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How to Use HIIT to Improve Your Body Composition

By | Body Composition, Fitness

If you’ve been trying to get in shape recently and you’ve been scouring the Internet for effective workout styles, chances are you’ve stumbled upon something called HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training.

Over the years, professional athletes and fitness buffs alike have sworn by this training method.

Whether it’s lowering fat mass or increasing muscle gain, you’re probably wondering if it’s the right workout type that will help you attain your body composition goals as quickly as possible.

Read on below for a closer look of this popular workout style and how you can use it to effectively attain your desired body composition outcomes.

The Lowdown on HIIT

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is based on the premise that short, explosive burst of activities can have a huge, lasting impact on your body composition. In a nutshell, it’s not about how long you’re exercising but rather how intense you’re performing the workouts within a certain period of time.

In a typical HIIT routine, you alternate between intervals of quick, intense bursts of exercise and short, sometimes low intensity, periods of rest. Here’s how the American Council on Exercise (ACE) describes HIIT:

Most endurance workouts, such as walking, running, or stair-climbing —are performed at a moderate intensity, or an exertion level of 5-6 on a scale of 0-10. High-intensity intervals, on the other hand, are done at an exertion level of 7 or higher, and are typically sustained for 30 seconds to 3 minutes, although they can be as short as 8-10 seconds or as long as 5 minutes; the higher the intensity, the shorter the speed interval. Recovery intervals are equal to or longer than the speed intervals.

Running HIIT-style involves intervals of 30 to 60 seconds of running near your peak of ability. You follow this almost breathless (but definitely not winded) running with a comparable cool-down period of walking. For instance, you can do a short sprint upstairs and walk back down four times in a row.

While there’s no specific set of guidelines as to how often you should do HIIT,  alternating periods of high-intensity and low-intensity activities at least three times a week as part of your exercise routine is a good rule of thumb to reap its benefits. One study in the European Journal of Endocrinology reported that male subjects following an 8-week HIIT program experienced muscle gain and lost a significant amount of abdominal fat mass, even though the program included no weightlifting.

The great thing about HIIT is you can apply interval training to almost any type of workout — from interval running to doing explosive laps at the pool to your twice-a-week kettlebell routine. This means that you can continuously mix things up in your routine so you won’t get bored and give up on our body composition goals.

HIIT and Its Impact on Body Fat

Let’s look at HIIT’s impact on body fat.

HIIT has been shown to be effective in torching body fat more than other types of exercise. In terms of belly fat, studies found that HIIT workouts help reduce both visceral (fat mass around the organs) and subcutaneous (under the skin) fat.

Another study compared the results between a group of participants who committed to three days a week of high-intensity exercise routine and another group who did five days a week of low-intensity exercise. After sixteen weeks, the researchers discovered that the participants who committed to high-intensity exercise routine for three days a week lost more fat than the group who showed up for low-intensity steady-state exercise.

HIIT’s significant role in reducing fat mass is good news if you’re not seeing consistent results in reducing your body fat percentage (particularly that stubborn belly fat) despite your regular workout routine.

HIIT and Its Impact on Muscle Mass

As for HIIT’s possible role in building lean muscle mass, let’s take a look at the findings of a study published last year in the Journal of Diabetes Research.

The researchers compared the effects of five weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) among overweight and obese, young women in terms of cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and blood glucose.

Participants in the HIIT group performed 60 repetitions of high-intensity interval exercise — at 8 seconds of cycling at 90% of peak oxygen consumption, and 12-second rest on a cycle ergometer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, participants in the MICT group performed continuous cycling exercise at 65% of peak oxygen consumption for 40 minutes.

In terms of lean mass changes, the researchers concluded the following:

“..the MICT group experienced significantly decreased total lean mass (TLM) and leg LM. Meanwhile, TLM and leg LM in the HIIT group were unchanged. ”

Based on the study’s findings, here’s what we know so far:

  • HIIT may not be the most effective workout routine to build lean muscle mass
  • HIIT, however, can help preserve or retain lean muscle mass, while MICT can potentially make you lose lean muscle mass if you’re trying to lose fat mass at the same time

One of the many benefits of HIIT is that it increase the proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers over slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Why is this important? Fast twitch fibers are a main factor of your strength and speed. They are also very important to train in that if you don’t use them, you lose them, especially as you get older. That being said, you can see how important muscle gain is when you are young, in order to maintain your strength and speed (reflexes) as you age.

