High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short, has been promoted as one of the most effective training methods ever to come down the pike, both for fat loss and for cardiovascular fitness. One of the most popular claims for HIIT cardio is that it burns “9 times more fat” than conventional (steady state) cardio. This figure was extracted from a study performed by Angelo Tremblay at Laval University back in 1994. But what if I told you that HIIT has never been proven to be 9 times more effective than regular cardio? What if I told you that the same study actually shows that HIIT is 5 times less effective than steady state cardio??? Read on and see the proof for yourself.
“There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics.”
– Mark Twain
In 1994, a study was published in the scientific journal Metabolism by Angelo Tremblay and his team from the Physical activity sciences laboratory at Laval University in Quebec, Canada. Based on the results of this study, you hear personal trainers across the globe claiming that “HIIT burns 9 times more fat than steady state cardio.”
This claim has often been interpreted by the not so scientifically literate public as meaning something like this: If you burned 3 pounds of fat in 15 weeks on steady state cardio, you would now burn 27 pounds of fat in 15 weeks (3 lbs X 9 times better = 27 lbs).
Although it’s usually not stated as such, frankly, I think this is what some trainers want you to believe, because the programs that some trainers promote are based on convincing you of the vast superiority of HIIT cardio and the “uselessness” of low intensity cardio.
Indeed, higher intensity exercise is more effective and time efficient than lower intensity exercise. The question is, how much more effective? There’s no evidence that the “9 times more fat loss” claim is true outside the specific context in which it was mentioned in this study.
In order to get to the bottom of this, you have to read the full text of the research paper and you have to look very closely at the results.
13 men and 14 women age 18 to 32 started the study. They were broken into two groups, a high intensity intermittent training program (HIIT) and a steady state training program which they referred to as endurance training (ET).
The ET group completed a 20 week steady state aerobic training program on a cycle ergometer 4 times a week for 30 minutes, later progressing to 5 times per week for 45 minutes. The initial intensity was 60% of maximal heart rate reserve, later increasing to 85%.
The HIIT group performed 25-30 minutes of continuous exercise at 70% of maximal heart rate reserve and they also progressively added 35 long and short interval training sessions over a period of 15 weeks. Short work intervals started at 10 then 15 bouts of 15 seconds, increasing to 30 seconds.
Long intervals started at 5 bouts of 60 seconds, increasing to 90 seconds. Intensity and duration were progressively increased over the 15 week period.
The results: 3 times greater fat loss in the HIIT group
Even though the energy cost of the exercise performed in the ET group was twice as high as the HIIT group, the sum of the skinfolds (which reflects subcutaneous body fat) in the HIIT group was three times lower than the ET group.
So where did the “9 times greater fat loss” claim come from?
Well, there was a difference in energy cost between groups, so in order to show a comparison of fat loss relative to energy cost, Tremblay wrote,
“It appeared reasonable to correct changes in subcutaneous fat for the total cost of training. This was performed by expressing changes in subcutaneous skinfolds per megajoule of energy expended in each program.”
Translation: The subjects did not lose 9 times more body fat, in absolute terms. But hey, 3 times more fat loss? You’ll gladly take that, right?
Well hold on, because there’s more.
Did you know that in this oft-quoted study, neither group lost much weight? In fact, if you look at the charts, you can see that the HIIT group lost 0.1 kg (63.9 kg before, 63.8 kg after). Yes, the HIIT group lost a whopping 100 grams of weight in 15 weeks!
The ET group lost 0.5 kilograms (60.6 kg before, 60.1 kg after).
Naturally, lack of weight loss while skinfolds decrease could simply mean that body composition improved (lean mass increased), but I think it’s important to highlight the fact that the research study from which the “9 times more fat” claim was derived did not result in ANY significant weight loss after 15 weeks.
Based on these results, if I wanted to manipulate statistics to promote steady state cardio, I could go around telling people, “Research study says steady state cardio (endurance training) results in 5 times more weight loss than high intensity interval training!” Or the reverse, “Clinical trial proves that HIIT cardio is 5 times less effective than steady state cardio!”
Mind you, THIS IS THE SAME STUDY THAT IS MOST OFTEN QUOTED TO SUPPORT HIIT!
