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Burn Fat? Improve Endurance? Fight Depression? Meet Rhodiola.

Rhodiola rosea, or the golden root, is a powerful adaptogen with plenty of research behind it. Adaptogens are a category of plants that help your body adapt to physical, chemical, and environmental stress. It’s safe to say Rhodiola is one of the most efficacious of these plants. The herb grows at high altitudes in arctic areas surrounding Asia and Eastern Europe. The Vikings used this herb for strength and the Sherpas used it to help climb high altitudes including Mt. Everest. If you want a boost in cognition, strength, endurance, or a decrease in stress I suggest you read on.

Rhodiola’s Stress Fighting Capabilities

rhodiola 2Similar to other adaptogens, Rhodiola provides a biological fortification against stress. In fact, a study in roundworms suggests that Rhodiola acts as a gentle stressor following ingestion, followed by a boost in the organism’s stress defenses. This is an incredible process technically defined as ‘hormesis’.

In 2009, scientists in Sweden conducted a human trial to test Rhodiola’s effect on people “suffering with stress related fatigue”. They found that repeatedly administering of Rhodiola rosea “exerts an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate, and decreases cortisol response to awakening stress in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome.” This once again showing the effect of hormesis, only this time, in humans.

We’ve all heard of fight or flight, right? Our systems go into fight or flight all the time just from little everyday stressors. This causes our cortisol levels to shoot through the roof, which promotes a lowering of the blood glucose response, potential weight gain, hormone imbalance, weakened immunity and decreased memory, aside from simply making us feel uncomfortable. These are perfect examples of how important it can be to keep stress and cortisol levels in check. Well, for just ten minutes of your time educating yourself and using your resources like a boss you too could keep your cortisol balanced! All you have to do is take Rhodiola. [4]

Cortisol levels can increase the rate at which we age, therefore Rhodiola can work as an anti-aging herb making you feel and look your best.

There are many benefits of taking the golden root, one of the most amazing may be that Rhodiola helps your body burn stored fat as fuel. This is due to the active compound called rosavin, which has been proved to trigger a fat burning response in your body and is found in Rhodiola.

A controlled placebo study done on 130 overweight patients at Georgian State Hospital showed that taking Rhodiola rosea extract daily led to a mean weight loss of 19 pounds (11% reduction in body fat), compared to only 8 pounds of loss by the placebo group eating the exact same low-calorie diet. [1]

Calling All Athletes

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If you’re any bit serious about your stamina and endurance, then you should try taking Rhodiola. Rhodiola can significantly increase your red blood cell count. Yes, you read that right! Red blood cells carry oxygen to muscles and having a higher red blood cell count can drastically delay fatigue while improving performance.

In 2004, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism claimed the anti-inflammatory benefits of Rhodiola caused rapid muscle recovery and improved endurance. [2]

Even if you aren’t a serious athlete, you can still experience plenty of benefit by taking Rhodiola. You could be a student, stay at home mother or father, or intense entrepreneur and still enjoy Rhodiola’s proven ability to increase workplace performance and decrease the effects of sleep deprivation. [3]

I recommend taking Rhodiola with a protein shake, if you use the powder, 30 minutes prior to your workout. You can thank me later.

Depression and Overall Brain Function

Rhodiola works to increase neuron sensitivity in the brain, in specific, two neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine. These are the neurotransmitters involved in our focus, memory, pleasure, and mood.

In a clinical trial of 150 individuals suffering from depression, participants were given Rhodiola rosea for exactly one month.  At the end of the trial two-thirds of the group had full remission of depression symptoms and daytime weakness had also greatly improved. [5] In addition, some physicians have been recommending Rhodiola as a treatment for ADHD because of its ability to increase focus.

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How to Take Rhodiola/Supplementation

Look for products similar to those studied in clinical trials; 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside. Start with 100 mg once a day for a week and then increase the dosage by 100 mg every week, up to 400 mg a day, if needed. I’ve been taking Rhodiola for over a year now, as a boost for my workouts. It shouldn’t be too expensive and I’d have to say it pays for itself anyways. Stay healthy stay happy!

