How Women Can Use HIIT Cardio to Burn Excess Fat and Keep Fit

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has gained popularity for its efficiency in burning fat and maintaining lean muscle. Learn how HIIT's after-burn effect outperforms traditional steady-state cardio, boosting metabolism and offering a quick, effective workout for women looking to transform their bodies.

HIIT vs. Cardio

If you’re looking for fitness-related information, you’ve probably noticed “HIIT” all over the internet and in health and fitness magazines. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT is one of the most effective ways for women to quickly transform their physique; get in shape by losing fat and gaining or maintaining lean muscle. HIIT derives most of its effectiveness from the “after burn effect.” The “after burn effect” is a layman’s term for addressing the excess post-oxygen consumption levels (EPOC). When you perform intense exercise, you throw your body out of homeostasis. Basically, your body is set to survive, and this is part of your body’s way of surviving. So when you throw your body out of balance with high-intensity exercise, you create an oxygen debt within your body, and your body will expend energy (burn fat/burn calories) to get back to its natural balance. This period of time when your body is recovering after the intense training is referred to as EPOC, as previously mentioned.

The easiest way to do this is with any form of interval training such as HIIT cardio. Since you incur an oxygen debt during HIIT, your body has to rebalance this debt, and that is why your oxygen consumption increases after your HIIT exercise. Your EPOC is positively correlated with metabolism. So when your EPOC levels are raised higher than normal, your metabolism is also raised, and you burn a lot more calories at rest. The other cool thing about this phenomenon is that it can last for hours on end. In fact, some studies have reported this effect lasting for up to 36 hours after exercise.

One of the benefits is that the excessive calories your body is burning up from the after burn effect are taken from your fat cells. That is one of the main reasons why I favor HIIT over low-intensity traditional cardio for women who want to transform their bodies in the shortest amount of time, get in great shape, and burn excess body fat. You can condition your muscles, strengthen your core, and burn fat in a condensed amount of time. But you will have to work hard. Need I remind you what HIIT stands for? So, the intensity will have to be high for this to work. You should not be able to carry on a conversation while performing the exercise, and you should be breathing very heavily between sets.

Steady-state cardio, which is just low-intensity jogging, walking, elliptical, biking, etc., will burn calories (and fat if done long enough: in excess of 12-15 minutes is fat-burning mode) over the duration of the workout, but soon after that, your metabolism rate drops down to baseline levels. The exercise was not sufficiently intense to incur an oxygen debt and increase your metabolism significantly for hours on end. The only way that average aerobic exercises can create the same type of effect is if you are a complete beginner to exercise, are completely out of condition for cardiovascular exercise, or are extremely out of shape. Exercising with too much intensity for an extended period (i.e., not in intervals with lower intensity) can have an adverse effect and burn muscle. This could backfire and cause the metabolism to decrease. So, intervals are important when you increase the intensity.

Another benefit of HIIT is that it gets you out of the gym faster. Lifting weights with high intensity and little rest between sets, adding supersets (doing two or more exercises without rest between them), dropdown sets (where you decrease the weight when it gets too difficult and do more reps), or doing your interval training on the elliptical, will get your workout over in a fraction of the time. It may not be the ideal way to gain muscle size, but it is definitely an effective method in dropping body fat and getting lean. It’s not about spending all day exercising; it’s about exercising effectively while you’re in the gym. Less talk, more work. So, put on the headphones, turn up your music, and tone up your body in less time. Check out some HIIT exercises for your at-home workouts.

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Suzie Huening

Certified Epigenetic & Human Optimization Coach| Physcial Therapist Assistant| Figure Pro| Mindset Mastery Certified| Amazon International #1 Best Selling Author| Biohacker

About Me

I am forever in the pursuit of the Art of Well-Being. I started my health and fitness journey back in the early 80s, during college, as an aerobics instructor (big hair, leg warmers and headbands…oh yeah!!). I later became a personal trainer and competitive bodybuilder…which eventually evolved into health club ownership and a variety of jobs within the health and fitness industry, including getting a degree in Applied Science Physical Therapy. However, as a military spouse (now retired Vet spouse), my license was only good in one state, and that career was short-lived due to moves. 

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