The Benefits of Sprint Interval Training

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Exercise, Fitness and Health, Issues, Uncategorized

Are You Still Doing Cardio?

Author: Kai Fusser, MS

Sprint Interval TrainingLast month I told you about functional fitness training and why I think it is superior to workouts on the machines that fill most gyms and sports clubs. This month my topic is sprint interval training, and why it beats the traditional cardiovascular or aerobic exercises.

Walk into any gym and the first thing you see is people straddling treadmills, ellipticals or bikes for 45 minutes or more trying to burn calories and improving their aerobic fitness.

It is not an easy task for me to explain in a short fitness tip why we should stay away from the typical low to moderate-intensity continuous training (“CARDIO”) and instead do sprint interval training (SIT, or burst training), but here are the key points.

The Problem With Cardio Exercise

 

Slow cardio:

  • is very time intensive (the number one reason people skip their workouts)
  • only works on your aerobic fitness (and that fairly inefficient)
  • burns some calories during the activity but has no impact on your overall metabolism
  • stresses your joints due to repetitive impact (especially if you are running for your cardio)
  • increases inflammation

 

The Benefits of Sprint Interval Training

 

Now here is a solution for you. SIT (sprint interval training) training:

  • will only take about 4-8 minutes 3 days a week
  • works your aerobic and anaerobic system at the same time
  • will raise your metabolism for several hours after you have completed the exercise
  • is very effective for fat loss
  • will build “fast muscles”
  • reduces impact on your joints and helps reduce inflammation

Sprint training can burn the same calories as slow cardio in 1/15th of the time! In addition, slow cardio exercise produces a lot of stress hormones (cortisol) while sprint training stimulates growth hormone (have you ever compared the physique of a sprinter to a marathon runner? It’s your choice).

It is the intensity, not duration that effects the adaptation to exercise.

 

Making Sprint Interval Training Work For You

 

There are different ways to implement SIT training:

It can be done on equipment like a:

  • treadmill (using a steep incline rather than high speed)
  • stationary bike
  • upper body ergo meter
  • or a X-iser

Or it can be done with no equipment at all, like

  •  sprinting (athletes only)
  • running up a flight of stairs
  • running up a hill
  • or with full body calisthenics like a Turkish Getup.

I recommend that you start with 4 min workouts (add 2-3 min of warm up before) with a sprint to rest ratio of 1-3, say 10 sec sprint with 30 sec rest (slow pace). As you feel more comfortable you should work your way down to a ratio of 1-1 like 20 sec sprint with 20 sec rest. The maximum total time you would want to do is 8 min. (more is not better in this case).

Please remember that the sprints should be “high intensity” which is of course relative to your fitness level. The intensity will be different for a fully trained athlete than for a de-conditioned couch hugger.

 

The Bottom Line:

 

Sprint interval training (SIT) is a quick and efficient way to burn calories and get the cardiovascular exercise your body needs.

You will be surprised how quickly your:

  • body will adapt to the new and positive exercise stress
  •  energy level will increase
  • performance will improve,
  • metabolism will pick up

You will save time and wear on your joints. Most of all, it can be fun !

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Comments (2)

  • Suzannah

    |

    You have done a fantastic job of clearly explaining the difference between traditional cardio and sprint interval training. So many people think you need to be on a treadmill for 45 minutes. You provided some great information and options here for many people that don’t have time for extensive exercise every day. Thanks!!

    Reply

  • Teresa Robinson

    |

    Wow. I’m one of those who has put off any type of exercise program because of how much time it takes (or so I thought) to accomplish anything. (I was a subscriber to the low cardio training you describe at the beginning of the article.) Now I feel like there’s some hope for getting into shape without the huge time committment. Thank you!

    Reply

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Latest Article

High Protein Diets and Weight Loss

Posted October 16, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do High Protein Diets Reduce Fat And Preserve Muscle?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Healthy Diet food group, proteins, include meat (chicken or turkAre high protein diets your secret to healthy weight loss? There are lots of diets out there – high fat, low fat, Paleolithic, blood type, exotic juices, magic pills and potions. But recently, high protein diets are getting a lot of press. The word is that they preserve muscle mass and preferentially decrease fat mass.

If high protein diets actually did that, it would be huge because:

  • It’s the fat – not the pounds – that causes most of the health problems.
  • Muscle burns more calories than fat, so preserving muscle mass helps keep your metabolic rate high without dangerous herbs or stimulants – and keeping your metabolic rate high helps prevent both the plateau and yo-yo (weight regain) characteristic of so many diets.
  • When you lose fat and retain muscle you are reshaping your body – and that’s why most people are dieting to begin with.

So let’s look more carefully at the recent study that has been generating all the headlines (Pasiakos et al, The FASEB Journal, 27: 3837-3847, 2013).

The Study Design:

This was a randomized control study with 39 young (21), healthy and fit men and women who were only borderline overweight (BMI = 25). These volunteers were put on a 21 day weight loss program in which calories were reduced by 30% and exercise was increased by 10%. They were divided into 3 groups:

  • One group was assigned a diet containing the RDA for protein (about 14% of calories in this study design).
  • The second group’s diet contained 2X the RDA for protein (28% of calories)
  • The third group’s diet contained 3X the RDA for protein (42% of calories)

In the RDA protein group carbohydrate was 56% of calories, and fat was 30% of calories. In the other two groups the carbohydrate and fat content of the diets was decreased proportionally.

Feet_On_ScaleWhat Did The Study Show?

  • Weight loss (7 pounds in 21 days) was the same on all 3 diets.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused almost 2X more fat loss (5 pounds versus 2.8 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused 2X less muscle loss (2.1 pounds versus 4.2 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • In case you didn’t notice, there was no difference in overall results between the 28% (2X the RDA) and 42% (3X the RDA) diets.

Pros And Cons Of The Study:

  • The con is fairly obvious. The participants in this study were all young, healthy and were not seriously overweight. If this were the only study of this type one might seriously question whether the results were applicable to middle aged, overweight coach potatoes. However, there have been several other studies with older, more overweight volunteers that have come to the same conclusion – namely that high protein diets preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss.
  • The value of this study is that it defines for the first time the upper limit for how much protein is required to preserve muscle mass in a weight loss regimen. 28% of calories is sufficient, and there appear to be no benefit from increasing protein further. I would add the caveat that there are studies suggesting that protein requirements for preserving muscle mass may be greater in adults 50 and older.

The Bottom Line:

1)    Forget the high fat diets, low fat diets, pills and potions. High protein diets (~2X the RDA or 28% of calories) do appear to be the safest, most effective way to preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss in a weight loss regimen.

2)     That’s not a lot of protein, by the way. The average American consumes almost 2X the RDA for protein on a daily basis. However, it is significantly more protein than the average American consumes when they are trying to lose weight. Salads and carrot sticks are great diet foods, but they don’t contain much protein.

3)     Higher protein intake does not appear to offer any additional benefit – at least in young adults.

4)     Not all high protein diets are created equal. What some people call high protein diets are laden with saturated fats or devoid of carbohydrate. The diet in this study, which is what I recommend, had 43% healthy carbohydrates and 30% healthy fats.

5)    These diets were designed to give 7 pounds of weight loss in 21 days – which is what the experts recommend. There are diets out there promising faster weight loss but they severely restrict calories and/or rely heavily on stimulants, they do not preserve muscle mass, and they often are not safe. In addition they are usually temporary.  I do not recommend them.

6)    This level of protein intake is safe for almost everyone. The major exception would be people with kidney disease, who should always check with their doctor before increasing protein intake. The only other caveat is that protein metabolism creates a lot of nitrogenous waste, so you should drink plenty of water to flush that waste out of your system. But, water is always a good idea.

7)     The high protein diets minimized, but did not completely prevent, muscle loss. Other studies suggest that adding the amino acid leucine to a high protein diet can give 100% retention of muscle mass in a weight loss regimen – but that’s another story for another day.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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