High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a popular workout method across age groups and countries. This form of anaerobic exercise burns more calories than other workouts both during and after training, making it great for weight loss.

This guide will go over what HIIT entails, how it helps shed unwanted weight, and the top HIIT workouts for fat loss. We’ll also compare HIIT and other forms of cardio to see which is best for you.

How Does HIIT Help You Lose Weight?

HIIT helps you lose more weight by burning more calories in a shorter time, raising your metabolic rate, and assisting with muscle gain. It also helps reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar, while increasing your oxygen consumption.

HIIT Burns More Calories

In a study comparing HITT, weight lifting, running, and biking, HITT burned up to one-third more calories than the other forms of exercise. HITT was also the only workout in the study that allowed for rest time between reps, meaning that HITT participants were only exercising for 1/3 of the time of other participants.

That means you can burn the same number of calories in about 20 minutes of HITT as you would in an hour of another exercise!

HITT offers shorter workouts with a high-calorie burn, leading to faster weight loss. Some HITT workouts can burn as much as 450 calories per 30 minutes. With one pound of fat weighing in at roughly 3,500 calories, you could lose a pound a week by adding in just one 30-minute HITT exercise to your daily routine – and that’s without dieting.

HIIT Improves Your Metabolism

Your metabolic rate is how many calories your body burns to maintain itself. The higher your metabolism, the more you must eat to maintain your weight, and the easier it is to lose weight.

Various studies have been done on HITT’s effects on the body’s metabolism. These studies have found that HITT increases the metabolic rate not only during the workout but for hours afterward. Your metabolism could go up by 450% during the 24 hours following your HITT workout. After enough HITT workouts, this could improve your resting metabolic rate.

One of the studies even noted that HITT could promote the burning of fat for energy as opposed to carbohydrates.

HITT Helps You Gain Muscle

For those who were less active before starting HITT, you may see a gain in muscle mass around your calves and thighs as HITT becomes a part of your routine. Muscles require more calories to maintain than fat, meaning this could increase your metabolic rate.

HITT workouts can also reduce body fat and waist circumference in a shorter time than cardio. This fat loss intensifies the more overweight the individual is.

HITT’s Additional Weight Loss Benefits

Increasing your body’s oxygen consumption is usually done through endurance exercise, like long-distance running; however, HITT workouts can produce the same benefits in a much shorter time.

The more oxygen your body can consume, the better your lungs and body can handle your workouts. If you’re wheezing less and breathing more during exercise, you’re more likely to exercise longer and shred more weight.

HITT also works to lower blood pressure and heart rate post-workout. This is especially true for those who had or have high blood pressure and heart rate at the beginning of their weight loss journey.

Another lasting benefit of HITT is its ability to lower blood sugar. Healthy blood sugar levels are important to prevent weight gain and to promote weight loss.  

working out with ropes

What Are Some of the Best HIIT Workouts for Fat Loss?

Cardio and other exercises can be long-winded and boring. The HITT workouts below can be combined to form a 30-minute HITT workout, and they are great for shredding fat.

Use a work to rest ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. For example, exercise for 30 seconds then rest actively for 30-60 seconds each set.

Combine 4-7 of these exercises to create your own diverse HITT workout at home or the gym.

  • Battle ropes
  • Hill sprints
  • Burpees
  • Air squats
  • Lying superman holds
  • High knees
  • Lunge jumps
  • Mountain climbers
  • Jumping rope
  • Push-ups
  • Side jackknifes
  • Russian twists
  • Plank jacks

How Can You Optimize HIIT Workouts for Weight Loss?

The key to HIIT workouts is high intensity over short periods with active rest in between.

Like other cardio exercises, HIIT eliminates fat by raising your heart rate and burning calories.

The difference between cardio like running and HIIT is that HIIT aims to reach around 80% of your maximum heart rate. For those who are just starting to work out, you may aim for 70% of your maximum heart rate during HIIT.

You can calculate your max heart rate by subtracting your age in years from 220.

For example, if I am 30 years old, my max heart rate would be 190 beats per minute (200 – 30 = 190). Eighty percent of 190 is 152, so I would aim to reach around 152 beats per minute during my HIIT workout. You can measure your heart rate by hand with a timer or using an electronic fitness watch or band.  

The high heart rate in HIIT is compensated by short rest periods between sets. Your heart rate should decrease during the rest periods to 60% to 65% of your max heart rate. Most of the rest should be active, such as walking in place.

Be sure to put in 100% effort during your HIIT workout and give it your all to burn as much fat as possible!

Is HIIT Better Than Cardio for Weight Loss?

Both HIIT and cardio can help with weight loss; however, HIIT burns more calories in a shorter time, so it may be best for those on a time crunch. Other alternatives include mixing normal cardio with HIIT workouts into your routine for optimal results.

While working out accelerates the process, the true key to losing weight is a caloric deficit. So long as you are burning more calories than you consume daily, you will be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals.