A HIIT Workout Routine: A High Intensity Cardio Alternative That Burns Belly Fat Fast | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

A HIIT Workout Routine: A High Intensity Cardio Alternative That Burns Belly Fat Fast

Are you the person who gets on the treadmill and does a nice easy-paced jog for an hour?  Are you proud when you see that you burned 1,000 calories in an hour?  Bad news on two fronts…you wasted a lot more time than you needed to and you didn’t really burn 1,000 calories.

Cardio machines are notoriously bad at estimating how many calories you burn in a given period of time.  Even with an intense workout, 500-600 calories per hour is probably the most you will burn.  What’s the most efficient way to burn those calories?  High intensity interval training combined with steady state cardio as recommended in Visual Impact Cardio.


Commonly referred to as HIIT, high intensity interval training involves periods of maximum effort combined with recovery periods of reduced effort.  For example, you may sprint for 30 seconds and walk for 1 minute.  The benefit of this type of cardio is that you have a significant after burn effect (EPOC) in which your body continues to burn calories well after your workout ends.  You have to use caution in utilizing HIIT as you can quickly over train, something that doesn’t happen with steady state cardio.

Steady State Cardio

Steady state cardio involves performing aerobic activity at a constant speed for a long period of time.  It can have a valuable role in fat burning but only if you perform for long enough (1-2 hours).  If you’re looking for a time-efficient workout, it should only be done in conjunction with HIIT.  The great part about HIIT is that it releases fatty acids into the bloodstream.  Steady state cardio burns those fatty acids.  If you try to do steady state cardio without HIIT, it could take 20-30 minutes just to begin releasing those fatty acids.  A short HIIT workout will flood your system with fatty acids that steady state cardio can easily burn.

Marathon running is the ultimate steady state cardio. Sprinting is the ultimate form of HIIT. In addition to burning more calories, HIIT can help you stay lean and muscular like the sprinter on the right instead of thin like the marathon runner on the left

The Best Routine Involves HIIT and Steady State

My preferred cardio routine involves 10 minutes of HIIT, 25 minutes of steady state, and another 10 minutes of lower intensity HIIT.  For the first 10 minutes, I warm up for 2 minutes and then do 15 second sprints with 45 second jogging intervals for 8 minutes.  I prefer to perform an all out sprint that leaves me gasping for breath and results in increased HGH levels.  You should tone down the intensity if you are not used to performing HIIT.

I then do 25 minutes of steady state cardio to burn the fatty acids that HIIT released into my bloodstream.  Finally, I conclude with a less intense version of HIIT where I do 1 minute of fast paced jogging followed by 1 minute of light jogging for 10 minutes.  This type of interval training burns up any remaining glycogen in my system to allow my body to burn even more fat after my workout.

Better Results, Less Time

By doing a workout similar to the one above, you can really burn a lot of fat.  It’s a 45 minute routine but the after burn effect can really kick up the calorie burning.  If you don’t have time for a 45 minute workout, you could simply do 10 minutes of HIIT followed by 20 minutes of steady state cardio.  If you’d like a more complete routine, consider the program outlined in Visual Impact Cardio.

Not Your Average Fitness Tips

  1. HIIT is great for releasing fatty acids into the system and provides a calorie burning after effect.
  2. Steady state cardio is very poor at releasing fatty acids into your bloodstream but great for burning fatty acids once they get there.
  3. Try combining the approaches for an optimal effect: HIIT followed by steady state cardio.  As a bonus, throw in some longer interval HIIT at the end to really reduce glycogen levels to let your body burn fat.

72 Responses to “A HIIT Workout Routine: A High Intensity Cardio Alternative That Burns Belly Fat Fast”

  • Great article, and you explain HIIT very well.

  • Thanks Bryan, glad you enjoyed the post.

  • melissa:

    I am a dancer that needs to get in shape within 2 months. I was wondering if HIIT is good for me to lose the little flab on my abs and get a more firm and lifted butt!.Also is it beneficial to exercise 6 days a week?

  • Melissa,
    HIIT is a good way for you to burn fat. Unfortunately you can’t spot reduce fat, but the more fat you lose, the less you’ll have around your abs. HIIT is very intense so I would only perform 3 days per week. However, the other 3 days you can perform strength training. If you’re in good shape already, 2 months should be an adequate amount of time to get in really good shape. Make sure to focus on your diet since exercise alone won’t necessarily get you there. Let me know if you have questions along the way.

