Boost your metabolism with high-intensity interval training
Above photo Terrence Terrell, personal trainer. Photo by James Foster
Toby Fanning’s complacency peaked in June 2017. At that time, the 32-year-old was living in Chicago while his fiancée was abroad. He wasn’t eating all that well. He wasn’t disciplined about exercising.
He needed a change.
Fanning had always been in relatively good shape, but he wasn’t happy with where his body was. So, he gave himself a challenge: Drop 20 pounds in three months before his engagement photo shoot.
That goal may sound like a dream, but Fanning had done it before. In order to make the dream a reality, he turned to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a collection of short exercises done with maximum or near-maximum effort, followed by a short recovery period.
What makes HIIT so popular is that the workouts can be relatively quick, and they can be customized for individuals based on their interests and conditioning level.
“I’ve done various types of training before, but I like the variety of HIIT,” Fanning says. “It can reach different parts of your body in a nice, short session. I like short, powerful bursts of energy. I don’t need to be at the gym for an hour.”
High intensity, high rewards
Fanning first discovered HIIT in 2010. At the time, he was doing a lot of traveling that prevented him from spending much time exercising. He mentioned this to his roommate — a personal trainer — who told Fanning about HIIT and created an introductory workout program for him.
Within weeks, Fanning began to see and feel the difference. He lost 20 pounds within three months.
The routine he did then is similar to what he does today. He starts with a five- to 10-minute warm-up on a stationary bike to increase his heart rate. From there he chooses three exercises that focus on the same area of the body, such as his arms, shoulders or chest. The exercises are done in short bursts of all-out effort.
Fanning begins with his first exercise — a standing barbell row. He does 10 to 12 reps of this exercise, then immediately moves on to triceps extensions, with no break in between. After 10 to 12 reps, he switches to biceps curls. Once he’s done with his biceps, he takes a 60-second break. He repeats that set of three exercises two more times.
After three sets, Fanning hops on the bike again for an eight- to 10-minute ride. He then picks three other exercises that focus on a different part of the body. He does three sets of those exercises, does a cool-down on the bike and then he’s done.
The whole thing takes no more than 40 minutes.
“With HIIT, you’re burning more calories and using more muscle tissue in a short amount of time,” says personal trainer Terrence Terrell. “Because of the intensity of the workout, you’re going to burn more calories for a longer duration of time after the workout as well.”
For beginners, Terrell recommends a 20-minute HIIT treadmill workout that starts with five minutes of walking at a comfortable pace. From there, he recommends increasing the incline or speed for 15 seconds (whatever it takes to increase your heart rate), then decreasing it for 45 seconds. That is one interval. He recommends doing six to 10 intervals, then a five-minute cool-down walk. And that’s it. The program can evolve over time.
During the high-intensity part of the workout, you’re trying to get your heart rate at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, Terrell explains. During downtime of HIIT, your heart rate should be at 40 to 50 percent of the maximum.
Bringing diet into the equation
While how you exercise is obviously critical to the success of HIIT, equally important is how you eat.
“When you’re doing HIIT, you’re trying to push yourself as hard as you can,” says Sarah Calamita, RD, a dietitian at the East Bank Club. “You want to have energy in your body ready for that, and you also want something in you to keep your endurance going.”
In addition to hydrating throughout the day, Calamita recommends eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates four hours before doing HIIT and again one hour beforehand. The first should be a full meal, while the second can be a snack that gives you the energy to get through the workout, such as a peanut butter sandwich or a banana with almond butter.
It’s important to have a similar snack within an hour after completing your HIIT program to help replace the carbohydrates and repair the muscles used in the workout. But that’s not license to snack all day.
“No matter what type of fitness program you’re doing, controlling what you eat is going to be key,” Terrell says. “There is no way to outwork a bad diet.”
Fanning discovered the importance of diet as he attempted to lose weight this past summer. He was disciplinedabout what he ate during the work week, but on the weekend, he ate more freely. When his weight loss was low, he realized it was because of what he was eating.
With his nutrition under control and his training program in place, Fanning lost the weight he wanted before his engagement photo session.
As for how the photos turned out?
“We’re very happy with them,” Fanning says. “Comparing them to photos from a year ago, six months ago, even three months ago, the results are plain to see.”