We’d like to hear from you…

Have you tried Rhodiola? If so what are your thoughts on it?

Have you tried any other adaptogens? 

 

References:

  1. Zakir Ramazanov, Z. et al. (1999) “New secrets of effective natural stress and weight management, using Rhodiola rosea and Rhodendron caucasicum” ATN/Safe Goods Publishing, CT.
  2. De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Jun;14(3):298-307.
  3. Abidov M, Crendal F, Grachev S, Seifulla R, Ziegenfuss T. Effect of extracts from Rhodiola rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2003 Dec;136(6):585-7.
  4. Provalova NV, Skurikhin EG, Pershina OV. Mechanisms underling the effects of adaptogens on erithropoiesis during paradoxical sleep deprivation. Bulletin Experimental Biology Medicine 2002 May; 133(5) :428-32.
  5. Lishmanov IuB, Trifonova ZhV, Tsibin AN, Maslova LV, Dement’eva LA. Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation. Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1987 Apr;103(4):422-4.

 

 

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Keep Your Mind Healthy By Keeping Your Body Healthy

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that exercise benefits us on many levels. It keeps the heart healthy, our bodies strong, and puts our minds at ease. The first two seem very intuitive; in a way, we are practicing the full capacity of what our bodies are naturally able to do and therefore increase our ability to do those tasks more efficiently. However, what exercise does to give us an altered state of mind is a bit more abstract, but crucial nonetheless to maintaining our mental health and specifically gives us a way to manage out-of-control anxiety and stress. If this is something you struggle with, listen up, because exercise could be the answer.

The Evidence

There is no shortage of research showing that exercise can improve mental health through a reduction of stress and anxiety. Broadly, the consensus is that mood improves significantly after exercise [1], with the largest improvements coming in people who are unhappy to begin with [5] and physically fit people having lower stress and anxiety overall [9].

“studies have consistently associated high self-reported levels of habitual physical activity with better mental health” 

Running outside

Despite this, it is concerning that only 30% of people in Western populations exercise regularly, with 50% of people who start an exercise regimen quitting in 3-6 weeks [2]. Hopefully, after seeing some of the different ways that exercise can improve your mental health, you will become a part of the 30% of regular exercisers and reap the potential rewards.

Of the many studies out there, I have chosen some of the clearest and to-the-point examples. In a few self-reported surveys, there is a clear correlation between exercise and mental health. A survey was sent to a whopping 16,483 college students and exercise participation was shown to be strongly correlated with lower amounts of stress and anxiety overall [7].

If that sample wasn’t large enough to convince you, another study randomly chose 55,000 participants (I feel bad for the folks who had to compile that data!) and the result was a statistically significant correlation between the amount of exercise and perceived anxiety and mental health [8].

“self-reported level of recreational physical activity correlated with better mental health, including fewer symptoms of both anxiety and depression”

While surveys are helpful insights into how exercise is correlated with mental health, in the end, they are just surveys that depend solely on the subjective feelings of the individuals filling them out. Luckily, there are clinically based studies out there to give quantifiable evidence of the effect exercise has.

woman-exercising-e1517243255255.jpgIn many of these studies, anxiety was measured before and after workouts along with before and after consistent exercise for an extended period of time (commonly 8-12 weeks). Again, the results are clear. As one study put it, they “found that both [high-intensity and low-intensity] exercise conditions led to clinically significant changes in anxiety sensitivity that were superior to the [control]” [13]. What they are saying is that pretty much all exercise led to the participants having a sense of lowered anxiety after exercise.

Digging a little deeper into the specifics, another study found that high-intensity exercise lowered anxiety faster than low-intensity and interestingly also decreased the fear people have of their anxiety becoming out of control [14]. Both methods of exercise worked, but the higher the intensity, the greater positive impact there is to be had on mental health and anxiety reduction.

“both high- and low-intensity exercise reduced anxiety sensitivity. However, high-intensity exercise caused more rapid reductions in a global measure of anxiety sensitivity and produced more treatment responders than low-intensity exercise. Only high-intensity exercise reduced the fear of anxiety-related bodily sensations.”