  • Rich:

    Great read. There are a lot of double talking jive turkey fitness types out there that throw HIIT, HISS, LISS, etc., without explaining. You go into great detail and educate. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rich,
    I’m glad I was able to provide some good info. Let me know if you have questions on anything.

  • Great info! I’m a runner and was looking for something to add to my training to take it up a notch. I had no idea that steady state running didn’t burn fat as well as sprinting.
    I’m going to try the 45 min routine you suggested tonight. Thanks!

  • April,
    Glad the info was helpful. HIIT is definitely a more efficient way to burn fat than steady state cardio, but combined, they’re an awesome combination. Just be a little careful…I noticed from your blog (great job by the way) that you run marathons. Too much HIIT can lead to overtraining especially if you’re running miles upon miles on top of it. Just listen to your body and rest when needed. Good luck with the marathon training and your other goals for 2011! I’ll keep an eye out for you in the Boston Marathon!

  • Dave –
    I couldn’t agree more. This combination is one of the most effective methods to losing fat – period.

    For a little icing on the cake though, if you enter into these workouts in a fasted state and refrain from eating for 1 hour afterwords, you really see an even bigger difference.

    I would really only recommend that though if your main focus is on losing fat and not as much on building muscle.

  • Kevin,
    Good tips about fasted cardio and valid point about focusing on fat loss rather than muscle gain when performing cardio in a fasted state.

  • Natalie:

    I need to seriously loose my baby weight and HIIT sounds like it would work. If I alternate a HIIT day with a steady state cardio day, would that be a good routine? We are taking a vaca in July and I would love to feel good in my bathing suit.

  • Natalie,
    First of all, I commend you for starting the fat loss process early. Most people give themselves far too little time to see measurable results. As for a workout routine, I hint at it above (and mention it in the link below), but I think HIIT is best when paired with steady state cardio.


    I’d rather see you perform a 45 minute HIIT/steady state routine 3 days per week than 20 minutes of HIIT alternated with steady state 6 days per week. Definitely don’t perform HIIT more than 3 days per week, at least for an extended period of time since that leads to overtraining. If you’re performing any strength training for legs, you probably shouldn’t do HIIT more than 2 days per week.

    In addition to cardio, you could consider performing resistance training, whether that’s weights or bodyweight training. A lot of it depends on how often you want to exercise and how much fat you want to lose vs. how much you want to tighten and tone your muscles.

    I’m happy to provide some more guidance if you’d like. The one other thing I’ll mention is that if you’ve never performed HIIT before, take it slow in the beginning. It can be exhausting if you don’t have a good base level of fitness.

    Good luck with the routine and I hope you get in great shape and enjoy the vacation!

  • Sam:

    I need to blast off the fat (about 25 lbs over weight) by June for my Hawaii trip. Do you have a HIIT/Steady State plan for someone who also would like to tone up too?

  • Sam,
    Here’s the way I view weight loss:
    1. Diet is the most important factor in getting to the weight you want.
    2. HIIT is a great way to burn fat while toning/strengthening your legs.
    3. Resistance training should be used to mold your body with the appropriate amount of muscle mass.

    Depending on how experienced you are, you can try performing the HIIT/steady state routine I outlined above and combine that with a diet that allows you to eat less calories than you expend (hopefully not too restrictive since restrictive diets tend to fail in the long run).

    On top of that you could perform strength training. If you’re performing HIIT 2-3 times per week, you probably don’t need to do any leg training. However, you can put in some time training your arms. Bodyweight workouts are good to help you tone up and gain strength. Done in circuit training fashion, they can help you reduce weight as well. Weight training is generally geared toward muscle mass gain but low rep, heavy weight training (avoiding failure) can help you craft tight, defined muscles as well.

    I’m happy to provide more info on any of those things. Good luck with the weight loss. You have a challenging goal but one that I think is achievable in the next 3 months. Just put up a picture of Hawaii where you train and I’ll bet you retain your motivation.


  • Anil Rodriguez:

    hello, I have similar situation like Sam, I would like to blast off this fat from my body. I used to do HIIT cardio on the treadmill about 2 years ago. But I was doing it 5 times a week where I would warm up for 5 minutes and do 5-6 intervals of sprinting one minute and walking 2 minutes. Progress was good but I know you are going to say that I did HIIT training too much but let’s say I do this 3 times a week e.g. monday, wednesday, friday, with my weight training, what can I do on tuesdays and thursdays? can I do the ellyptical? I’m very anxious about losing all this fat before summer. For 2 weeks I stayed away from fast foods, soda and sugar. I’m on this strict diet eating 5-6 portioned meals a day. Thank you and I look forward to your response!!!

