Will HIIT Burn Muscle?

What is HIIT?  HIIT is high intensity interval training.  It’s a form of cardiovascular exercise where an individual alternates between high and low intensities.  An example would be a thirty second sprint, followed by a sixty second jog, then a thirty second sprint, and a sixty second jog and so on and so forth.  Those timings are just an example, your work and rest intervals can be different times.  You could sprint for twenty seconds and jog for forty seconds etc.  So will this burn up your hard earned muscle?  It’s not a simple yes or no.

As long as your nutritional regiment is adequate, and you’re recovering between workouts, high intensity interval training will not directly burn muscle.  It will actually do quite the opposite.  HIIT will allow you to lose fat, maintain, and even build muscle.  Think about the look of a long distance runner, versus a sprinter or football player.  The football player and sprinter will have significantly more muscular and compact bodies while the long distance runner is generally long and lean with aerobically trained muscles.

When you’re exercising, your body will tap into glycogen and fat stores before it utilizes muscle and proteins for energy.  There isn’t any form of exercise that will directly burn muscle.  That being said, HIIT is very taxing on the body so if you’re not eating enough and properly recovering you will as with any exercise, begin to lose muscle.  It’s crucial that you’re giving your body the fuel it needs, adequate amount of carbohydrates and fats to get through these HIIT workouts.  On top of that, it’s important to eat enough protein to recover, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep.

To get the best benefits from HIIT, you need to exert maximal effort on your work intervals.  So it’s not a jog, followed by a walk, it’s an all out sprint followed by a jog.  It’s supposed to be intense, difficult, and hard.  You will get sweaty and you will get sore.  It is a training tactic that is not for the faint of heart.  In order to lose fat, your body has to be in a caloric deficit.  It’s possible to achieve this by dieting, physical training, or optimally, a healthy combination of both.  Which type of cardio you do becomes a question of efficiency.  HIIT will burn more calories in a less amount of time when compared to low intensity cardio.

Most people can get away with low intensity cardio on the treadmill for thirty minutes four to six sessions per week.  Low intensity steady state cardio is less likely to effect your weight training.  This is not the case with HIIT training.  Just like you wouldn’t go to the gym and blast your chest muscles every single day, it’s not the best idea to implement HIIT every day.  HIIT sessions should only last about twenty minutes, and you should be exhausted.  Remember that it is an advanced technique that is not for beginners or the unfit.  However you fit it into your regiment, never do HIIT two consecutive days.  Start with with one to two HIIT sessions per week.