If I said 5 X greater weight loss with steady state, I would be telling the truth, wouldn’t I? (100 grams of weight loss vs 500 grams?) Of course, that would be misleading because the weight loss was hardly significant in either group, because it doesn’t distinguish between weight loss and body composition and because interval training IS highly effective. I’m simply being a little facetious in order to make a point: Be careful with statistics. I have seen statistical manipulation used many times in other contexts to deceive unsuspecting consumers.
For example, advertisements for a popular fat burner claim that use of their supplement resulted in twice as much fat loss, based on scientific research. The claim was true. Of course, in the ad, they forget to tell you that after six months, the control group lost no weight, while the supplement group lost only 1.0 kilo. Whoop de doo! ONE KILO of weight loss after going through a six month supply of this “miracle fat burner!”
But I digress…
Back to the HIIT story – there’s even more to it.
In the ET group, there were some funky skinfold and circumference measurements. ALL of the skinfold measurements in the ET group either stayed the same or went down except the calf measurement, which went up.
The girths and skinfold measurements in the limbs went down in the HIIT group, but there wasn’t much difference between HIIT and ET in the trunk skinfolds. These facts are all very easy to miss. I didn’t even notice it myself until exercise physiologist Christian Finn pointed it out to me. Christian said,
“When you look at the changes in the three skinfold measurements taken from the trunk, there wasn’t that much difference between the steady state group (-6.3mm) and the HIIT group (-8.7 mm). So, much of the difference in subcutaneous fat loss between the groups wasn’t because the HIIT group lost more fat, but because the steady state group actually gained fat around the calf muscles. We shouldn’t discount simple measurement error as an explanation for these rather odd results.”
Christian also pointed out that the two test groups were not evenly matched for body composition at the beginning of the study. At the beginning of the study, the starting body fat based on skinfolds in the HIIT group was nearly 20% higher than the ET group. He concluded:
“So while this study is interesting, weaknesses in the methods used to track changes in body composition mean that we should treat the results and conclusions with some caution.”
One beneficial aspect of HIIT that most trainers forget to mention is that HIIT may actually suppress your appetite, while steady state cardio might increase appetite. In a study such as this, however, that can skew the results. If energy intake were not controlled, then some of the greater fat loss in the HIIT group could be due to lowered caloric intake.
Last but not least, I’d like to highlight the words of the researchers themselves in the conclusion of the paper, which confirms the effectiveness of HIIT, but also helps put it in perspective a bit:
“For a given level of energy expenditure, a high intensity training program induces a greater loss of subcutaneous fat compared with a training program of moderate intensity.”
“It is obvious that high intensity exercise cannot be prescribed for individuals at risk for health problems or for obese people who are not used to exercise. In these cases, the most prudent course remains a low intensity exercise program with a progressive increase in duration and frequency of sessions.”
In conclusion, my intention in writing this article wasn’t to be controversial, to be a smart-alec or to criticize HIIT. To the contrary, additional research has continued to support the efficacy of HIIT for fat loss and fitness, not to mention that it is one of the most time efficient ways to do cardiovascular training.
I have recommended HIIT for years in my Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle program, using a 1:1 long interval approach, which, while only one of many ways to do HIIT, is probably my personal favorite method. However, I also recommend steady state cardio and even low intensity cardio like walking, when it is appropriate.
My intentions for writing this article were four-fold:
1. To encourage you to question where claims come from, especially if they sound too good to be true.
2. To alert you to how advertisers might use research such as this to exaggerate with statistics.
3. To encourage the fitness community to swing the pendulum back to center a bit, by not over-selling the benefits of HIIT beyond what can be supported by the scientific research.
4. To encourage the fitness community, that even as they praise HIIT, not to condemn lower and moderate intensity forms of cardio.
As the original author of the 1994 HIIT study himself pointed out, HIIT is not for everyone, and cardio should be prescribed with progression. Also, mountains of other research has proven that walking (GASP! – low intensity cardio!) has always been one of the most successful exercise methods for overweight men and women.
There is ample evidence which says that obesity may be the result of a very slight daily energy imbalance, which adds up over time. Therefore, even a small amount of casual exercise or activity, if done consistently, and not compensated for with increased food intake, could reverse the obesity trend. HIIT gets the job done fast, but that doesn’t mean low intensity cardio is useless or that you should abandon your walking program, if you have the time and if that is what you enjoy and if that is what’s working for you in your personal situation.