  • Anil,
    I’m actually going to be doing a post in a couple weeks about fat burning workouts to get in shape for summer. A lot of it is similar to what I recommend in Fitness in a Flash. Here’s the quick story:
    1. HIIT 3 times per week is perfect. That takes care of leg training as well.
    2. You can do strength training for arms 2-3 other days.
    3. You can perform circuit training on its own or after strength training to increase fat burning potential.
    4. You can always perform steady state cardio (just a nice easy pace) after HIIT, strength training, or circuit training.
    5. Diet is a big challenge. You have to find something that works for you. For me, it was Eat Stop Eat (intermittent fasting). However, I think a resource like the Anything Goes Diet is great to help a person lay out an individual path. At the end of the day, try to find a way to eat 10 times your target weight (for example, if you want to weigh 175, target 1750 calories per day). This sounds low (and is) but you can always adjust (you may actually have to adjust lower since counting calories is a nightmare). The problem I’ve always had with 5-6 meals is that you only get 300 calories per meal. There’s a myth that your metabolism slows down by not eating. Don’t fall for it. If you prefer 3 meals of 600 calories or 1 meal of 1800 calories, the thing that matters more is how much you’re eating, not how often you’re eating. I don’t want to drag on too long, but for foods, I’d stick with high quality proteins and healthy fats, enough carbs to give you energy while avoiding excess amounts of saturated fat and refined sugar. Drink plenty of water and eat foods that contain fiber too; that will keep you satiated.
    Hope that provides a nice starting point. Let me know if you have other questions. Also, you’re very smart to start this process early. With a couple months before summer, I’m confident you’ll be able to achieve your goal. Good luck.

  • shelley:

    Hi Dave. Your explanations are great – thanks! I, too, am looking to lose the last 10 pounds or so of baby weight. I have always been in good shape with a flat stomach, but after having baby #2 this past Oct., my belly has this ugly pooch that is driving me crazy! The love handles are also unsightly! I can actually see the fat/cellulite in my stomach – is this normal for someone who is only 10 pounds overweight?! I have been doing interval training for about 2 months and have lost some weight, but I want to get rid of this flab by the first of June. My interval training has been doing 30 second sprints with 1 1/2 minute recoveries for 20 or 30 minutes (whichever I have time for with a 5 month old and 3 yr old!). I plan to start the 45 min. routine today. Can you recommend any good ab exercises – I already do planks.

  • shelley:

    also-can you tell me more about the eat stop eat that you did please. thanks

  • Shelley,
    Thanks for the compliments. Congrats on getting back into shape so quickly after having a 2nd child. 10lbs is not much weight to lose, even in a 2 month time frame.

    So, let’s start with your stomach. In my opinion, loose skin after pregnancy is pretty common. Heck, you carried around a child for 9 months; it’s not reasonably to assume all that lose skins just shrink wraps itself overnight. Let’s assume for a minute that it did with your 1st pregnancy though. Then I’d say the condition is similar to what we call “skinny fat.” You’re in good shape, look great in clothes, but when you look in the mirror while changing, there’s a lot of flabby muscles and loose skin. The great thing about either of these problems is that there’s a solution: keep burning fat by using HIIT and combine that with a diet that helps you eat at a caloric deficit over the course of a week. In other words, you’re on the right track; keep up the good work and you’ll see results! As the saying goes, patience is a virtue.

    As for HIIT, it sounds like you’ve been doing some good interval training. I hope my HIIT routine helps add a little variety and even accelerates fat loss a little. One question, when you sprint, are you really sprinting or just running fast? I’m in pretty good shape and real sprints longer than 15-20 seconds are absolutely exhausting. Just something I wanted to throw out there…sprint like you’re chasing one of your children as they head for traffic! Also, for more on HIIT, check out the related posts above on Best Cardio for Weight Loss, Advanced HIIT Training, and if you like torture, the Tabata Protocol.

    Sorry this response is so long…if you didn’t notice, I tend to ramble! Finally, ab exercises. If you’re doing planks, you’re once again exactly where you should be. Here’s the plank routine I use:

    If planks are boring you, here are some other exercises to include:

    I could go on all day about Eat Stop Eat. It’s been the greatest thing for me. Not everyone can handle intermittent fasting, but it’s perfect for me. Start by reading any of these posts that interest you:


    If you don’t have time to read them (and with kids I know how hard that is!), then just feel free to ask me whatever questions you have.

    Phew! Hope that helps!

