High intensity interval training (HIIT) is very popular since it’s an exercise routine that produces a great physical stimulus while increasing metabolism in a very short itme. It is perfect for those with limited time to go to the gym or perform repetitive and longer exercise routines. HIIT is not monotonous or boring; it can be done anywhere, even without exercise equipment.
With that said, it is still very important to properly prepare before doing a HIIT workout. One thing you should not miss is to fuel your body properly before exercising, so you have enough energy to expend while doing the short but intense activity. HIIT is touted to be very beneficial for blood sugar control and weight loss. It improves diastolic blood pressure and aerobic capacity and yet, as HIIT workouts last about 30 intense minutes, it’s really important to dial in your nutrition to make the most of the relatively short workout bout.
So, how can you fuel up before you perform HIIT?
Proper nutrition is a must
If you want to get the most out of HIIT, you should have optimal nutrition. While there are exercise routines where it is recommended to train early before breakfast, it is not applicable to high intensity interval training. It is important to keep the level of your stored glycogen up for this type of exercise.
As the intensity of the workout increases, your system will be increasingly reliant on the stored glycogen in your muscles and your liver for fuel. Since your muscles will be strongly contracting, you need an immediate supply of fuel. In this case, glycogen is easier to turn into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as breaking down fat is a slower process.
Fueling the demands for glycogen
The right way to have enough stored glycogen for a high-intensity workout is to fuel up before HIIT as well as after the training. Assuming that you have a healthy diet that includes enough amount of fiber-rich carbo, you should also have a meal high in carbohydrates and protein three to four hours before the workout. An hour before the training, you should consume a carbohydrate snack. Read on below to find out about which foods you should eat before and after a HIIT workout.
Before an HIIT workout
Glycogen is carbohydrate stored in your body. HIIT means pushing yourself at a high level of intensity for a short burst, followed by a short rest period before going on again. Supplying enough glycogen in your body means that you will not be using up the stored glycogen in your muscles. Thus you preserve muscle mass, giving your body a sleek and lean look.
Your before-HIIT meal could be a banana with almond butter, an “energy blast” snack, combination of several fruits turned into a smoothie, a bowl of oatmeal or a slice of whole wheat bread. Further boost your carbohydrate intake with a protein snack or a glass of lean protein powder drink to preserve your muscles. Remember to observe proper timing for your meals/snacks.
After a HIIT workout
While there are many health and fitness benefits you can derive from HIIT, it does put your body through tremendous stress. Your post-HIIT snack should be taken between 30 and 60 minutes after the workout. This is the time when your muscles need the building blocks for repair.
For easier digestion and faster refueling, it is suggested that you have a smoothie with one or two scoops of lean protein powder or a protein shake. Hours later, you can have a solid meal with carbohydrates, fats, protein and vegetables.
HIIT is a very effective workout to boost your health, body composition and fitness level. To ensure that you enjoy the optimal benefits from this intense workout, see to it that you consume more than enough calories and carbohydrates before and after the workout.