The mechanisms and reasons why HIIT works so well are numerous and will have to wait for the next newsletter. It goes way beyond more calories burned during the workout.
Until then, train hard and expect success!
Author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle
Author of The BFFM Guide to Flexible Meal Planning For Fat Loss
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilding and fat loss expert. He is also a recipe creator specializing in fat-burning, muscle-building cooking. Tom is a former competitive bodybuilder and today works as a full-time fitness coach, writer, blogger, and author. In his spare time, he is an avid outdoor enthusiast and backpacker. His book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is an international bestseller, first as an ebook and now as a hardcover and audiobook. The Body Fat Solution, Tom’s book about emotional eating and long-term weight maintenance, was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom is also the founder of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community with over 52,000 members worldwide since 2006. Click here for membership details
Tremblay, Angelo, et al. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 43:7, 814-818. 1994.
I didn’t even read the whole thing. Are you pretty much saying that “Steady State Cardio is really Proven 5 X More Effective Than HIIT!” or r u just joking?I read your ebook and i remember you said HIIT was more effective.
I thoroughly enjoyed this article on the benifits of HIIT or ET training. The way I see it if you do everything in life with balance – not either or – you will benifit. That is eating, sleeping, and training. Too much of anything can do you harm. But doing it in a balanced way is always good for your health.
I am glad that you took the time to compare the facts. Many just go with what is written and do not take the time to investigate. It all comes down to what works for you. Some might like one and not like another. You must know the choices available first, then decide which you like best and what works for you.
The motivation makes a difference in terms of HIIT. For fat loss long slow distance would probably do a better job. HIIT is a training tool for competative athletes. It should not be used to basically reduce fat. All it can do is build muscle mass and speed
TomThanks so much for laying the cards on the table. I am one of those people that basically gave up “wasting my time” with long moderate intensity workouts because of your Ebook and other fitness advisors’ advice that HIIT was the only way to go.Why? Because I believed the experts knew better then me. I appreciate your honesty.Laura,Brougham, Ontario, Canada
Hey nice article. But when i saw the heading i was bout to kill myself because, i changed from steadys tate to HIIT a few months ago due to a study i saw.
Hi Tom,I am a beginner in the world of fitness, just reading infitisimal amounts of info can be quite confusing. As you pointed out any data can be manipulated depending on a persons agenda. . My approach would be try it an see, each person is unique. If it works for you then do it!! You can’t place everybody under the one umbrella and say “this is the only way”.Anything you read you need to test it for yourself and not believe everything that is written!!FrancesSydney Australia
I can’t think you enough for this article. I am 53 years old and am not trying to lose fat. I just want to enjoy good health. But trying interval syle of training always left me achy and miserable. I love to walk and swim. I am so glad to hear you say that these are effective for good health.Thanks again.Susmita
I had seen this study in other references so I hunted the original down and read it for myself. Dr. Tremblay’s intent in his conclusion was never to manipulate the results but simply state the findings. When you read the conclusion Dr. Tremblay makes it quite clear that the energy expended during HIIT was 9 times as great than that of the ET group for the same time period. I was never confused about the results after reading the original.Cheers – ChrisDubai
THANK GOD someone can explain the confusing world of weight loss and do it honestly. I’ve had reconstructive knee surgery about 10 years ago and find it hard to do HIIT as it still makes my knee swell and am forced to do moderate training and have felt so guilty about it for ages. At least I know now that I’m not walking in vain and that I shouldn’t feel guilty because I’m still making a difference to my overall body composition
Chris wrote:Dr. Tremblay’s intent in his conclusion was never to manipulate the results but simply state the findings. Oh, goodness! I NEVER implied that it was Doctor tremblay who was manipulating results!As dr tremblay wrote in the paper “It appeared reasonable to adjust for changes in subcutaenous fat to compare for energy cost”.But of course. Absoultely reasonable to get a good comparison.No questionIts TRAINERS who are HIIT-centric and anti-aerobics who are manipulating the results!And, its the non scientifically literate public who are confused by it all and who are misinterpreting and are taking 9 times greater to mean 9 times greater weight loss in pounds of fatas readers can now see, the HIIT group DID NOT lose more pounds of fat.regards,tom venuto
I train in both because:-) low intensity allows me to build up the cardiovascular system (especially increasing lung efficiency)-) high intensity allows me to move up my lactate treshold limitKind regards,Frank
All these studies are pretty much meaningless. I would like to see a study of people who all eat 6 clean meals a day. No processed food, no HFCS, no trans fat, and an all natural/organic diet. Until, then these studies are just for pure amusement, which I don’t mind. When you’re in the “know”, you really can’t do much else except sit back and laugh. Why worry about the last 5% when your not worrying about the first 95%.Anyway, Tom is the best!