  • Joe A:

    I started this routine today but am doing the running on the treadmill. Do you have any guidelines for what speed the treadmill should be on for each phase:
    10 min HITT (both sprint and jogging speed)
    25 min steady state (can this be fast walking or should it be jogging
    10 low intensity HITT (fast pace jog/light jog)

  • Joe,
    I’m not a big treadmill person. I just never got comfortable because I couldn’t accelerate and decelerate at my own pace. Here’s a little insight from Rusty Moore (who wrote my favorite workout program: Visual Impact Muscle Building). He starts with a jogging pace and continues to add 0.5 until he can’t run any faster:
    Warmup at 3.5-4.0
    Jog at 6.0-8.0
    Walk at 3.5-4.0
    Jog at 6.5-8.5 (0.5 faster than prior set)
    Walk at 3.5-4.0
    Jog at 7.0-9.0 (0.5 faster than prior set)

    Basically you want to run as fast as you possible can for the first HIIT portion. Recovery can be as slow as a walk or just a light jog. Really focus on putting your effort into the sprint. The steady state portion is simply a fast walk or slow jog. I’d say slow enough where you could almost carry on a conversation. For the final HIIT portion, the fast pace portion can’t be as intense as the first sprints because your legs will be too tired…plus sprinting for more than 15-20 seconds isn’t really sprinting in my opinion. So run like you were trying to complete a 1/4 mile lap as fast as you could without slowing down for a minute. Then once again do a fast walk or slow jog for a minute.

    Hope that provides a little insight. Sometimes I think my Best Cardio for Weight Loss post is a little clearer if you want to read that:


    If you outgrow this routine, you could consider advanced HIIT training or Tabata as well (check out the related posts above).

    Let me know if you need anything else. Good luck!

  • Tim:

    I can’t thank you enough for this article. Im on a mission to drop thirty pounds and then get swole. Just so you know, you have greatly helped me on my mission.

    I don’t have all of the time in the world to spend on a treadmill so your HIIT workout is perfect.

    Keep it real!

  • Tim,
    Glad you enjoyed the HIIT routine. Congratulations on your success.

  • Toni:

    Seriously the first time I ever performed HIIT, I was sooo embarrassed. Here I was, a middle-aged mother sprinting the length of the playground parking lot while walking back to the other end at 5 a.m. I was thinking to myself, ‘these people are gonna think I’m nuts.’ Thankfully, at that ungodly hour, I didn’t see any of my neighbors drive by. Now my nine-year old son comes with me and he either times me or does the sprinting with me. He outruns me in speed but not in distance. He usually conks out at the ten minute mark. It’s fun and we can spend some quality time together too. I do the HIIT on Monday mornings because it leaves me feeling pretty wiped for at least a day. I’ve gotten some pretty good results with it as well.

  • Toni,
    That’s great that you get to work out with your son…something for me to aspire to once my two year old gets a little older. Based on his swinging abilities, he’ll give me a run for my money when it comes to pullups. As for HIIT, it can look pretty weird to people unfamiliar with it, but it’s highly effective for fat loss. Adequate recovery between workouts is key.

  • Nate:

    Been doing HIIT workouts 6days a week- getting some great results. I’m looking to cut back my HIIT workouts to 3days weekly as you suggest to recover- good advice. What I’m wondering is this- do I relax the other days I’m not doing an HIIT workout or if not, what other type of workout should I be accomplishing on those (HIIT off) days?

    Thanks in advance for your advice. By the way- this is a great website with solid informative value.

  • Nate,
    Glad to hear HIIT has been going well. On the days you don’t do HIIT, you can either perform an upper body routine or just some steady state cardio (walking, bike ride, etc.). Just avoid anything too intense. Thanks for the feedback on the site!

  • Nick:

    Hi guys,

    Firstly, awesome info! Been reading on HIIT training lately, and it’s really seeming like the way to go. Your article mentions alot about HIIT really helping in burning fat, I assume it would be the same for increasing general fitness levels too correct?

  • Nick,
    HIIT is certainly good for increasing your overall fitness level. In a lot of ways, fitness can be tied to reducing body fat. The cool thing about HIIT is that it actually increases both your anaerobic and aerobic capacity. Based on research I’ve read, it actually improves your aerobic capacity better than an aerobic activity like steady state cardio. Best of all worlds! Just watch out for overtraining…2-3 times per week is more than enough. If you need more exercise, do some strength training or steady state cardio.

  • Adam Edwards:

    Hi Dave love the post really good information, I have read a lot of conflicting advice on HIIT training, so am looking for some guidance.