Although consistent exercise is recommended for general physical and mental health maintenance, as little as a single session has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety [15]. If you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious, it would be well worth your time to go to the gym and lift some weights, do some cardio, or really anything you have time for or feel confident doing.

kettlebell

Confidence and a positive mentality are crucial to your success with working out when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety. Those who were confident in their exercise ability and entered with a mindset of knowing they were going to feel better had the greatest results [6],[1]. The “if you believe it, you can achieve it” mentality doesn’t always work, but here, studies show it does. When you do go to the gym, there is no need to feel intimidated. There are people of all types trying to create a better version of themselves, and some are just at different stages than others. Go in with confidence and you won’t be disappointed. With that being said, if you are just starting out, don’t overdo it. This could be demoralizing, or worse, lead to injury. Don’t be afraid to push yourself, but ease your way into it. Every effort counts. If you are afraid of your age being a factor, don’t be! The positive effects of working out on mental health actually increase with age [16], kind of like a fine wine.

How it Works

So, we know that exercise has a significant positive impact on mental health, stress, and anxiety, but how does it work? Well, there are actually many psychological and physiological changes happening. In fact, there are too many to name here so I will name some of the key factors. From a psychological standpoint, when you go to the gym, you are seeing and interacting with other people in a hopefully positive way along with setting and achieving your goals. You might even take up a genuine interest in the activity along the way. These are all proven ways to decrease stress and anxiety [1]. Alternatively, when you tough it out during a workout and leave your comfort zone, you are training yourself have a higher tolerance to stress which translates to other areas of life [10]. You become conditioned to deal with stress and become able to push through what would normally cause stress and anxiety.

fitness toolsWhen it comes to the physiological side of it, there are a few interesting processes that occur. When we have excess stress and anxiety, our stores of norepinephrine in the brain become depleted. Norepinephrine is a molecule that plays is a part of our adrenaline response and plays a role in our fight-or-flight moments. During exercise, we get increased production of this molecule which is why afterward many feel a relief of stress and anxiety [11]. When exercise is done consistently long-term, we may be able to sustain this increased production.

Another change at the molecular level involves endogenous opioid activity. During exercise, our bodies make chemicals that stimulate opioid receptors [12].  When this happens, we get a boost in our mood and an inhibition in our negative response to stress. These molecules are completely natural and healthy for us, unlike the chemicals being misused in the opioid crisis.

Take Action

With all of the scientific evidence on what exercise can do to help improve mental health and lower anxiety and stress, I hope that if you don’t already workout, you will be at least willing to give it a shot. Combine this with techniques discussed in other posts to give yourself the best possible chance to decrease your stress and anxiety naturally through your own efforts. Just give it your all and only good things will come.

How has exercise helped you? Are there any tips or tricks you have found?

Comment below!