Anthony, thanks for your post. In one sense you could say research like this is “meaningless” in terms of it being fat loss research in free living humans where they did not control diet. AND, in fact you could reasonably extend that to ALL fat loss research in free living humans where diet is not controlled because people underestimate their food intake so much, its not even funny… ESPECIALLY the folks who are NOT eating clean and measuring food etc… the folks who eat inconsistently, and who eat a restraurants and a lot of fast food, i dare say they underestimate the worst of all… so this fact renders many results from fat loss studies, as you said, somewhat meaningless if you consider it from that point of viewon the other hand, we have to give our obesity researchers a lot of credit for doing this kind of work when you consider just how difficult it is to control these studies. We really can learn a lot from the research – if we dont have science then we dont have anything but one persons word against another. Our own experience is great, but we fool ourselves and jump to inappropriate conclusions there as well – even if we have the body to show for it and we are “in the know.” We may know that WHAT we did worked for us, but truth is, we dont really know WHY it worked. Science gives us the WHY.the research is valuable, we just have to be careful not to jump to cause and effect conclusions from correlational research (epidemilogy) and we have to be careful making conclusions from experimental weight loss research in free living humans when diet is not controlled, and as I mentioned in this article, we have to be careful with statistics!Over time, if the research is continuously and courageously pursued, the old errors are corrected and the truth comes out.best regards,tom v.
Hi Tom. I have believed this all along. I will never be a long distance runner but just a steady jog of 20 min twice a day has been far more beneficial to me than doing it any other way. Everyone said I was wasting my time doing it “steady state” but I have been seeing a slow but steady decrease in my weight. Love your newsletters Glenda
Dear Tom,I have been training fitness clients for 27 years in my CA based studio. I just read your info and could not agree with you more. I have implemented both types of cardio training and found one thing to be true in every client situation;Burning fat is only effective when all factors are considered;Age levelnutritionAmount of intensitydurationPossible modality of client ( all ability levels should be considered)Type of training induced, circuit, cardio split, interval and split circuits (we could go on and on choosing specific sequences of training types)Any auto immune negatives etc…I think establishing a clients fitness baseline in both body fat, lean muscle, water hydration and over all baseline of health and total assessment levels are to be considered!I have enjoyed getting your fitness letters and you are very “right on” in your thinking and I for one very much appreciate your” out of the box” thinking!keep the awesome sharing of great information!Sincerely yours in great health!Michael
But I thought you recommended HIIT in the BFFM handbook? Was I wrong? Did I read that wrong in the handbook? Tell me where it is so I can go and reread.Thank youKaren
karenI recommend all kinds of burning of calories! That was my point!you certrainly read correctly I recommended HIIT as well as steady state cardio in my book. both burn calories.The more intensely you exercise, the more calories you burn. Simple right? But does that mean you should never do low intensity or moderate intensity exercise, or that low intensity exercise is “worthless” or a “waste of time?” Of course not!The debates about HIIT versus steady state were getting out of hand, and that was the reason for the article. Some HIIT proponents say that since HIIT burns more calories, then lower intensity cardio is useless or should never be done – That is totally untrue. HIIT is not appropriate for beginners or people with certain conditions, and low intensity cardio works fine for lots of people, it just doesnt burn as many calories, so it takes more of it (less time efficient)The article was my attempt at knocking some “sense” backinto some people, if you know what I mean – getting the pendulum to swing back to center…The headline was satirical…spoof.. (although actually true if you twist the statistics a certain way). You had to read the whole article and understand the current debate I suppose for it all to make sense.Its all very simple:Just Keep burning those calories, however you like to exercise, do it. If you are short on time and you are healthy, do at least some of your cardio (2-3 sessions per week) as HIIT.best regards,tom v
Reading through the comments, its clear to see that many people have read the title of this post, and went straight to post a comment…Anyway, good post Tom, and thanks for the straight up approach as always.Trevor.