    I have been jogging since April 2-3 times a week and on the days I am not jogging I am doing weight training, as I am in the difficult area where I want to put on some muscle mass at the same time as lose fat. I am taking in approximately 1800-2000 calories daily and that includes 40% protein.

    I have been attempting to lose fat using HIIT and would like to know a good interval period for a relative beginner to HIIT.

    Thanks in advance

  • Adam,
    It’s always tough to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. One thing I like to do is calorie cycling where I eat more on strength training days and less on HIIT/fat burning days. As for HIIT, I outline my preferred routine in this post:


    If you’re a beginner, you might not want to start off with all out sprints. Work up to those. Maybe even skip the long interval part. So just do 10 minutes of relatively high intensity intervals (15 second fast run, 45 second recovery) and follow that up with 20 minutes of steady state cardio. You can progress from there as you get better conditioned. Hope that provides a good starting point. Happy to help further if you’d like.


  • Adam Edwards:

    Hi Dave thanks for your prompt follow up, I will take your advice and see how I get on.

    One question on the calorie cycling as I said I am approximately taking in between 1800-2000. Can you recommend approximate calorie requirements for Weight training and Cardio days please. I am seeing results and I completely subscribe to the slow and steady approach means that the weight will stay off. I would just like to know if there is any more I can do in addition to what I am already.

    Thanks in advance

  • Adam,
    If you’re seeing results, then maybe you don’t need to change the way you’re eating yet. However, if you would like to do calorie cycling, then maybe eat 300-400 more calories on weight training days and 300-400 calories less on off days or cardio days and see how that works.

    Here’s a little more flavor on calorie cycling if you’re interested:


  • Adam Edwards:

    Thanks for your help Dave, I started last night based on your recommendations and found it much more suited to my current level of fitness, (10mins at 45 rest-15 Near Sprint followed by 20mins steady state). I will try to keep you updated on my progress

  • Adam,
    Sounds like you’re off to a good start. Keep increasing the challenge as you get in better shape.

  • June:

    Hi Dave!

    I am a beginner and I dont know much about a “routine”. Right now, I only run every day about 4 miles. HITT sounds perfect for me. Im currently 5’5 and 162lbs. Id like to weigh 145 and build a big butt and thighs (think Beyonce, J-Lo)Do you think this is a good routine for me:

    M- Lower body resis training/Stat bike HITT (20 min)/ SS jog 1k
    T- Steady state jogging (about 5K)
    W- Upper body resis training/Stat bike HITT (20 min)/ SS jog 1k
    T- Steady state jogging (about 5K)
    F- Lower body resis training/Stat bike HITT (20 min)/ SS jog 1k
    S- Upper body resis training/Steady state jogging (about 5K)

    BTW, I just want to let you know that the advice/info you provide is invaluable for someone like me. Thanks for all that you do.

  • June:

    Sorry, I meant HIIT (not HITT) :)

  • June,
    It sounds like you’ve put together a great routine! If it gets too tough to exercise all those days, then you could consider skipping the steady state cardio on Tues/Thurs. It’s nice for burning some extra calories though. As for the big butt and thighs, this is one time where lower body resistance training is definitely your friend. In your case, I would train legs to failure and make sure to include squats and lunges. No need to thank me either as it looks like you’ve done your homework on this. I’m happy to help further if I can!

  • Aly:

    Hi Dave,

    I just started your HIIT routine this week and am hopeful I can drop the last 15lbs I am struggling to loose. I have lost 85lbs so far and the last 15 don’t want to budge. I was looking over your comments above where you suggest eating 10 times your goal weight, does that apply to woman as well? That means I should eat about 1350 calories a day. That’s more then I usually eat but I will do it if you think it would help. Also do you think drinking a glass of wine totally derails your efforts? I am super strict with my diet but I love my glass of wine at the end of the day!! Thanks for all of your great tips and advise!

  • Aly,
    First off, congrats on losing 85lbs. Sounds like you’ve gotten yourself back into very good shape! The last 15lbs can be the toughest, especially if you’ve been exercising and dieting intensely. I hope the HIIT routine helps you break that plateau. Also, the 10x your body weight does apply to women for an average number of calories per day. Personally, I like to cycle higher calorie days and lower calorie days. I find that as long as you eat clean the majority of the time, some treats here and there don’t hurt.

    If you still don’t progress over the next few weeks, you have a couple options. Slow everything down and eat closer to maintenance while exercising a few times a week. Do this for a month or so and try to maintain your weight during this time. In essence, you’ll be resetting your body. Then ramp up your diet and exercise routine and watch the weight melt off. That would be my recommended approach.