[1] Salmon, Peter. “Effects of Physical Exercise on Anxiety, Depression, and Sensitivity to Stress.” Clinical Psychology Review, vol. 21, no. 1, 2001, pp. 33–61., doi:10.1016/s0272-7358(99)00032-x.
[2] Brawley, L. R., & Rodgers, W. M. (1993). Social-psychological aspects of fitness promotion. In P. Seraganian (Ed.), Exercise psychology: the influence of physical exercise on psychological processes (pp. 254-298). New York: Wiley
[5] Tuson, K. M., Sinyor, D., & Pelletier, L. G. (1995). Acute exercise and positive affect: An investigation of psychological processes leading to effective change. International Journal of Sports Psychology, 26, 138-159
[6]Dishman, R. K., Farquhar, R. P., & Cureton, K. J. (1994). Responses to preferred intensities of exertion in men differing in activity levels. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26, 783-790.
[7] Steptoe, A., & Butler, N. (1996). Sports participation and emotional well-being in adolescents. Lancet, 347, 1789-1792.
[8] Stephens, T. (1988). Physical activity and mental health in the United States and Canada: Evidence from four popular surveys. Preventive Medicine, 17, 35-47
[9] Brooke, S. T, & Long, B. C. (1987). Efficiency of coping with a real-life stressor: A multimodal comparison of aerobic fitness. Psychophysiology, 24, 173-180.
[10]Solomon, R. L. (1980). The opponent-process theory of acquired motivation: The costs of pleasure and the benefits of pain. American Psychologist, 35, 691-712.
[11] Dishman, R. K., Renner, K. J., Youngstedt, S. D., Reigle, T. G., Bunnell, B. N., Burke, K. A., Yoo, H. S., Mougey, E. H., 8c Meyerhof, J. L. (1997). Activity wheel running reduces escape latency and alters brain monoamine levels after footshock. Brain Research Bulletin, 42, 399-406
[12] Thoren, P., Floras, J. S., Hoffman, P., & Seals, D. R. (1990). Endorphins and exercise: Physiological mechanisms and clinical implications. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 22, 417-428.
[13] Smits, Jasper A.j., et al. “Reducing Anxiety Sensitivity with Exercise.” Depression and Anxiety, vol. 25, no. 8, 2008, pp. 689–699., doi:10.1002/da.20411.
[14]Broman-Fulks, Joshua J., and Katelyn M. Storey. “Evaluation of a Brief Aerobic Exercise Intervention for High Anxiety Sensitivity.” Anxiety, Stress & Coping, vol. 21, no. 2, 2008, pp. 117–128., doi:10.1080/10615800701762675.
[15] Yeung, Robert R. “The Acute Effects of Exercise on Mood State.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol. 40, no. 2, 1996, pp. 123–141., doi:10.1016/0022-3999(95)00554-4.
[16] Singh, N. A., et al. “A Randomized Controlled Trial of Progressive Resistance Training in Depressed Elders.” The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, vol. 52A, no. 1, Jan. 1997, doi:10.1093/gerona/52a.1.m27.
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The Path Towards Bigger & Stronger Calves and How to Make Them Grow Effectively!

As a health connoisseur, going to the gym, lifting weights and doing intense exercise all go hand in hand. Not only is lifting one of the best ways to stay in shape, but the sense of discipline that comes from moving heavy weights can be transferred to all aspects of life. So, about a month ago and a half ago, I was walking from the kitchen to the living room when I hear my girlfriend make a slight comment. “Your calves are kind of small”. Maybe a slight little comment to her, but nonetheless a nightmarish feeling erupted inside of me. I peered down, it was completely true. I have been training incredibly hard the past four years and in spite of this, I had admittedly never really trained my calves. That was, until then! I even measured the circumference; a mere 33cm. At that very moment, I decided to go all in with my calves training and started working them almost every day. After four weeks of training them 6 times a week, I re-measured them. To my delight, they were now 37cm in diameter. That’s 4cm in a matter of 4 weeks! I was impressed and I’m going to show you how I did it.

Training Our Calves Effectively

Calf Anatomy

A lot of people believe calves are much more stubborn in terms of muscle growth. This is due to the fact that we’ve already been using our calves every time we walk around. In any case, if you work them hard they will grow and get stronger, even if it takes a bit of time.

Our calves consist primarily of two muscles; the soleus and the gastrocnemius. The soleus lies underneath and is surprisingly the bigger of the two muscles even though the gastrocnemius is the muscle that pops out. It’s important to note that the soleus is commonly comprised of between 70-96% slow twitch type 1 fiber. The gastrocnemius muscles contain almost a 50/50 split between type I and type II muscle fibers, also known as fast twitch (type II) and slow twitch (type I) muscle fibers. Type I muscle fibers, also known as slow oxidative muscle fibers, have a fairly high endurance due to the content of mitochondria and myoglobin. Type II muscle fibers, also known as fast oxidative muscle fibers, have a somewhat low endurance and therefore are possibly better for lower rep and heavier weight training movements. Out of all the muscle fiber types, the type II fibers are the fibers that tire the most quickly.

