Before we go any further though, I thought I'd quickly explain what HIIT and Tabata are for those that don't know what it really means:
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and is a workout that consists of short bursts (1-2 minutes) of high intensity exercise that should raise heart rate up to about 80-95% of it's max, followed by a rest period of anywhere between 30sec to 2 minutes depending on the workout you are doing. You could choose to do hill sprints, burpees, certain weight training exercises or basically any exercise that you enjoy that gets your heart really pumping. Overall these workouts usually take about 20 minutes.
Tabata is a workout that consists of short bursts (20 seconds) of high intensity exercise that should raise your heart rate above 100%, followed by a rest period of about 10 seconds. Again, you could choose any exercise or movement that gets your heart racing. A Tabata workout usually takes about 4 minutes.
So why are these style of workouts better than steady cardio (like jogging or steady cycling etc) for weight loss? Read on and I'll give you a brief introduction into why..
Steady cardio does have it's benefits and it's place - and if you are the type of person that enjoys cardio, then keep it up! But if you want to see some specific changes in weight loss or body composition and steady types of cardio aren't really working for you, then it's time to give HIIT or Tabata a try. You see, to be burning fat, your calorie expenditure needs to be more than your calorie intake, and steady cardio exercise alone just isn't a very effective tool for calorie burning and this is why - a person who weighs 65 kgs will burn (roughly) between 200-300 calories in 30 minutes of steady cardio, and over time, your body adapts to that cardio and won't burn as much. A much more time-efficient way to reduce that 200 calories would be skipping the chocolate bar, or cutting 2 slices of bread from you daily diet, or opting for vegetables over pasta. A clean, healthy diet that is low in processed foods and rich in vegetables, proteins and healthy fats will be your best ally in weight loss. Once you are eating well, exercise can help you tone, gain strength and shape your body (amongst the many other health benefits).
One of the reasons that HIIT style workouts are more efficient than steady cardio, is that the high intensity exercise - especially exercises that increase strength, helps you build muscle and creates changes within your muscle metabolism. This will help you boost your body's metabolism which will help you burn through more calories even after the workout is finished. And the more muscle you have, the more calories your body uses in it's day to day functioning. (You can actually lose muscle by doing a lot of steady-state cardio***).
So hopefully now I've helped give you a little bit of insight into why HIIT and Tabata are a very effective tool for weight loss and body composition changes. Again, if you enjoy cardio then keep it up, there are many benefits and I love a good run myself. But if you have specific weight loss, body composition goals and time restraints, HIIT might be a better option. Stay tuned as very soon I'll be sharing some great HIIT workouts that you can do at home..
*20x3: Eliminate Your Belly Fat In An Hour A Week, By Dr Steve Boucher
**1996 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise authored by Izumi Tabata
*** Wilson, et al. Concurrent Training: A Meta Analysis Examining Interference of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise. University of Tampa, FL. J Strength Conditioning.