Great article and what I have been telling many clients and friends for ages. There is no right or wrong way to do cardio.They all have a place. In my own training I perform one long steady pace cardio run (50 mins) at around 75% of max HR.I also do one long optional easy cardio per week, 30-40 mins of cycling or even walking, closer to 65%I do 2 HIIT sessions using sprints -Plus 1 Intensity run (running at threshold for 20 minutes)That is a sample of my my six days of cardioSo I don’t fall into any “my category is better than yours”, just get out there and do it!
It’s so tempting to take research at face value, even when you have been trained in scientific research as I have. If you are going to change your lifestyle based on the results of a study, it’s definitely worthwhile to read HOW they conducted the study, not just what they concluded.Unfortunately it requires that much extra time and effort, and our brains like to cut to the chase!
In my opinion, it really doesnt matter that much you use either HIIT or ET. The real problem when you want to lose body fat is keeping your motivation high. And the latter can only be reached when you ENJOY the process of losing fat: you enjoy the exercise you do (HIIT or ET), you enjoy how good you feel after it, you enjoy feeling healthier and more attractive and so on.I haven’t read whole BFFM yet (I started a couple of days ago) but one thing is clear about this program to me: its about changing your life to a healthier and better one. You cant do that with a type of exercise you don’t enjoy, cos your motivation will fail over time and all that fat will eventually come back.Enjoy the process of losing fat as much as you enjoy the results of losing fat. The rest will come by itself, at a steady rate, if we understand the knowledge Tom has given to us.
hi,Nicely put together article – Tom good job as usual.Regards,Sumeet
Tom -It has always interested me how research can be swayed to believe whatever you want to believe. Fitness Professionals, at least the ones who continue to keep up with research, know what is real and what is crap.For all of you looking to lose weight, tone up, build muscle, listen to Tom’s advice. He, and others like him, have done all the guesswork for you to help you reach your goals as quick as possible and as safely as possible. The amount of misinformation out there is mind-boggling. When reading information from the newspapers, tv, magazines, be weary of the source, especially is the research is sponsored by the company promoting the product.Tom – you give our industry a huge pat on the back that is needed every now and then. Keep up the good work. I look forward to the newsletter. Your headline piqued by interest and I was glad to read that is was a spoof.Dave Radin, CSCS, NASM-CPT
Thanks for the info tom,….. very much….I’ve read your e-books… and thank you for all the great info and knowledge in these blog/email updates…Yin and yang~
This was an interesting article. Obviously, in terms of weight/fat loss, ET may be more effective. However, if you are training for a marathon, triathlon, or other competitive sports, ET will not inprove your VO2max near as well as HITT. It just depends on your goal. If you simply want to lose fat, then ET is better. If you want to increase your cardiorespiratory endurance, then HITT is the only way to train. I have found that alternating between the two is optimal. For example, I will perform HITT training for 45-60 minutes 3 days per week, and perform ET for 45-60 minutes 3 days per week. The ET days serve almost as a recovery period for the HITT days. I typically only push myself to 50-60% MHR (slow jog) on ET days. On HITT days, I push as hard as I can. Just experiment and see if it works.
HIIT or LISS? ??How ’bout Crossfit!
Tom,Fantastic write-up. Lately I’ve been bombarded with HITT stuff myself and while I do enjoy those type of workouts, I mix them up with longer duration, moderate intensity cardio.This is probably one of your best articles in my opinion.Marc C David”The NoBull Muscle Guy”
I read recently that HIIT training on a cycle will assist in fat loss in the lower extremities and HIIT training while walking or jogging (walk or jog/sprint) will help with abdomin fat. What do you think?
One thing that is completely ignored in the HIIT versus steady cardio debate are the relative psychological effects. In very general terms whereas steady cardio has often a calming, meditative effect. Interval training is often perceived as stressful, as all the focus is on the clock/stopwatch. Not everyone is happy with having more stress in their lives. However, for some people steady cardio is simply too boring.