In layman’s terms, if we want to see better improvements in our calves we need to train them at both low and high reps! Let us dig in…

Part 1: The Gastrocnemius

Start your calf training by training the gastrocnemius first. We do this because as previously stated, the gastrocnemius has a higher concentration of fast twitch muscle fibers and therefore will burn out quicker. The gastrocnemius is better worked when our legs are straight. There are several exercises that are efficient in working the gastrocnemius including standing calf raises with a barbell or dumbbell, donkey calf raises, or calf press on the leg press machine. One-legged calf raises can also be very beneficial to those of you who have imbalances such as one leg being longer than the other. Remember, we want to do both low and high reps for the workout. I tend to start with a specific calf raise machine, which your gym may or may not have, or single leg dumbbell calf raises. First, do a few sets in the 6-8 rep range to target the type two muscle fibers, going to failure and making sure to rest a few minutes between sets. I usually do three sets in this range. Then move up into the 8-14 rep range for a few more sets. Finally, finish off the gastrocnemius with a couple more high rep sets upwards of 20-25 reps.

I should intervene here. There are a few techniques you can do to make your calf training much more efficient.

  1. Our calves have a very short range of motion, which limits the time under tension. Combat this by doing the full range of motion in a controlled manner, specifically going slow on the eccentric part of the raise.
  2. If you bounce your calf raises you’re not recruiting the muscle fibers properly. We can avoid this by holding and pausing for 2-3 seconds at both the bottom stretch and the top part of the exercise. I’ve made a video detailing this technique below.

Part 2: The Soleus

After we work our gastrocnemius to exhaustion, we move on to training the soleus. The soleus is recruited the most when our knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. If your gym has a seated calf raise machine that would be perfect. Otherwise, you may have to sit on a bench and place dumbbells or a barbell across your thighs. As we now know, the soleus muscle is compromised primarily of slow twitch fibers and responds much better to high rep training.

I usually aim to do 3-4 sets with the soleus after training the gastrocnemius. The first set will be within the 12-16 rep range followed by a set in the 16-20 rep range and a final burnout set with half the weight I used for the first set. When we train our soleus we want to use the same techniques highlighted above holding both the top and bottom stretch positions and making sure we never bounce our calf raises.

So there you have it! I’ve been following these methods for the last four weeks and have grown my calves a cm/week on average, and I encourage you to implement them if you’ve been struggling with your lower body. Not to mention, nice calves can be an incredible turn on. Stay healthy stay happy!

 

We’d like to hear from you!

            Have you encountered any different techniques for successfully training your calves?

            What’s your primary motivation for being fit?

 

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Does HIIT Live Up to the Hype And is it Right For You?

When you enter the fitness world, you realize that trends are always changing. It’s as if every other month there’s a new ‘miracle’ exercise. Well, I assure you there’s no one exercise fits all, but when it comes to HIIT (high-intensity interval training) the benefits may be too good to ignore.

HIIT is a sequence of brief, highly intense spurts of exercise followed by longer periods of rest or less intense cardio. Imagine sprinting or cycling for 20-30 seconds with maximum effort, then walking or slowly peddling for 1-3 minutes. Repeat this cycle a few times and you’ve done a HIIT workout.

“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the ageing process.” Says study senior author Sreekumaran Nair, a medical doctor and diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”

Whether your goal is simply upping your fitness level, preventing cardiovascular disease, strengthening muscle, optimally losing fat or keeping your blood sugar in check, HIIT may be right for you. But, like I said before there’s no one exercise fits all, likewise let’s dig into the research around high-intensity interval training and go over some of the advantages and… yes, disadvantages to see if it lives up to the hype.

If HIIT is so good then why is everybody still jogging along?

treadmill-testing-630The times have certainly changed, and tons of new research has helped clarify the body’s response to exercise. Regardless of how many people sit on an elliptical for hours reading about Selena Gomez’s new relationship, we now know that cardio is inferior to weightlifting when it comes body composition changes, but how does it compare to HIIT? As someone who wants the best return on investment (ROI) while training, I wanted to know how HIIT stacked up against weightlifting and traditional low-intensity cardio.

