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July 29, 2014
By Dr. Maiko Ochi, N.D., L. Ac.
I’ve heard numerous women complain that when they go on a diet and exercise routine with their husbands or boyfriends, they lose less weight in comparison. Unfair as it may seem, there are several reasons why our biology works against us. First, men have more muscle mass than women, and women have about 10% more body fat than men. Muscle burns about 3 to 5 times more energy than fat, even when you’re resting or sleeping. Therefore, men burn more calories than women. Second, females have more subcutaneous fat and males have more visceral fat. While visceral fat is actually worse for your health, promoting heart disease and diabetes, it’s burned faster. So men lose fat more quickly than women. Third, women can be more prone to emotional eating and may have a harder time resisting cravings, especially for sweets or carbohydrates.
But don’t give up – there’s one very effective way to increase fat loss. Not only that, it only takes 40 to 60 minutes a week. And it has additional health benefits such as slowing down aging and increasing energy. What is it? It’s called high intensity interval training, or HIIT, and it is a form of exercise that mimics how our hunter-gatherer ancestors moved, as well as how animals and children move today.
Health benefits of HIIT
Not only does HIIT require less time than traditional workouts, it also provides more health benefits. It can raise human growth hormone production by as much as 71%, which increases lean muscle mass, decreases body fat, slows down the aging process, and increases energy and fitness.
HIIT can be beneficial for both trained athletes and for couch potatoes. It can improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control even after one session, which makes it a key component in treating diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome. It can be beneficial for those with heart disease, but make sure to get clearance from your physician first.
So how do you do HIIT?
There are many variations, but the basic premise is to alternate shorter intervals of maximum effort with longer ones of recovery. Start out by warming up for 2 minutes. Then follow with a 30 second interval of high intensity. To figure out the maximum heart rate you should exercise at, subtract your age from 220 and multiply that number by 0.9. So for example, if you’re 30 years old, 220 -30 = 190; 190 x 0.9 = 171 bpm. So during the 30-second high intensity interval, your heart rate should be at 171 bpm. This can be measured with a heart rate monitor. Other ways to gauge whether you’re exercising at a high enough intensity is that you should be sweating and out of breath to the point where you’re unable to hold a conversation. Follow this 30 second interval with 90 seconds of recovery, which means reducing intensity to a level where you can catch your breath. Repeat for a total of 8 repetitions, and then finish with 2 minutes of cool down. It should add up to 20 minutes out of your day.
Another common variation to try once you become more fit is to do one minute of maximum effort followed by one minute of recovery, and repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. You can do HIIT on a stationary bike, running, treadmill, or elliptical – whatever gets your heart rate up.
Because HIIT is so strenuous, don’t do it more than 2 to 3 times a week. Also, don’t rely on just HIIT – mix it up with aerobic exercise, strength training, core exercises and stretching. This will prevent injury, boredom, and help hit all aspects of physical health. Also, make sure to get plenty of rest and sleep. This helps your muscles recover and promotes maximum secretion of human growth hormone.