Myth-busters: HIIT fat in no time

  • By richard watson
  • 05 Jan, 2017

Burn more Fat not more time?

weight training to lose fat
HIIT Training

Although, all of the information that is presented in this article is geared toward the benefits and/or effectiveness of anaerobic high intensity interval training (HIIT) vs. low intensity aerobic training with regards to fat utilization, there is an understanding that some reasons for aerobic training supersede the outcomes. For the sake of pure enjoyment, personal goal setting (training for a triathlon, marathon, road race, etc), and the challenge of competition are all viable and respectable reasons for interacting with long slow distance (LSD) activities. For many people these types of activities are suitable for their lifestyle and enjoyable means of living an active life. The goal of this article is not to discount or diminish the value of physical activity in all its modalities, but to merely present data with regards to optimum fat loss, hormonal indicators, and other factors of cardiovascular and cardio respiratory markers as they pertain to exercise intensity prescription.

Misinformation is Costing Money

People today are on sensory overload with achieving a “lean or sculpted” physique. This has made weight-loss a billion pound industry (46.3 billion to be exact as reported by, 2004). If you have ever been to a gym, talked about working out, or even remotely have expressed interest in health, you have probably had the “I need to lose weight” or “shed a little fat” talk at some point. Marry this desire with the endless supply of jargon in magazines and infomercials that promise miracles with the use of their products and we see the weight loss industry getting richer and richer. The unfortunate part is that most people have little or no educational means to differentiate between what is effective and what is merely an elaborate marketing effort. Oddly enough, there is a gym on virtually every street corner and new weight loss supplements are coming out on a daily basis. Yet, the obesity rate in the UK has grown to epidemic proportions. With this many products and weight loss systems available that claim to give you a rock hard physique or fitness model quality body, how can so many people be overweight? One word, misinformation!

So now that both your mood and pocketbook have been suppressed, how can we ensure that our efforts toward weight loss, and moreover fat loss, are attainable? The answer is more effective training. This article is intended to share what has been reported in the scientific literature for decades. In the following section several myths associated with fat loss will be discussed and debunked. It is important for the reader to understand that the information about to be presented goes beyond the author’s opinion and is based on scientific research, not claims or gimmicks. So, stop buying supplements that claim you don’t have to work out to lose fat or to be lean. The only thing they make smaller is your disposable income. You MUST exercise to burn fat effectively. Quit joining the fad diet crazes! Over half of those people gain back the weight. In fact, many of these diets promote calorie reduction without exercise. As a result, lean muscle may also be lost in conjunction with fat and causes a reduction in the resting metabolic rate. Frequently, when people return to their pre-diet weight they are actually fatter in terms of body fat percentage than before they went on the diet.

apache brave personal training
personal training

Get Educated

What is the solution to this endless cycle? Education. It is time to START LEARNING! Odds are you did not get your job by ordering a magic pill or following some fanatical routine, so stop treating your health the same way. If you truly desire to lose weight or to get leaner, you must learn how the body works, even if it is from a crude or rudimentary standpoint. Otherwise you will continue to waste money on ineffective products and gym fees for the rest of your life!

Here are some facts about why aerobic long slow distance training (LSD) may be less effective and possibly even counterproductive for fat loss when compared to high intensity interval training (HIIT). First of all, LSD and interval training both increase fat oxidation (burning). However, the positive effect for LSD can take up to two weeks to be effective whereas interval training demonstrates an immediate return. This is generally due to the nature of glycogen (sugar) depletion. With HIIT, glycogen is depleted rapidly. But in LSD training, depletion requires much longer duration as the intensity of exercise is exceedingly lower. Fat oxidation will markedly increase with depleted glycogen levels.

Does this sound familiar? This is essentially the basis of the ever so famous “low carb” diet craze. With depleted glycogen (carbohydrate), the body will initiate higher levels or fat oxidation. However with this type of diet, protein and/or muscle loss may be affected as well. Glycogen levels are important and all the macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, and protein) play a significant role in overall nutrition and health.

Fat Burning Zone

Secondly, do not get caught up in the “fat burning zone”. This is generally in reference to the percentage of heart rate (HR) max. This has typically been displayed for unsuspecting users of cardio equipment in health clubs. The typical “fat burning zone” is promoted as being near 65% of HR max. While there is truth in the statement that at 65% of HR max, a higher level of fat will be oxidized when compared to carbohydrate consumption, the overall training effect utilizes less fat.