Excellent point. Compliance to the exercise program is what will ultimately prove a program a success or failure in the long term. You have to choose an activity you enjoy.If HIIT is far more effective in terms of calories burned, that doesnt help if someone cant or wont stick with a HIIT program. But if they love to walk, even if if the walikng only burns half the calories and therefore takes twice as long to get the desired results, in the long run, the walking would winMany people use the word BORING in every sentence to describe long duration low intensity, steady state cardio, but boring is not a fact, boring is someones value judgement/opinion.let me use the low carb analogy. Low carb will beat high carb in the short term every time, not just water weight either, but check back after a year and the advantages are usually lost in comparison with high carb, or balanced diets, so in the end, the best diet, as with exercise, provided you have a caloric deficit, will be dictated very much on ones personal preference and ability to comply with the program.regards,tom v.
Some excellent points have been made.HIIT has been my only method of training for years. When I worked as a personal trainer, I advocated it to most of my clients – even the “newbies”.Intensity is relative. A person new to exercise can work at higher levels of intensity. But they may only be able to do it for ten seconds.After all, many overweight people find climbing a flight of stairs to be high-intensity.I’ve come to appreciate that many people just don’t like to work “balls to the wall” for any period of time. HIIT could be the greatest way in the world to burn fat – but it will only work if it’s done with consistency.If a person, say my wife, won’t can’t stand high-intensity exercise, it’s no good at all.Just my .02.
EXCELLENT EXCELLENT article!!! :)Ok… this might sound strange, but this article was SO good, that this is the FIRST time ever, that I’m posting on a fitness related forum. Over the years, I’ve seen tons of articles on various topics that keep “peddling” something or the other… and have led me to be extremely skeptical of almost anything I see online. I’ve been receiving Tom’s newsletter for a while now, and after my initial skepticism, I started liking his articles more and more. The main reason:- Tom’s articles promote one thing : KNOWLEDGE!!I truly believe this is the hardest thing to acquire in today’s fitness industry. I’m 34, have 2 engineering degrees, an MBA from Northwestern, and am semi-retired. Not bragging… just establishing credentials. I quit the corporate world to do something that I have always been passionate about, and that was to help people w/ their health and fitness (recently got certified as a PT). The one thing that constantly amazes me is the number of people (including many “professionals”) who tout things based on “studies” and “reports”… but who have no idea about the what/where of the study itself! Tom is the only author I’ve seen who presents all the relevant information and asks the reader to make a judgment based on facts… not opinions or interpretations.Thank you Tom! Even more so because it takes a huge effort to be able to keep up your free newsletters AND to respond to individual comments personally. Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you do for so many people … although most people don’t see the amount of work that goes into what you do. :)
Curtis wroteIntensity is relative. A person new to exercise can work at higher levels of intensity. But they may only be able to do it for ten seconds.I can agree completely – intensity is relative, and beginers could do interval training, safety permitting. But is it really true high intenisty interval training? If you prescribe interval training to a beginner, is the intensity high enough to produce the post-workout adaptations that are so touted from the resarch as the primary benefit of HIIT over SS?see the laforgia paper:(Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, Journal of sports science, 2006, 24:12, 1247-1264)bold emphasis mine“the earlier research optimism regarding an important role for the EPOC in weight loss is generally unfounded. This is further reinforced by acknowledging that the exercise stimuli required to promote a prolonged EPOC are unlikely to be tolerated by non-athletic individuals.tom
Tom,Why hasn’t there been an 8-week study where variables are controlled? If you have a study group of X number of individuals, you could even control calories and macronutrient breakdown on a bodyweight or LBM vs fat % ratio? So, a heavier, mroe muscles person would consume more calories and more of each specific macronutrient than that of a smaller person? It seems feasible to me, and in fact, I think a large amount of people would sign up to participate in this study. Thoughts?
Tom,One more comment, after reading these posts: You say multiple times that HIIT burns more calories. I need to digress on this. I always thought that the reason HIIT was so effective for fat loss was because it sorta confused the body, and the afterburn effect was much greater, but I never believed it burns more calories DURING the session. When I do HIIT, I alternate 4.5 walk on the treadmill, with 11.0 run. I go 1 minute of each for 10 “cycles” (20 minutes). THis averages out to 7.75 speed for 20 minutes. If I were to run steady state, I could easily run at an 8.5 for over 20 minutes, and that would essentially burn more calories. Am I wrong here?