While HIIT may not be as effective in increasing muscle mass, it does offer potential benefits to achieve that sculpted look.  However, if your main goal is to build muscle mass, bodybuilding or weight training may be your best bet. Here’s an in-depth look between bodybuilding and HIIT to improve body composition. You can note also that both these methods may be used in conjunction to help you to attain your desired body composition.

Additional Benefits of HIIT

Besides helping improve your body composition through fat mass loss, HIIT also provides the following benefits:

  • Short yet explosive bursts of exercise may be more effective in boosting your V02 max— a measure of aerobic endurance— than performing the same exercise at a slower pace. This can help you to use oxygen more efficiently and increase exercise performance.
  • Incorporating HIIT workouts into your exercise routine is more time-efficient. This study reveals that you get the same cardiovascular effects from traditional endurance training in HIIT in just a couple minutes.
  • New research findings published last April concluded that HIIT improves glucose metabolism in muscles and boosts insulin sensitivity among type 2 diabetics.
  • HIIT is perceived as a more enjoyable activity than moderate-intensity continuous exercise. This finding suggests that HIIT will likely promote long-term exercise adherence than other workout styles.
  • In a 2015 study comparing the afterburn effect, also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC, HIIT (as well as weight training) reigns supreme over regular cardio up to 21 hours post-workout. The more oxygen your body requires to return to its resting metabolic state, the more calories you burn. This means that HIIT can help you burn more calories even after a day (or almost) you exercised.

Making the Most of Your HIIT Workout

To help you accomplish and maintain body composition success, there are various types of HIIT methods to choose from — from the Tabata protocol to turbulence training. Plus, HIIT can be applied to almost every workout routine or fitness setup out there. You can do CrossFit, engage in bodyweight workouts, or even do HIIT with Pilates.

Regardless of the workout routine or HIIT method you prefer, you can make the most of your HIIT routine by sticking to the following best practices:

  • Don’t forget to do some warm-up before you engage in explosive, high-intensity moves.
  • Aim for at least three-to-five minute intervals completed at least six times. This interval has been shown to provide long-term sustainable results in a systematic review of studies on HIIT protocols that are most effective.
  • Complement your HIIT routine with other workout styles or training programs such as yoga or trail running to keep things interesting.
  • Incorporate as many muscle groups as you can. Using more muscle groups will help to burn more calories!
  • Use your own body’s cues to gauge exertion level. For example, you’re doing it right if you can say single words in the middle of your HIIT routine but you should not be able to complete whole sentences. So if you still find yourself chatting it up at the gym in between reps and you’re not seeing results, maybe it’s high time to pump up the effort level a few notches.
  • Watch what and how much you eat. The best HIIT routine in the world will amount to nothing in the long run if you’re not mindful of your diet and nutritional needs.
  • If you have existing health issues,  it’s best to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional first before engaging in HIIT.

It’s All About Consistency

To benefit the most from any form of HIIT, build a habit of doing it consistently. Even if you can only spare a few minutes, you can effortlessly incorporate these quick interval workouts to your day.

How about getting off your social media of choice for about half an hour to do HIIT? Perhaps you can do reps with your officemates during lunch hour.

The next time you feel like exercise is a chore or a task that you need to check off your to-do list, introduce HIIT into your workout routine! You might not know it but a quick, fun HIIT sesh may be the missing piece in bidding adieu (finally!) to your current body composition woes.

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food. 

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/how-to-use-hiit-to-improve-your-body-composition/

How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Month?

By | Fitness, Muscle
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on April 26, 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on September 19, 2017.
by InBody USA

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight before, you may have heard that a 3,500 calorie deficit results in about one pound of fat loss. In other words, if your daily caloric requirement is 2,500 calories and you spend seven days eating just 2,000 calories, you’re likely to lose around one pound of fat.

But, there’s no rule of thumb explaining how to put on (or lose) a pound of muscle mass.

Why not?

Because it’s not a simple equation. Unlike losing fat, putting on muscle isn’t as easy  as causing a calorie surplus. You need to know how muscle building works so you can set realistic goals, especially if you’re participating in a fitness challenge. This article will lay out factors that go into your “gains” and will answer the question: “How much muscle can you realistically gain in one month?”

The Three Pillars of Muscle Growth

Building muscle comes down to three inputs: nutrition, exercise, and hormones. Understanding these factors is the first step toward understanding how much you can build in one month.

1. NUTRITION

The term nutrition is defined as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” At a fundamental level, muscle growth starts with the nutrients you put into your body.

People trying to gain muscle generally eat a high protein diet. After all, the amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of muscle. Your body can manufacture many of those amino acids, but nine are known as essential amino acids (EAA) because they can’t be made in the body. Instead, you have to consume EAAs from food sources like meat, beans, nuts, and soy. A diet containing mixed amino acids can help maximize muscle protein synthesis.

