., Steiniger J, Hillie U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft SC, Jordan J. (2003). Water-Induced Thermogenesis. J Clinical Endocrinol Met 88(12):6015-6019.

2.Bray, GA, Bouchard C, and James W.P.T. (1998) Handbook of Obesity. New York: Marcel Dekker.

3.Dudley, GA., and Djamil R. (1985) Incompatibility of Endurance and Strength Training Modes of Exercise. J Appl Physiol 59:1446-1451.

4.Gray AB, Telford RD, and Weidemann MJ. (1993) Endocrine Response to Intense Interval Exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 66:366-371.

5.Haram PM, Kemi OJ, Lee SJ, Bendheim MO, Al-Share QY, Waldum HL, Gilligan LJ, Koch LF, Britton SL, Najjar SM, and Wisleff U. (2008). Aerobic Interval Training vs. Continuous Moderate Exercise in the Metabolic Syndrome of Rats Artificially Selected for Low Aerobic Capacity. Cardiovasc Res 81:723-732.

6.Hickson, RC. (1980) Interference of Strength Development by Simutaneously Training for Strength and Endurance. Eur J Appl Physiol 45:255-263.

7.Hoogeveen AR, Zonderland ML. (1996) Relationship between Testosterone, Cortisol and Performance in Professional Cyclists. Int J Sports Medicine 17(6):423-428.

8.Kraemer WJ, Patton J, Gordon SE, Harman EA, Deschenes MR, Reynolds K, Newton RU, Triplett NT, Dziados JR. (1995) Compatability of High Intensity Strength and Endurance Training on Hormonal and Skeletal Muscle Adaptations. J Appl Physiol 78:976-989.

9.Stainsby WM, and Barclay JK. (1970) Exercise Metabolism: O2 Deficit, Steady Level of O2 Uptake and O2 Uptake in Recovery. Med Sci Sports 2:177-195.

10.Tabata I, Irishawa K, Kuzaki M, Nishimura K, Ogita F, and Miyacho M. (1995). Metabolic Profile of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercises. Medicine and Science in Sports & Ex 29(3):390-395.

11.Tremblay, A., Simoneau JA, and Bouchard C. (1994). Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism. Metabolism 43:814-818.

12.Wilson, J. (2002). Adrenal Fatigue – 21st Century Stress Syndrome. 1st Edition Smart Publications.

13.Wolf, A. (1998). What is the Economic Case for Treating Obesity? Obesity Research. 6(1); 2S-7S.

In The Zone

By richard watson 10 Apr, 2017

There has been a huge increase in interest in cycling over recent years as more people become aware of the health and fitness benefits’ cycling achieves, as well as its advantages as a fast and economical means of transport. Studio cycling has also grown and has been identified as one of the most popular group exercise formats in clubs worldwide.

By richard watson 01 Mar, 2017

Good bacteria can help you lose weight

For every probiotic evangelist there are several that sneered at the idea that these ‘good bacteria’ products did anything other than leave a big whole in your pocket. But according to a recent study, probiotics are very much more than a health food gimmick.

Probiotics, which are available as yoghurts, drinks and pills, contain so called ‘good’ bacteria that manufacturers claim aid digestive health and boost the immune system.

But the jury remained out – until now when a study has found that they do have many health benefits, including proving effective medicines and helping to control weight.

But you need to need to use the probiotics every day to see any benefits and you should be mindful of the sugar content (it’s best to opt for a pill over yoghurt) which will negate any of the benefits.

By richard watson 06 Feb, 2017

The definition of motivation is that which gives the impetus to behaviour by arousing, sustaining and directing it towards the successful attainment of goals. Abraham Maslow (1954) proposed that we all have a hierarchy of needs, the most basic being physiological needs such as food, and the highest needs being those related to self-fulfillment. Motivation directs behaviour – it organizes behaviour towards a particular goal state. It maintains behaviour until that goal is achieved.


The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 26 miles and 385 yards that is usually run as a road race. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 500 marathons are contested throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes. Larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.

By richard watson 05 Jan, 2017

Although, all of the information that is presented in this article is geared toward the benefits and/or effectiveness of anaerobic high intensity interval training (HIIT) vs. low intensity aerobic training with regards to fat utilization, there is an understanding that some reasons for aerobic training supersede the outcomes. For the sake of pure enjoyment, personal goal setting (training for a triathlon, marathon, road race, etc), and the challenge of competition are all viable and respectable reasons for interacting with long slow distance (LSD) activities. For many people these types of activities are suitable for their lifestyle and enjoyable means of living an active life. The goal of this article is not to discount or diminish the value of physical activity in all its modalities, but to merely present data with regards to optimum fat loss, hormonal indicators, and other factors of cardiovascular and cardio respiratory markers as they pertain to exercise intensity prescription.