Bryan.(1) weight loss studies are difficult to do because it is difficult to control food intake in free living humans. people cheat on their diets. You would literlly have to lock them in a research ward and feed them lab/hospital served food to control the intake. U want to sign up, LOL? underreporting of food intake in free living humans is that bad. Even if they tried, they wouldnt get it right. In one study, lean dieticians underreported food intake by 16%. most people underreport 30-40% or MORE(2) Higher intensity exercise burns more calories per unit of time. not just HIIT per se… high intensity even higher intensity steady state. If the intensity is high enough, then there is the additional caloric expenditure from EPOC
If you pay for my food for 8 weeks, and Im getting atleast 250g of protein, I will gladly sign up to be locked up and have my food intake controlled lolStrange you say people under-report… well actually, not strange, I believe it, but personally, I always OVER-estimate, so that Im probably taking in less calories than I report in my journal. For example, a 6 inch sub roll, grocery store bought, with no nutrition facts, I call 62 carbs, and 8g of protein and 2g of fat, just to be on the safe side, and in reality, it probably has more like 50 carbs and 5g of protein..
I love this post. As a personal trainer I cannot stress how often people look for the quick fix. BEING IN SHAPE IS NOT EASY PEOPLE!It’s called working out for a reason! If it were easy it would be called “playing out”
I love this post, too. So many people aim for the quick fix, it’s so true. On the other hand I think we shouldn’t go for research all the time and rather see our bodies as the natural miracle they are, instead of having the “machine approach” which means that we tend to think that like a car, our body will work like an engine on the right fuel. Of course, we will be healthier, if we eat healthy foods. But there’s more to food than only calories and nutrients. And there is more to workout than fat burn and muscle gain!!! During the week I tend to do HIIT, just because I have a busy schedule. But on the weekends for example I love going for extended walks in the woods near my house. So instead of striving for perfection as to what would be scientifically best, why not strive for the best for our soul and mind? Our bodies are smart. If you enjoy doing s.th. and it makes you feel good, then most of the time it really is good for you!
The article you’ve referenced was making claims of fat loss, not weight loss. Big difference as you already know. Although their claims that HIIT would loss 9x more fat loss is inaccurate, they never made a claim that HIIT would result in weight loss. Moreover, fat loss along with muscle gain may result in no weight loss, for the muscle gain would offset fat loss.
hi doug. I have no qualms about anything that Tremblay wrote in his peer-reviewed article. He explained his methods and his conclusions in a manner that was perfectly clear, as most scientists do.My issue is with some fitness trainer’s interpretation of the paper (or the fact that they never even read it ) and the claims some trainers make for their own HIIT based programs based on misinterpretation of a research study.rest assured, the number of trainers making weight loss claims in their advertising is about…. hmmmm.. . 100% and a good majority of them over-state their claims while simultaneously bad-mouthing steady state cardio.btw, I did mention that muscle gain offsets weight loss, if you re read my post.
Hi Tom, I know it’s been some time since you originally wrote your HIIT vs Steady State post. Speaking for myself, I wanted to explore the world of HIIT but was hesitant about doing this type of training by sprints. What I tried was a jump rope routine – but performed on a mini trampoline, or a ‘Rebounder’ as it’s known. I tried going hard with the rope for 30 seconds, knees really high until gasping for breath, then just normal easy bouncing to get the heart rate back off the ceiling! I must admit I felt more ‘tight’ and ‘taut’ after the first intensive session. OK, I said, this works. But you know what? My absolute favorite exercise is outdoor running. I don’t run on sidewalks (bad for the bones) but I do run in locals parks and along lanes, etc. Nothing gives me a mental buzz quite like running. No other form of exercise makes me feel the way I do when I come back from a steady state 40 minute run. Yes, I’ve tried HIIT and yes, I’ve gotten results with it, but my running always calls me back like an old friend. Running provides me with stress relief, mental acuity and a marvellous kind of relaxation that I find hard to describe. Am I wrong? Am I missing out on the miracle of HIIT? Maybe. But surely if my running makes me feel this good, I’m not doing anything far wrong….? Thanks again. Great post.