The amino acid, leucine is responsible for many of the anabolic (muscle-building) processes. This is known as the “leucine trigger concept,” since sufficient quantities of leucine trigger muscle protein synthesis.

Protein is not the only macronutrient responsible for muscle growth. In fact, there appears to be a limit to the amount of protein one can consume to maximize muscle gain. Additionally, it takes energy to build muscle, and this means you need a positive caloric balance in order to achieve hypertrophy.

If you want to build muscle, increase your dietary protein intake– but don’t exclude your carbs and your fats. Carbs and fats aren’t all bad for you! All three are important, thus a diet balanced in carbs, protein, and fats is effective for gaining muscle.

But remember, it’s not just the calories. Physical activity is also key to promoting muscle development.

2. RESISTANCE EXERCISE

Workouts that include resistance exercise stress the muscles, which results in muscle gain.

Your body adapts to resistance exercise by growing or changing to make them more capable of handling the workout.

The stress of resistance exercise causes the muscle fibers to tear at the cellular level. Then, special muscle cells called satellite cells jump into action to repair, rebuild, and grow the muscle.

The right types of exercises, like high-intensity workouts or compound exercises, can promote increased muscle growth.  A healthy balance between workouts and rest is necessary to support healthy hormone levels and maximize muscle gain.

3. HORMONES

Three primary hormones that stimulate muscle hypertrophy are insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), growth hormone (GH), and testosterone.

After weight training, increases in these hormones correspond with muscle protein synthesis, one of the key processes in muscle hypertrophy.

Essentially, these hormones signal to the muscle that it’s time to repair and build up after a session in the gym. GH is released in the greatest quantities during sleep, so remember that getting a good sleep helps you attain your body composition goals.

When nutrition, workouts, and hormonal effects combine, the muscle-building magic really happens. Figuring out the right balance is essential for reaching your goals.

How to Manage Your Muscle Gains

Your body’s individual response to nutrition, resistance exercise and hormones can vary. But other factors can impact how much muscle gain in a month.

Supplementing Muscle Growth

Muscles need the right fuel to grow. Protein supplements are long known to boost help muscle hypertrophy, and fueling your body with EAAs is important for providing the nutrients your body can’t synthesize.

After weight training, consuming protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis by supplying providing amino acid building blocks. Traditionally, 20 grams of protein has been considered enough. Researchers recently found that experienced lifters doing whole-body workouts may need about 40 grams. But consuming more than approximately 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day has no additional benefit for building muscle. Excess protein is burned for energy like carbohydrates and fats, excreted in urine, or even stored as fat.

Timing could also be important: research shows intaking protein before bed during a resistance training program is especially helpful for building muscle mass.

Note: While supplements may be beneficial for promoting muscle recovery and growth, they are only effective when combined with a balanced diet and exercise plan. More on supplements and their effects can be found here.

So what should you expect?

Just like muscle can’t turn into fat, fat can’t turn into muscle.

It is unlikely that your body will be able to utilize all of the additional calories for muscle growth. Some of the caloric surplus needed to gain muscle is going to be stored as fat, and that’s OK.

Only the most stringent of diet and exercise protocols have been shown to result in simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss. Researchers have called this protocol “grueling and unsustainable”, so it’s probably not an ideal strategy.

If you want to gain muscle, you need to accept that you’ll probably have some slight fat mass gain. It’s just being realistic.

What if you’ve hit a plateau?

Gaining muscle mass is all about forcing the muscle to adapt to novel stress. It’s no surprise that gains come more readily to novices than experienced weightlifters. For novice lifters, the right weight training program should be enough novel stimulus in the gym. Recent research suggests hypertrophy can be measured in as little as one month. But, there seems to be an upper limit to muscle gain. Experienced lifters should be closer to that ceiling than novices, making their incremental gains smaller.

How can the experienced weight lifter overcome this challenge? By introducing different and new nutritional or resistance stimuli.

The principle is simple: change up your routine. Since trained muscles adapt to consistent stimuli, adding variation will challenge the muscles in a different way and promote further growth.

The muscles you train also dictate your potential to gain. Your arms have a much lower total potential to gain muscle than your hips and legs because they’re smaller muscle groups.

Don’t skip your upper body lifts just yet, though. Research shows that arm muscles may be quicker to hypertrophy than legs. The ceiling is lower, but the rate of gain relative to what’s already there is quicker.