    The other alternative would be to re-evaluate your diet and start exercising even more. For example, do you really know exactly how many calories you eat? It’s fairly challenging even if you write everything down. You could consider cutting even more things out. On the exercise side, you might have to work out intensely 5-6 days a week.

    Probably a lot more details than you wanted but I figured I’d throw it out there. You can read through my Best Fitness Tips section or download my free books at the top right of the page if you’d like any more tips. Or just ask me more questions here, whatever is easiest!

    Good luck!

  • Khuyen:

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for the information. I’m excited try your routine very soon. I’m 18 yrs old and generally quite fit. I have a few concerns about this HIIT workout and hope you can help me answer. Thanks.

    1. What’s the difference between 15-45 or 30-30 or 45-15 (sprint-rest) routine? Which one do you prefer? If I want to lose fat in the quickest way, which one should I choose?

    2. How should I eat before and after the workout? Should I refrain from eating carb after? Plus, since HIIT is intense, how to minimize the risk of losing muscles?

    3. I will most likely train in the morning before I go to school. Should I train fasted then?

    Thank you. Awesome tips, awesome website!

  • Khuyen,
    Glad you like the website. Here’s my thoughts:

    1. The shorter the sprint interval, the more intense it is. The more intense, the more HGH release which leads to greater fat burning while preventing muscle loss. A longer recovery allows you to keep up that high intensity. The other benefit is increased levels of fatty acids in the bloodstream that can be burned with steady state cardio. Longer intervals result in more calories burned and reduction in glycogen levels. Here’s a post with a few more details:

    2. I prefer not to eat before cardio so that glycogen levels are low. Eating after is important. You’ll want to have protein and carbs, ideally within 1-2 hours. I sometimes supplement with BCAAs to prevent muscle loss. Here’s more info on that:

    3. I’d recommend doing HIIT fasted.

    Hope that helps. Feel free to ask any follow-up questions.

  • Khuyen:

    Hi Dave,
    Thank you for your quick response.

    I have tried Insanity and Insanity Asylum (from Beach Body) from June to October this year. The workouts are quite intense, and I literally trained everyday. I found myself skinnier; my abs began to show but at the same time I found myself becoming skinner and losing muscles.

    I’m a student and may not be able to use supplements like BCAAs. I learn breakdancing, and it’s important to keep myself not too heavy while muscles should be preserved (to lift myself up). I don’t need really quick fat loss (my aim is to lose about 3-4 pounds in 6 months) but I want it to be entirely fat. Do you have any advice?

    By the way I’m 1.70 meters tall and weight about 150 pounds now. I think my fat% is about 13%.

    Thank you.

  • Khuyen,
    Thanks for elaborating on your situation. The Insanity workouts are nice for short-term weight loss but too intense to keep up over the long-term. Since your goal is to lose 0.5lbs per month, I’d focus on more of a maintenance routine where you exercise 4-5 days per week. I’d eat right around your maintenance level of calories as well so that you slowly lose weight.

    The key to avoiding muscle loss is to do resistance training. I recommend low rep heavy weight strength training. If you keep lifting heavier and heavier, then your muscles can’t possible shrink. If you see your lifts start to decline, then muscle loss may be a concern. You can use cardio to help you burn fat. I’m sure breakdancing will provide a great workout as well.

    Diet will play a crucial role and you’ll need to eat mostly healthy foods, although that may be difficult as a student. At least in my experience, the number of calories matters for weight loss but the quality of calories is more important for fat loss especially as you reduce body fat below 10%. I incorporate intermittent fasting, cheat days, and calorie cycling.

    The slow and steady approach should work well for you. You’ll just have to be patient and disciplined along the way. You can try Insanity again in another month or so but given what you’ve told me, I think that might cause too much weight loss. Maybe just really ramp up the intensity for 2-4 weeks if you’d like to reduce fat a little faster.

    Make any sense?

  • Khuyen:

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for addressing many of my concerns.

    3 days ago I did 3 sets of full push up with 2-1-2 cadence, 90 sec rest in between. I did 15, 10 and 8. Today I tried again but only got 15 9 and 6. Does that mean that I’m losing muscles? I feel that I’ve not been eating enough, and it’s true that my breakdancing session yesterday left me sore all over.

    When can I tell if I’m getting weaker because of lack of rest or because of losing muscles?