Let’s take a closer look at this for caloric burn and also from what is called EPOC, or excess post oxygen consumption. EPOC generally accounts for the energy expenditure during recovery from the exercise bout or the “post exercise burning" of calories (9). Typically this EPOC is fuelled by fat and the intensity of work performed. The higher the intensity, the higher the EPOC. When compared to post exercise fat oxidation, moderate to low intensity exercise barely compares. Take for example the work done by Tremblay et al. This study compared an aerobic group and an anaerobic group of subjects for caloric burn and fat loss. The aerobic group trained for 20 weeks while the anaerobic group (interval) trained for only 15 weeks. The results showed that although the aerobic group burned nearly 50% more calories, the anaerobic (interval) group burned nine times more subcutaneous fat than their counterparts (11).   For those not paying attention, in summary, that is five weeks less work and nine times the fat lost.

Cellular Hydration

Cellular Hydration is the third point of interest. There is a surprising thermogenic affect of water. A study of seven men and women who drank 500 millilitres found that after merely 10 minutes of ingestion the subjects resting metabolic rate rose by 30%. Interestingly, this influx was fuelled by fat in the male subjects and carbohydrate with the female subjects (1). Typically the rule of thumb for water consumption is near one gallon per day. Not too many people reach this goal on a daily basis. Water also aids in nutrient absorption and also helps flush out toxins accumulated from exercise.

Muscle Burns Fat?

The caloric utilization of tissues in the body differs too. The old adage that “muscle burns fat” is not entirely true. But when compared, muscle tissue burns 7-10 kcal/kg/day whereas adipose tissue only consumes 2-3 kcal/kg/day. Some of the additional benefits that the high intensity interval trained may experience in conjunction with increased fat loss include, greater improvements in VO2max, increased growth hormone response (due to lactate accumulation), and positive blood pressure response (4, 5).

V02 testing


The VO2max may seem surprising to those who have been told that the LSD training will elicit the highest level of VO2max. This too has been shown to reach higher levels with HIIT when compared to moderate intensity exercise. Tabata et all compared a “fat burning zone” group vs. a HIIT group and found that although the fat burning group improved VO2max by 10%, they did not produce any concomitant improvement in anaerobic capacity. Conversely, the HIIT group improved their VO2max by 14% and their anaerobic capacity also rose by 28% (10). Furthermore, a third party University study showed that the 1992 Canadian Alpine ski team (predominately HIIT) demonstrated higher VO2max markers than their Nordic (highly aerobic) counterparts.

Still think that your aerobic work is the ticket to success? Here are some other contributing factors to think about. High levels of aerobic exercise increases adrenal stress which can increase the potential for such symptoms as insomnia, depression, reduced memory, frequent influenza and most importantly – the ability to lose weight (12). Also, aerobic training has an effect on local muscular power (3, 6, 8) and lastly, training aerobically diminishes testosterone/cortisol ratio, which in turn also impedes your ability to burn fat (7). Read more about V02 here


The traditional school of thought for exercise prescription and fat loss has been long assumed to be accomplished through aerobic activity. However, with the plethora of research that has been geared toward finding the best means of fat utilization, we now know that HIIT is by far a better method for attaining this goal. Keep in mind that HIIT is very demanding and that it is important to ensure that your client/athlete is cleared for such activity through a medical professional. Also understand that the chronological age and training status of your client will determine what might be HIIT for each person. A 55-year old untrained client will quite easily reach an anaerobic state and for much shorter duration than will a 25-year old moderately trained client. If these parameters and considerations are kept in mind, HIIT can benefit people from all walks of life and all levels of fitness.  Detailed personal training programmes are a good way to gain the best out of your workouts


1.Boschmann, M., Steiniger J, Hillie U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft SC, Jordan J. (2003). Water-Induced Thermogenesis. J Clinical Endocrinol Met 88(12):6015-6019.

2.Bray, GA, Bouchard C, and James W.P.T. (1998) Handbook of Obesity. New York: Marcel Dekker.

3.Dudley, GA., and Djamil R. (1985) Incompatibility of Endurance and Strength Training Modes of Exercise. J Appl Physiol 59:1446-1451.

4.Gray AB, Telford RD, and Weidemann MJ. (1993) Endocrine Response to Intense Interval Exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 66:366-371.

5.Haram PM, Kemi OJ, Lee SJ, Bendheim MO, Al-Share QY, Waldum HL, Gilligan LJ, Koch LF, Britton SL, Najjar SM, and Wisleff U. (2008). Aerobic Interval Training vs. Continuous Moderate Exercise in the Metabolic Syndrome of Rats Artificially Selected for Low Aerobic Capacity. Cardiovasc Res 81:723-732.

6.Hickson, RC. (1980) Interference of Strength Development by Simutaneously Training for Strength and Endurance. Eur J Appl Physiol 45:255-263.