What if you’re not as young as you used to be?

Older adults may have a harder time building muscle because the body’s response to weight training has diminished. The muscle building machinery is still there, but it may require more input to achieve desired results.

To overcome this hurdle, use ‘novel stimulus’ thinking from the previous section. Try consuming some extra protein or adding a few new exercises to your routine. The goal is to convince your body to adapt to what you’re throwing at it.

Building muscle may be harder than it was in your youth, but it can still be done.

So what’s a realistic expectation for muscle growth for men vs.women?

It’s time to estimate how much you can reasonably gain in one month. It can be very frustrating seeing a man have an easier time putting on muscle. Due to the different physiological makeup of men and women, we will discuss hypertrophy separately.

 THE FACTS FOR MEN

Remember that study we referenced earlier? The goal was simple: lose fat while packing on muscle. It worked – participants gained about 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) of lean body mass and lost fat mass – but it was totally unsustainable. The cornerstone of this program was daily heavy circuit training, HIIT and sprint-interval workouts, and plyometric workouts, all while restricting calorie intake to just 60% of daily requirements and taking in high doses of protein supplements.

A word of caution: don’t try this program at home.

What you can take away is that those men, who had never lifted weights before, gained over 1 kg of lean body mass in just one month.

Another group of researchers decided to try a more sustainable program on a smaller scale, and guess what? The men gained 4 kg of skeletal muscle in 16 weeks. That means the rate of muscle gain was almost identical to the grueling, unsustainable program – about 1 kg per month.

This program, consisting of just five exercises (squat, knee extension, knee flexion, bench press, and lat pull-down), was certainly more realistic.

Based on the research, it’s reasonable to expect untrained men to be able to gain about 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs, of muscle per month at the beginning of an exercise program.

But what about experienced weightlifters? Because experienced lifters will likely have a slower rate of progression, the amount of gain will be generally lesser and depend on the level of training experience of the individual.

THE FACTS FOR WOMEN

Women tend to be less muscular than men, and most people believe it’s harder to build muscle as a female. There’s some truth to that statement. Muscle hypertrophies in proportion to the baseline quantity of muscle mass, so women gain less muscle mass than men because their baseline muscle mass tends to be lower.

How much muscle gain is typical for young women? One study says about 0.5 – 0.7 kg in the first month for novice weightlifters. This study involved just two lifts – the squat and the deadlift. You might be left wondering what happens when women undergo a whole-body weightlifting program.

Women’s arms gain muscle at about 3 times the rate as legs (an increase of 9.7% in arms vs. 3.3% in legs). According to the study, women can expect to increase their muscle mass by 1.5 kg during the 20 weeks of training, averaging out to 0.3 kg per month.

Since body composition wasn’t measured at any point during the 20 weeks of training, there’s no way of knowing whether the participants increased muscle mass faster in the first month or two.

So is that the end of the discussion? Not exactly. Remember, each individual is different and not everyone will be able to sustain a consistent diet and exercise routine to promote muscle development for extended periods of time. This is why research on this topic is more scarce than you might think. Many researchers measure muscle hypertrophy by looking at changes in the circumference around limbs or by imaging cross-sections of the body. This allows them to understand muscle growth in different body segments (arms, trunk, legs).

However, newer technology, such as Direct Segmental Multi-frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSM-BIA), provides a quicker, less invasive way of measuring muscle mass in addition to other components of the body.

Conclusions

Altering your body composition is no easy feat. It takes patience, effort, and commitment, but it’s definitely within your reach.

Your body primarily needs three basic stimuli to build muscle: nutrition, resistance exercise, and hormones. You can and should manipulate nutritional and exercise stimuli to keep your body responding.

If your current daily protein intake is 0.8 g / kg of body weight, try bumping that up to 1.5 g / kg if your doctor says it’s okay. If you currently lift twice per week, try gradually increasing to three or four sessions per week. And if you don’t do resistance exercise at all, it’s time to start!

Some people will gain substantially moreand some will gain less muscle over the course of a month. But in general, the average is about 1 kg for males and 0.5 kg for females.

To have the best chance of building muscle, stick to a training, nutrition, and recovery plan. Make sure you get your body composition measured to set a baseline and track your progress to figure out whether your fitness regimen is working for you. If you don’t meet the average values mentioned above in the first month, use the next month as an opportunity to change your routine.

Armed with the tips and realistic expectations from this article, you’ll be on your way to a better body composition in no time.

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Max Gaitán, MEd is an exercise physiologist and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. When he’s not coaching, studying, or writing, Max spends most of his time outdoors training for triathlons.