    Actually my eating has been very healthy. I eat wholegrain bread in the morning, lunch with proteins. I eat a little of white rice (like 30gr of so) for dinner and mostly vegetables (when it’s provided by the school but I can estimate the calories though).

    I dance about 5-6 hrs per week. The intensity varies; I would say 5-6 in scale of 10. How should I include dancing as a form of cardio to calculate my maintenance calories intake?

    Thank a bunch!

  • Khuyen,
    You have to evaluate over a few workouts since in any one workout you might decline due to being tired or lacking enough energy from carbs or various other reasons. One thing you might have to watch out for is overtraining due to your breakdancing. It doesn’t sound overly intense but you might have to take a day off afterward to let your muscles recover if you’re sore.

    Sounds like your diet is in good shape. As for number of calories to eat, I’d shoot for around 1,800-2,000 per day (12-13x your bodyweight). Start with that and adjust as you gain/lose weight.


  • Khuyen:

    Hi Dave,

    I wanted to ask you something but it may be a bit long so can I send it over to your email instead? Could you email me your email if you dont want to make it public? Thanks a lot

  • Khuyen,
    I sent you an email.

  • Sue Young:

    Hello, thank you for all the information but you have nothing on people trying to get fit but with arthritis. Can I still do the HIIT workout? I really want to get in shape and lose weight.

  • Sue Young,
    I would recommend discussing with your doctor. It’s going to depend on the extent of your arthritis but intense exercise might be highly challenging. At best, I would think you should start with a low impact activity like cycling rather than trying to run. I think swimming would actually make for a great HIIT workout. Again, please check with your doctor on his/her recommendations regarding high intensity exercise.

  • Aly:

    Hi Dave, Happy New Year to you! It’s me again, I have a quick question. I am currently trying to eat the recommended 10 times my ideal body weight which is about 1350 calories. I have been tracking my calories on the Livestrong App and when I enter my food and then enter my exercise it subtracts my excerise burn from my total calories I had consumed up to that point. So basically if I burn 400 calories it is telling me I need to eat 400 more calories to make my daily goal, is this correct?

  • Hi Aly,
    Hope the New Year is off to a good start for you. I’m not familiar with the Livestrong App, so here’s a brief synopsis on what the goal should be. Basically, you want to eat 1,350 calories per day, regardless of whether you exercise or not. The general 10x target body weight formula assumes that you perform some exercise over the course of a week. Some days you won’t exercise; some days you’ll burn 400 calories. Either way, target 1,350 calories. Don’t eat 1,750 calories on exercise days to make up for the extra calories burned. If I’m understanding the app correctly, just keep in the back of your head that it may tell you you’re below your daily goal even though you might be at it already.

  • Aly:

    Thanks Dave, I knew it was too good to be true;) Basically I won’t even enter my workouts and track to 1350. I’m still falling under, a nice problem to have but I need to get it up.

  • Aly,
    That sounds like a good approach. Let me know if you need any more tips or if your weight loss stalls again.

  • Sash:

    Hi Dave,
    I have been reading all the replies by you. You have answered all queries very sincerely. Thank u very much. Most of my doubts have been cleared in your replies. Still i have few questions. I have delivered my first child last September 2011. Now i am 143 lbs. I want to reduce to 114lbs. Hence i am running on the treadmill everyday. Infact i have started following your HIIT routine since 2 days. My query is ‘Can i do HIIT everyday since there’s a lot of weight to lose’? Along with running i do abs exercise, arms exercise with dumbells at home(since going to the gym is not possible with a infant at home). Please advise.

  • Sash,
    I wouldn’t do HIIT every day because you’ll end up overtraining your muscles which ultimately leads to muscle loss and fat gain. Training at home is a great approach, especially with a young child (been there, done that!). I’d do your arms and abs one day and HIIT the next day. Keep switching off. Also, I’m not sure if you’ve read my other post about HIIT, but there are a lot more replies there if you’re interested:


    Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Sash:

    Thanks Dave for your reply.
    Few quick questions..Should i do any other exercise on the days i do HIIT?
    And could you please advise me on what other exercises can i combine along with abs and arms exercises. I also do chest, back and shoulder exercises either with body weight or dumbells.
    I have stopped doing squats and lunges as u’ve mentioned that one should not do legs if we are doing Hiit.

  • Sash,
    I’d just stick with HIIT by itself. If anything, you could perform abs exercises that day as well. If you’re doing arms (biceps/triceps), chest, back, and shoulders, you’re doing everything you need to be doing already. If you need help selecting exercises, let me know.