To explain why so many people train at such a low intensity, we need to understand how the body uses its fuel. Under different intensity levels, the body utilizes different fuel sources. Low-intensity exercise, if you’ve ever seen 60% printed on a treadmill (referring to 60% of your maximum VO2 output) is an example of low intensity and utilizes fat as the main energy source to power you through your workout. As the intensity of exercise increases, our body can’t process the conversion of fat to glucose quick enough. Therefore as our intensity level goes up we start relying on a quicker conversion to glucose; carbohydrates. At the time, the interpretation of these findings was somewhat logical: exercise at low intensities to burn fat in addition to the capability of training for longer periods of time and increase total energy expenditure. Well, that was easy when all is said and done right? WRONG!

Burning Fat & Changing Your Body Composition

Several studies from East Tennessee State University, Baylor College of Medicine, and Laval University to name a few, show that high-intensity interval training burns more fat than low-intensity sessions.

study conducted by The University of Western Ontario shows us just how much more effective HIIT cardio can be. Researchers had 10 men and 10 women train 3 times per week, with one group doing 4 to 6 30-second treadmill sprints (with 4 to 6 minutes of rest in between each), and the other group doing 30 to 60 minutes of steady-state cardio (running on the treadmill at the “magical fat loss zone” of 65% VO2 max). The results? Fat mass decreased 12.4% in the sprinting group compared to 5.8% in the steady state low-intensity group.

Quoting Mark’s Daily Apple,

“A study (PDF) from the University of New South Wales followed the fitness and body composition changes in 45 overweight women in a 15-week period.

The women were divided into two groups and assigned interval or continuous cycling routines. The interval “sprint” cycling group performed twenty minutes of exercise, which repeated eight seconds of “all out” cycling and then twelve seconds of light exercise.

The continuous group exercised for 40 minutes at a consistent rate. At the end of the study, the women in the interval group had lost three times the body fat as the women in the continuous exercise group”.

The mechanism behind HIIT’s fat burning success isn’t fully understood. In general, researchers have pointed out a few potential contributing factors, including an increased resting metabolic rate, improved insulin sensitivity within muscles, higher levels of fat oxidation, significant spikes in growth hormones and even post-exercise appetite suppression all following HIIT.

As the science points out, if you’re goal has anything to do with burning fat or changing your body composition with the most ROI, then HIIT should be your cardio of choice. But, if you’re really trying to change your body composition, how does HIIT compare to lifting weights?

Steady State Cardio Vs. HIIT Vs. Weight Training

Seeing that within the last 20 years, thousands of studies have come out comparing the effects of weight training vs. cardio, we know what the compelling evidence says. Here’s an example:

“Researchers assigned overweight subjects to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights.

The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound than the diet group. Their training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks. Nothing special.

But the weight-training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat. That’s 44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic-only groups respectively. The addition of aerobic training didn’t result in significant fat loss over dieting alone.

Thirty-six sessions of up to 50 minutes is a lot of work for one additional pound of fat loss. But the addition of resistance training greatly accelerated fat loss results”.

scott-webb-22697

This study not only highlights the fat loss benefits of weight training, but also the importance of diet in the fat loss process. Nutrition and dietary choices may play the biggest role in our body composition. This is only one study, but it has been replicated time and time again. For changing your body composition, the results almost always show that weight training blows lower intensity aerobic activity out of the water. In fact, there’s research that shows the more intense your resistance session the more calories you’ll burn! This is the case even if you’re only lifting half the total volume (total weight lifted during the workout, for example, say you do 8 reps of deadlifts at 200lbs for four sets. Volume = 200x8x4= 6400 lbs) in the entire workout.

The study compared a traditional weight-training program with a higher intensity resistance-training (HIRT) program. The traditional program consisted of 8 exercises each for 4 sets of 8-12 reps, the last one taken to failure.

The HIRT program consisted of 3 exercises for 3 sets of 6 reps, while an additional set was performed in a rest-pause fashion.

The traditional program took 62 minutes to complete and the total session volume was around 17,000 pounds. However, the HIRT group finished their workout in 32 minutes, lifted only 8,500 pounds, but had a post-caloric burn the next day that was 450% greater than the traditional lifting group.