If you read the abstract of the study it clearly states and I quote”Despite its lower energy cost, the HIIT program induced a more pronounced reduction in subcutaneous adiposity compared with the ET program. When corrected for the energy cost of training, the decrease in the sum of six subcutaneous skinfolds induced by the HIIT program was ninefold greater than by the ET program”Which, in layman’s terms, would be stating the the study subjects performing HIIT reduced the quantity of fat beneath their skin 9 times more as compared to the endurance training subjects. Quite easy to interpret IMHO.So for every calorie expended HIIT produced a 9 fold reduction of subcataneous body fat as compared to steady state over the course of the training program. Heck if I was expending calories through exercise I would want to get the most effect for my time or ‘bang for my buck’, and 9 times is a huge difference. So seeming as this website and your products are generally concerned with ‘burning fat’ (Surely you mean oxidising?) it would appear HIIT is superior as compared to steady state on a per calorie ‘burnt’ basis? Wouldn’t you agree Tom?In a similar vain by reading your article and applying the same analysis I could claim its has been clinically proven that steady state cardiovascular exercise makes your calves fat!I agree Tom, some claims made by trainers are over exaggerated and they misquote studies to their own commercial advantage.
I used to cycle/mountain bike 200 miles a week and also used to body build. I caught double pneumonia ,leurisy and have had all sorts of complications, including vast weight gain from steroids which have also softened my bones, leading to the fusion of L5 S1 coming undone. I’m desperate to lose weight and get back cycling and into single digit body fat. Help!John
hey tom thanks for clearing up the confusion about the steady state cardio. maybe a combination of both is not a bad idea after all.
And I thought HIIT was better for burning fat than steady cardio, because so many people say so.Well Tom, thanks for new insights.
Congrats on calling out what the study REALLY shows instead of just what everyone wants to read from it!
I’ve come to the conclusion that the best type of cardio to lose weight is- one that you will do!
For example, my mother in law would never do sprints. Ever. She’s never been an athlete, and just doesn’t run.
But a few years ago she dropped weight like crazy by just walking every day! That’s a lot better than the fat neighbor who says “HIIT is the best way” but just sits on the couch getting fatter and fatter.
Love it! Great message
#1 be active doing something you love, instead of using that energy trying to find the “best” way to work-out.
#2 take the time more on your nutrition – this is where it pays off.
1. do steady state cardio for 60 mins
2. inbetween to 1/2/3//4/5 intervals (max out for you HR 170ish for 60s)
result burn loads of cals throught ET + get the EPOC after burn cals
as tom says the middle way
end the debate pl.
Tom, thanks for taking the time to thoroughly explain the true facts about HIIT. I agree with you: we just need to make sure we don’t believe everything we read at face value, but take the time to actually do our own research and become educated. This way, we can make informed decisions!
I’ve looked at the claims of the 4 minute abs site #.Uf0-SazNkgw
…and captured two claimed studies that were written like this:
“Laval University Case Study 43(7): 814818”
“Harvard Alumni Health Study, JAMA. 1995:273(15):179-184”
The two claimed references are actually these:
Tremblay, A. et al., Physical Activities Sciences Laboratory, Laval University, Quebec, Canada Metabolism.1994; 43(7): 814-818 (the 814-818 are page numbers, not “814818”.]
Harvard Alumni Health Study, JAMA. 1995:273(15):1179-1184 [notice the difference in page numbers. And this is searchable.]
Conclusion: the document reference claims are misleading in the video, and the video itself is probably just hype. These docs do not actually support the context of the video narrative.
Great article! I have red the original and whole report on this research and get to the similar conclusion. But what’s most important is that the ET group was excercising at 85% HRmax. And that is quite big intensity comparing for example to 70% HRmax which I’ve been practicing on bike (2-3 hours 5-6 time per week). I also red research comparising 132 bpm vs 163 bpm: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9013436%
So after all both HIIT and 85% HRmax cardio is great tool for loosing bf and from my experience 85% for 45min can be even harder than HIIT.
And last thing is that first research shows quite significant raise in some skeletal enzymes activities comparing to 85%HRmax cardio especialy HK and PFK enzymes (HIIT – raised, ET – decreased)
The problem with HIIT is that most people cannot attain the level of intensity needed for the heralded “after burn.” It’s not realistic to think that the average deconditioned individual can maintain HIIT for the frequency and duration needed. Therefore, steady-state cardio works very well for anyone wanting to lose weight and has been shown to increase mitochondria very effectively.