7.Hoogeveen AR, Zonderland ML. (1996) Relationship between Testosterone, Cortisol and Performance in Professional Cyclists. Int J Sports Medicine 17(6):423-428.

8.Kraemer WJ, Patton J, Gordon SE, Harman EA, Deschenes MR, Reynolds K, Newton RU, Triplett NT, Dziados JR. (1995) Compatability of High Intensity Strength and Endurance Training on Hormonal and Skeletal Muscle Adaptations. J Appl Physiol 78:976-989.

9.Stainsby WM, and Barclay JK. (1970) Exercise Metabolism: O2 Deficit, Steady Level of O2 Uptake and O2 Uptake in Recovery. Med Sci Sports 2:177-195.

10.Tabata I, Irishawa K, Kuzaki M, Nishimura K, Ogita F, and Miyacho M. (1995). Metabolic Profile of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercises. Medicine and Science in Sports & Ex 29(3):390-395.

11.Tremblay, A., Simoneau JA, and Bouchard C. (1994). Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism. Metabolism 43:814-818.

12.Wilson, J. (2002). Adrenal Fatigue – 21st Century Stress Syndrome. 1st Edition Smart Publications.

13.Wolf, A. (1998). What is the Economic Case for Treating Obesity? Obesity Research. 6(1); 2S-7S.
Sports Therapist Richard Watson

Richard Watson

Sports Therapist

Richard is a leading sports therapist in the Coventry and Warwickshire area, he has worked at the Olympic and Paralympic games 2012 treating the many athletes competing. Richard has been involved in many major sporting projects including treating and training a team that took on an accent of Everest. He currently runs his own Sports Therapy company providing local athletes with sports massage and personal training.

In The Zone

By richard watson 29 Nov, 2017

The weekend is the time when we all get relaxed, and maybe a little too relaxed with our diets, but it's important to realize that you can still enjoy yourself and keep on track by making a few slight adjustments.

During the week, it is much easier to maintain a healthier lifestyle because you slip into a routine that you get used to and many of us are on autopilot – gym, work, eat, sleep, repeat; but the weekend is a different animal altogether.

The problem is that on the weekend, the textbook simply goes out the window.  It’s the weekend!

You’ve been waiting all week to cheat, but what you need to realize is that you’re doing more harm than good.

Being proactive about your health and making every day count means that you need to iron out all of the creases, and when it comes to your diet and training that normally means prioritizing the weekend and stopping yourself from bingeing.

By richard watson 17 Nov, 2017
Having a shaped, toned body is the primary goal for many gym-goers. However, many are fed countless ‘guaranteed-not-to-fail’ strategies on how to quickly shed fat and attain the perfect look. Such mixed advice often leads to confusion, frustration, and a general feeling of ‘back to the drawing board.’ we understand that every one of us is different, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach just won’t do. So, we’ve designed a healthy, sustainable and evidence-based guide filled with tips to help you efficiently and safely get the look you want.
By richard watson 04 Oct, 2017

Strength training comes in all shapes and sizes, and if you incorporate slight adjustments to your gym routine you’ll find that it’ll be both rewarding and beneficial.

If you have plateaued and you're not  seeing results any more; this will lead you to frustration and in the end you will start having negative results and thoughts.

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Strength training comes in all shapes and sizes, and if you have slight adjustments to your gym workouts you’ll find that it’ll be both rewarding and beneficial. We have listed 7 different ways in which you can alter your training workout to suit your needs and the needs of your body, which will help you adapt and in turn you will start to see gains in your training.

By richard watson 24 Aug, 2017

What if we told you that top athletes suffer from the same thing as you do? Inflammation happens to everyone; it is part of our body’s natural response to training and damaged tissues and also plays a role in the immune system response. With modern day advances in sport science we are now able to see just how much inflammation you’re likely to feel from a strenuous bout of activity through the analysis of your genes.


A DNA Kit test will look at four genetic inflammatory markers - IL6, IL6R, CRP and TNF. Variations in these genes give us a clue if you are predisposed to suffer significantly higher levels or slightly lower levels of inflammation. Knowing your predisposition of this biological phenomenon can make big alteration to your training and even more so to your recovery strategies which dictate your training schedule and ultimately your goals.


Acute inflammation is important for healing; however excessive inflammation can result in prolonged feelings of soreness, tenderness, swelling, and also in a loss of function (reduces ROM or range of motion) and could even result in allergies and chronic diseases. There are various strategies that can be used to help decrease acute and chronic inflammation like sports massage therapy , but for the purpose of today's blog we will be looking at foods that can help in the role of decreasing inflammation in our body:

By richard watson 18 Aug, 2017

For those people who know me will tell you I am the most skeptical person out there when it comes to new products and fad diets to aid fitness training and weight management. I go to lots of trade fairs and seminars and see lots of new products, most of the time I have made my mind up within 20 seconds. Science has to prove it works for me to believe in something, it’s the way I run my business as a sports therapist and the way I train myself.