So if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to lose body fat and change your body composition, then incorporating both HIIT and weight lifting into your routine will be optimal. This doesn’t necessarily have to be cardio. The example above shed light on how you can weight train in a highly intensive manner and reap major benefits.

The Benefits of HIIT on Metabolic Health

HIIT has also been shown to significantly improve blood sugar scores and aerobic capacity. The study was done on healthy but sedentary people who performed only one total minute of HIIT three days a week for six weeks. This was done in 10-20 second spurts followed by rest for total workout duration of ten minutes.

If you aren’t aware, sleeping less than 7-8 hours a night will inhibit the body’s proper insulin response to food. Why is this important? Because having an inhibited or fluctuating glucose response wrecks havoc on our cell metabolism. According to a very recent study, if you know you’re going to be sleep deprived the following day, doing a HIIT session before could significantly minimize these effects.

Want to give your energy powerhouse a boost? Several studies show doing HIIT improve mitochondrial function, like this one that stated “6 weeks of HIIT enhanced mitochondrial OXPHOS capacity and attenuated the HE-depressed mitochondrial ETS efficiency in platelets. Therefore, the HIIT regimen effectively improved platelet bioenergetics, possibly by enhancing mitochondrial quality rather than quantity in platelets”. The keywords here are “enhancing mitochondrial quality”. The quality of our mitochondria has been linked to aging, energy levels, and much more. Yes HIIT might require a lot of energy in a short duration of time, but the payout could be well worth it in the long run.

HIIT and Your Heart

If you think you’re too old or out of shape to do HIIT, think again. Even people with heart disease have been shown to gain twice the amount of cardiorespiratory fitness while doing HIIT compared to low intensity running cycling and other aerobic activities.

jamie-street-94242Having flexibility is important, but not only in your muscles. “HIIT increases the flexibility and elasticity of arteries and veins better than continuous aerobic exercise,” says Weiss. “Because HIIT increases pressure demand on your blood vessels, they actually get a workout as well.” In fact, high-intensity interval training is not only safe but also easier to tolerate than a more moderate workout in people with coronary artery disease, according to one study.

So as you can see, there are many advantages of incorporating HIIT into your workout routine. You can even do HIRT, incorporating the fast-paced intensity with lifting weights and shredding even more fat than your conventional weight lifting routine. You’re going to be doing both your mitochondria and heart a favor. Nevertheless, there are a few downsides to be aware of when training with HIIT.

The Disadvantages Of HIIT

Compared to other forms of cardio, HIIT requires a longer recovery period. If you’re only doing short 5-minute HIIT workout sessions as a trained athlete, you may be able to do HIIT daily. But, doing 20-30 minute sessions is likely to require a few days rest before you can do another session.

When you’re doing a HIIT workout, you’ll find that it’s considerably harder to maintain correct form. The quick succession of exercise intensity can consequently result in injury if not properly performed. The most important exercises are always going to be the ones you’re willing to do, and do safely. Try to get some experience under your belt before jumping into a HIIT workout; it may not be suitable for beginners.

Which brings us to our next point. HIIT is really hard! It requires our heart to pump at around 85 percent of our maximal output. Working out shouldn’t leave you with a yucky feeling in your stomach. It should be enjoyable. Although some people love the challenge that HIIT brings, if you like to workout in a less intense manner that’s great too! If you’re into lifting super heavy weights, that’s awesome. Exercise should be something you look forward to, and everybody looks forward to different workouts.

The Bottomline

Doing HIIT can work wonders for changing your body composition. Moreover, this is especially true when coupled with weight lifting, more so than slower less intense cardio. Your mitochondria and heart will thank you. If you’re short on time and want the best return on your investment, then HIIT is the way to go. This is not discouraging you from performing lower intensity cardio; there is still wonderful benefit from doing so. Rather, experiment with your own body, that’s where the best research takes place. On a closing note, remember that your primary relationship to nature, the food you eat, can have a bigger role in your body composition than any exercise. Stay healthy, stay happy.

We’d love to hear your input:

What’s your preferred training method and why?

What popular fitness advice have you had to modify or avoid because you listened to your body?