How Long Does it Take for HIIT Results?
High-intensity interval training is one of the most popular forms of exercise in recent years, and for good reason: it’s super effective, at least for a while. HIIT exercises have fantastic results.
If you look on any blog or read any social media post that talks about HIIT, you’ll see it next to rock-hard bodies, major weight loss before-and-after photos, and it makes it all look pretty good.
But how long did it take for those results to come in? For many individuals, they look at HIIT as a “weight loss and body transformation highway”, as if it’s going to take them from A to B faster. Like it’s finally cracked the code on weight lost.
But there is no secret code, formula, or fast track in fitness. There are different exercises with different results, and while HIIT is definitely one of the most effective, the results might take longer than you think. Let’s talk about that, and give you a rundown of just what HIIT is in the first place.
What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. This is a hybrid of cardio and strength exercises, as well as calisthenics.
The goal is to exercise very intensely for a short burst of time, followed by a short point of rest. Many HIIT workouts will look something like this:
- Intense exercise: 1 min
- Rest: 1 min
- Intense exercise: 2 min
- Rest: 1 min
- Intense exercise: 3 min
- Rest: 1 min
You get the idea. The rest periods do not have to match the same time as the burst of exercise. Typically, HIIT sticks to no more than five-minute intense exercise blocks of time, because you are intentionally exerting yourself.
HIIT training is often enough to be your entire workout for the day. It can include exercises such as planking, push-ups, jumping rope, and other activities that get your blood pumping and focus on major muscle groups.
The most important thing you remember with HIIT is that it can be custom-tailored and that you can use it to focus on your whole body, not just one muscle group or area.
Go crazy and switch out the exercises like interchangeable pieces, just be sure they balance each other out.
What Kind of Results Can I Expect With it?
HIIT offers unique benefits, and some of them end up being dietary. These are the types of results you can expect, and after we go over these, we’ll talk about a time frame to expect results.
- Faster Calorie Burn: HIIT is all about intensity, and intensity brings results. If you’re using HIIT, the goal is to get as much done in as little time as possible. We’ll talk about some pitfalls of this later, but as long as you balance it, this can be a major cause for calorie burn and weight loss. Imagine compacting a 15-minute workout into 5 minutes or less. You save time and improve your results.
- EPOC: Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption is what’s commonly referred to as the afterburn effect. This is when your body continues to burn calories and build muscle for hours and hours after your exercise is over. This can also be attributed to the fact that your body takes around four to six hours to return to its pre-workout body temperature, and heightened temperatures can help you burn calories.
- More Muscle Activity: HIIT forces you to engage with more muscle groups in a short amount of time than many of us engage with in a normal exercise regimen or routine. Because of the unique HIIT exercises that you’ll commonly see, you engage more muscle groups all at once. This spreads out the EPOC / afterburn effect to impact more areas of the body, so you not only have more muscle activity because of the intensity but also because you affect more areas of the body as well.
- Improved Oxygen and Blood Flow: Your circulatory system is one of the most important parts of your health, and HIIT in responsible doses can lower your blood pressure while increasing blood flow to sensitive vessels in the heart (which removes fatty tissue deposits that you don’t want), and help you breathe easier—literally. Your respiratory system and cardiovascular system benefit from HIIT, and that’s enough of a reason to do it.
- Metabolic Stimulation: HIIT exercises are able to burn more fat and carbohydrates in the bloodstream, which leads to a higher metabolic response. Additionally, it can help control insulin levels in the blood, which can combat the effects of type 2 diabetes and make your life that much better.
How Long Does it Take to See Results?
Now comes the fun part—talking about the time frame and when you can actually expect to see all of this impact you. This is slightly different for everyone, so bear with us while we paint a picture for you.
- Calorie Deficit: If you incorporate a calorie deficit while doing HIIT, and that means accounting for the calorie burn and still being at a deficit, you should expect to see results relative to the number of calories you’re cutting out. A pound of fat is around 3,500 calories, so if you can actively cut out 500 calories per day in a safe manner, you can expect to see four pounds of weight loss per month in fat alone. However, you’re bloating and increasing muscle mass during this time, so don’t live and die by the scale because it doesn’t matter nearly as much as your calorie counting does. At this rate, you can expect solid results in about 6-8 weeks if you’re diligent. You could lose 8-12 pounds of pure fat while noticeably gaining muscle and improving your VO2 max at the same time.
- Extra Attention to Strength Training: If your HIIT program mostly focuses on bulking up and you really want to put those muscles to use, you need to practice pacing. Enthusiasm is great, but overdoing it can lead to muscle tears and weeks upon weeks of not being able to exercise at all. If you’re responsible and track your progress, you can expect to see the first sign of results in about 4 weeks, although depending on the individual, their gender, and starting weight, this could be 6-8 weeks, but make no mistake: the changes in your body are taking effect at the 4-week mark, it may just not be as noticeable on one person as it is on the next.
- Hybrid Training + Pacing: A mix of strength and cardio, a dedication without going into major calorie deficit, and diligence in your week-to-week exercises. That’s what a hybrid HIIT trainer does. You can expect to see results in 6-8 weeks, and for some individuals with weight loss goals this may be extended to 8-10 weeks. However, once the effects start to roll in (provided that you didn’t take a major break), the effect continues to roll out rapidly now that your body is acclimating to the exercise. Keep it up; now it’s rapid growth!
How to Speed Up Results
Here’s a quick list of what you can do to speed up the results of HIIT that we just talked about and bulk up (or slim down) faster than ever:
- Ignore Adrenaline Surges: Just because you feel like you can push yourself doesn’t mean you should; be consistent and structured
- Add Protein Powder: Protein builds muscles; add pre-workout protein shakes to your workout days
- Lifestyle Changes: No more junk food, stick to pure, clean food from now on
- Sleep Better: Your circadian rhythm directly affects your weight; sleep better and your HIIT will be more effective
- Don’t Be Too Intense: Yes, it’s about intensity, but remember your body has limits and you should obey them, otherwise you could elongate the healing process
Some Pitfalls You Should Know About
Everything in life comes with a trade-off and requires balance. Too much of a good thing really is a bad thing, so before you get ready to pack up from this article and go, you should know some potential problems with HIIT so you can avoid them moving forward.
- Being Undernourished: If you’re going to do HIIT, be sure to have the body fuel to do it—you’re going to deplete your glycogen and it needs to be replaced.
- Your Body Can Get Stressed: There’s a physical reaction to stress, and that’s a hormone called cortisol; you want to avoid this hormone in excess, a little is okay and a result of HIIT, but a lot can be damaging.
- Sleep Can Get Harder: Sometimes your body can actually make it harder to sleep because it produces extra adrenaline and keeps you awake—prolonged excessive HIIT exposure can lead to adrenal gland issues if you aren’t careful about it.
Finally Finding Your Perfect Workout
Utilize HIIT workouts without taking it overboard, and don’t just assume that more is better—HIIT can get very intense, which is the entire point, so it’s easy to get lost in adrenaline and testosterone surges and think that you can just keep going.
Even if you can, you shouldn’t. Spend the appropriate amount of time in your workouts, up the intensity without upping the time, and eventually reach that ceiling of time where many HIIT enthusiasts are, but pace yourself along the way.