If you've just started HIIT workouts, your body might be struggling right now. When you're not used to high-intensity bursts, the HIIT formula can really put your body into overdrive.
During High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), you push your body to 100 percent of its capacity for a period of 15 to 30 seconds. This doesn’t sound like much – until you’re in one of those bursts. In those moments, 15 seconds feel more like 15 minutes.
In those bursts, your body produces lactic acid because it can’t get enough oxygen to your muscles. This may sound like a bad thing, but it’s all part of the process. Lactic acid comes with adrenaline, and this helps burn fat and build muscle.
After HIIT, you may find that you’re extremely hungry. Your metabolism is working in overdrive. Your body needs to replace its glycogen stores, so you’re going to start craving carbs big time.
However, if you're also on any form of a ketogenic diet, this could cause a few issues. This is why you should be prepared to refuel with healthy options.
Regardless of whether you feel those hunger pangs, plan to refuel no later than 60 to 90 minutes after a high-intensity workout. This will help give your body what it needs to replenish its glycogen stores.
The following are healthy snack options for after HIIT:
Scrambled eggs with salsa and avocado could be a good choice or a spinach salad with mixed berries. But if you’re in a pinch, you can always have a protein shake or bar. Just be sure to keep an eye on the sugar content. The last thing you want to do after a tough workout is to counter the effects with fatty or sugary foods.
If you don’t get enough sleep, your body’s glucose metabolism changes. Many people don’t realize this, but getting the right amount of sleep is an important part of staying lean and fit.
Furthermore, when you’re going through your day feeling exhausted, you’re also going to be more prone to snacking and craving high-carbohydrate foods. Finally, without enough rest, your body is going to store more fat and burn more muscle. Talk about counterproductive.
There are some workouts that are fine to do every day, but for most people, HIIT workouts aren’t among them. In fact, if you want to enjoy the full benefits of this workout, you’re going to want to take a rest. Recovery is an important part of your fitness journey.
If you’re doing straight cardio that’s moderate or light intensity, most fitness experts will give you the green light to do this every day. But here’s the difference with HIIT workouts: You’re working every muscle group in your body, so your body needs time to rebuild actively.
A good rule of thumb is to give your body a minimum of 24 hours to recover after working any one muscle group – before you start working it again.
Because HIIT workouts work every muscle group, it’s important to have a solid stretching routine. If you aren’t stretching all your muscles before and after a workout, you’re going to be more prone to injury. HIIT workouts are focused on continual muscle contraction, which leaves your muscles in a shortened state. Stretching helps get your muscles back to their pre-workout state and prevents them from stiffening.
This is advice you’ll hear from virtually everyone, but it can’t be underestimated. If you sweat a lot during your workout, which is common with a HIIT regimen, you’ll need to focus more energy on hydration.
At the very least, use this guide: divide your weight by two and drink that amount of water in ounces daily. So, if you weigh 130 lbs., drink 65 ounces of water every day.
But keep in mind that this general rule is just a starting point. If you sweat a lot throughout your day, you’re probably going to need more hydration. [Same can be said if you’re breastfeeding.]
HIIT workouts seem to be a trend of the moment, but they are an effective way to shape and tone your body if you're open to them. And if you put as much focus on recovery as you do on your workout, you'll be able to stay committed for the long haul.