  • Sash:

    Hi Dave,
    Thank you so very much for your advice. Hats off to you for sincerely dealing with every query.
    Again thanks a lot…You are doing a great job.


  • Crys:

    i have been reading all of ur replies and i think they r great and very helpful! i plan to start ur hiit 3 x week routine starting next week, and was wondering if it is necessary to to this workout outdoors or can u/do u do the 25 min steady pace cardio inside the home? i feel like if u try to do a 25 min jog running in place, then it won’t be as productive as if u jogged around the block or on a treadmill…

  • Crys,
    You can definitely do the workout in the house if you’d like. I agree that jogging in place probably isn’t best but the key is to just keep your body moving. It’s ideal if you have your own equipment like a stationary bike, but you could consider doing a fitness video as well…they have some freebies on demand or you could buy one. Otherwise, try running outside or on the treadmill as you said.

  • Crys:

    So if u were to do this wrkout at the gym, would u do phase 1 sprinting in place, then doing phase 2 & 3 on the treadmill? H?ow exactly is it how do ur wrkout

  • Crys,
    You can do the whole thing on the treadmill. It will take some practice to get the right speed during the sprint phase but as long as you’re running at about 90% max speed, you should be getting the benefits. The second and third phase will work well on the treadmill. Make sense?

  • Crys:

    Yes, makes sense. Thnk u!

  • Beth:

    Thanks for the great info! I have been doing HIIT for a month or so. At first when I performed the sprints, my heart rate would jack up to 174 (90% of my max heart rate), but this past week during my sprints it hasn’t gone beyond 169. Do you think I’m just lagging and not pushing it hard enough, or is this a normal adjustment that the heart makes?
    I feel like I’m going my hardest, but at the same time, I feel more tired than I did in the beginning…


  • Beth,
    Sounds like you’re doing a great job with HIIT. A couple possibilities here…first, the heart rate monitor might not be entirely accurate…5bpm isn’t a huge difference. Next, it’s possible you are adapting and need to push yourself a little harder. The issue may be that you are tired. You feel like you’re pushing as hard as you used to but may not be. The question is: why do you feel tired? Has it been a rough week? Are you getting enough sleep? Eating enough calories? Have you been trying to perform HIIT every day…possibility for overtraining if so. Sorry to throw so many scenarios at you but it’s hard to figure out without some more details. You could always just wait and see what happens next week.

  • RichardB:

    Many thanks for the great website and helpful articles, I’ve learnt a lot from here! Just wondering how you do your 15 second sprints in the first part of your routine? Most of the cardio machines take a little while to change speed, on the treadmill for example it’s probably 15 seconds between the slow jog and full speed sprint, which means that most of your minute is used up speeding up/slowing down, rather than being at the target speed? Is it better to jump more quickly between the two levels (as you could if road running, for example)?

    Thanks to shin splints, I can’t usually get very far through the full routine on just the treadmill and tend to swap part way to the rowing machine and/or cross trainer. Is it ok to do this do you think, or should I be sticking to just one type of exercise?

    Thanks again,

  • Richard,
    I have a rear drive elliptical that works pretty well for sprinting. An upright exercise bike is a good way to go as well. Good question about the adjustment on a treadmill. You might have to increase the “sprint” time to 25 seconds so that the average intensity is appropriate. I’ve always found it challenging to sprint on a treadmill without the risk of falling off. The rowing machine can be tough to perform a full “sprint” is good for the steady state portion. Switching machines is a great way to make the workout more interesting. I usually start with short HIIT on the elliptical, do steady state on a recumbent bike, and end with long HIIT on the elliptical or perform plyometrics.

  • miksmom:

    hi, great info here..i run , circuit train/weights.ive been experimenting with the hiit but would like a better way to track the time. so i know exactly when to switch from sprint run walk etc…Do you recommend the ” gymboss” ? Have you heard of this ?

  • Miksmom,
    I’ve never used the Gymboss but heard good things about it. If you run on a track, you could simply do intervals based on distance. For example, sprint 100m, walk 100m, and repeat. Most of my interval training these days is done on machines that all have timers. When I do circuit training, I just use a stop watch.

  • ykrish:

    im around 22 years with 85kg and i have fat around belly.i’m am thinking of shedding around 10kgs…eager to have a good physic.can u suggest me a diet n a suitable workout so as to burn all the fat n lose weight

  • Ykrish,
    It’s hard to provide a one size fits all workout but start by downloading my free books:



    If you still need more resources, check out my best fitness tips:


    Happy to provide further insights after that.

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