By richard watson 01 Nov, 2016
Cancers are classified as a family of related diseases that result from uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells5 that usually become a tumor. The most common causes of cancer related deaths in the United Kingdom are seen in Figure 1 below.The evidence linking low levels of physical activity and an increased potential for development of cancer is growing. More studies are focused on determining if physical activity can be used as a preventative measure in the incidence of cancer.

Figure 1: The 9 Most Common Causes of Cancer Death in 2014

Number of Deaths per Year, All Ages, UK

Cancer Site                Male           Female       Persons
Lung (C33-C34)       19,563       16,332         35,895
Bowel (C18-C20)       8,566          7,337         15,903
Breast (C50)                       73        11,360        11,433
Prostate (C61)          11,287                               11,287
Pancreas (C25)           4,426          4,391           8,817
Oesophagus (C15)   5,213          2,577          7,790
Bladder (C67)              3,614          1,755          5,369
Brain                                2,881          2,342          5,223
Liver (C22)                    3,055          2,036          5,091
By richard watson 05 Oct, 2016

In the world of endurance, it seems that you cannot discuss fitness without discussing VO2 max. Ask any endurance athlete about it, and you will hear epic stories with names like Indurain, and LeMond. Many of you, however, may find yourselves wondering what exactly VO2 max is and why is it so important. To better understand this concept; let’s take a little trip back to school, specifically back to physiology class. According to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning textbook, VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen in millilitres one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight (ml/kg/min). In other words, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is the greatest amount of oxygen that can be used at the cellular level for the entire body. VO2 max has been found to correlate well with an individual’s degree of physical conditioning and has been accepted as an index of total body fitness. Numerous studies show that one can increase his/her VO2 max by working out at an intensity that raises the heart rate to between 65 and 85 percent of its maximum, for at least 20 minutes, three to five times per week. The estimated mean value of VO2 max for male athletes is about 3.5 liters/minute and for female athletes is about 2.7 liters/minute.

By richard watson 14 Sep, 2016

It is ironic that in this age of information, people continue to be confused about supplements. While in The UK alone, billions of pounds sterling are spent annually on vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other nutritional products, studies still show that people in all walks of life (including fitness professionals) need a good foundation in basic supplement information to help them make informed decisions about which products might best suit their individual needs. Because of this, the following is a list of what I feel are the top 10 supplements facts that can help save you time and money - and get the most out of the products you use.

By richard watson 27 Jul, 2016

Caffeine is one of the most heavily researched and beneficial ergogenic aids available. It is mostly consumed in coffee, with 1 cup containing around 75mg of caffeine. The understanding of the performance effect of caffeine has increased and this has widened its use. Most people know that “caffeine may improve performance” but what does it actually do and how can we make the most of caffeine?

Caffeine is classified as a stimulant and is the most common drug used in the world. Caffeine crosses the membranes of all the body's tissues. It can wield effects on the central nervous system and the peripheral tissues that result in physiological effects. Studies have shown that caffeine can help an athlete perform better. It has been shown to be a powerful ergogenic aid that is beneficial in athletic performance and training. Caffeine has been shown to increase speed and power output, improve the length an athlete can train, and assist the athlete in resisting fatigue. Caffeine has also been proven to stimulate the brain which contributes to an athlete's clearer thinking and ability to concentrate harder on the task at hand.

By richard watson 08 Jul, 2016

You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again. You have been intensely training for months, but you start to mention that you haven’t slept well for weeks, and the stress is starting to get in the way of your performance. You may suspect you’ve overtrained, which is quite common among competitive athletes. While overtraining can occur in a variety of different ways, it typically results from a combination of hormonal, neuroendocrine, and nutritional imbalances, secondary to heavy training (Kreher, 2012).

Learing Objectives:

  1. Identify the signs and symptoms of overtraining.
  2. Determine ways to help your clients recover from overtraining.
  3. Understand the importance of training breaks in the prevention of overtraining.

By richard watson 10 Jun, 2016

Hamstring injuries are prevalent in many sporting and training environments. They are the curse of many top athletes and urban warriors alike and have a horrible tendency to recur with monotonous regularity.

In the past, rehab specialists and trainers may have fallen prey to the hypothesis that "if it keeps tearing, it must be tight and therefore needs a stretch."

In this article I would like to pose a different hypothesis. One that looks at the length-tension relationships between the hamstrings at the back of the pelvis and quads and hip flexors at the front of the pelvis. We’ll look at how this relationship can contribute to these types of injuries.

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