I first saw the DNA fitness tests in 2013 at a trade show; it was not something I was interested in at the time so I walked on by. However, after seeing these tests repeatedly pop up on trade and fitness magazines I started to take more of an interest.


Over the years I’ve personally battled with injuries from playing sport and had to deal with my own weight issues while being off sport recovering from injury. It’s what got me in to my now profession as a sports therapist; I help many athletes recover, prepare and condition their bodies ready for their events.


As a sports person you are always looking for that extra legal edge, that extra bit that will gain you a few seconds off your personal best or just be able to train and diet better for a healthier lifestyle. So I felt that taking the DNA Diet Fitness Pro test was really worthwhile.


The reports included an abundance of manageable and easily understandable information about my DNA and also provided focused and implementable advice, which wasn’t just based on eating less and exercising more. I was particularly impressed with the strength of the connections DNAFit made between my genetics and the practical implications the results might have in terms of my diet and fitness.


I would recommend this test to anyone interested in improving their health and fitness, regardless of whether you’re a complete beginner or training for a marathon.

By richard watson 10 Apr, 2017

There has been a huge increase in interest in cycling over recent years as more people become aware of the health and fitness benefits’ cycling achieves, as well as its advantages as a fast and economical means of transport. Studio cycling has also grown and has been identified as one of the most popular group exercise formats in clubs worldwide.

By richard watson 01 Mar, 2017

Good bacteria can help you lose weight

For every probiotic evangelist there are several that sneered at the idea that these ‘good bacteria’ products did anything other than leave a big whole in your pocket. But according to a recent study, probiotics are very much more than a health food gimmick.

Probiotics, which are available as yoghurts, drinks and pills, contain so called ‘good’ bacteria that manufacturers claim aid digestive health and boost the immune system.

But the jury remained out – until now when a study has found that they do have many health benefits, including proving effective medicines and helping to control weight.

But you need to need to use the probiotics every day to see any benefits and you should be mindful of the sugar content (it’s best to opt for a pill over yoghurt) which will negate any of the benefits.

By richard watson 06 Feb, 2017

The definition of motivation is that which gives the impetus to behaviour by arousing, sustaining and directing it towards the successful attainment of goals. Abraham Maslow (1954) proposed that we all have a hierarchy of needs, the most basic being physiological needs such as food, and the highest needs being those related to self-fulfillment. Motivation directs behaviour – it organizes behaviour towards a particular goal state. It maintains behaviour until that goal is achieved.


The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 26 miles and 385 yards that is usually run as a road race. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 500 marathons are contested throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes. Larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.

By richard watson 05 Jan, 2017

Although, all of the information that is presented in this article is geared toward the benefits and/or effectiveness of anaerobic high intensity interval training (HIIT) vs. low intensity aerobic training with regards to fat utilization, there is an understanding that some reasons for aerobic training supersede the outcomes. For the sake of pure enjoyment, personal goal setting (training for a triathlon, marathon, road race, etc), and the challenge of competition are all viable and respectable reasons for interacting with long slow distance (LSD) activities. For many people these types of activities are suitable for their lifestyle and enjoyable means of living an active life. The goal of this article is not to discount or diminish the value of physical activity in all its modalities, but to merely present data with regards to optimum fat loss, hormonal indicators, and other factors of cardiovascular and cardio respiratory markers as they pertain to exercise intensity prescription.

By richard watson 01 Nov, 2016
Cancers are classified as a family of related diseases that result from uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells5 that usually become a tumor. The most common causes of cancer related deaths in the United Kingdom are seen in Figure 1 below.The evidence linking low levels of physical activity and an increased potential for development of cancer is growing. More studies are focused on determining if physical activity can be used as a preventative measure in the incidence of cancer.

Figure 1: The 9 Most Common Causes of Cancer Death in 2014

Number of Deaths per Year, All Ages, UK

Cancer Site                Male           Female       Persons
Lung (C33-C34)       19,563       16,332         35,895
Bowel (C18-C20)       8,566          7,337         15,903
Breast (C50)                       73        11,360        11,433
Prostate (C61)          11,287                               11,287
Pancreas (C25)           4,426          4,391           8,817
Oesophagus (C15)   5,213          2,577          7,790
Bladder (C67)              3,614          1,755          5,369
Brain                                2,881          2,342          5,223
Liver (C22)                    3,055          2,036          5,091
More Posts
Share by: