High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Energy Tips
About the author: Jenilee Matz, MPH is a medical writer at Walgreens, where you can find vitamins and supplements to complement a healthy diet and exercise routine. As an avid runner, she enjoys writing about how people can improve their health through exercise and nutrition.
High-intensity interval training or “HIIT” workouts promise you a big bang for your buck. This popular workout alternates spurts of intense physical effort followed by less intense recovery periods. Because the work intervals are so intense, done at 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate, you gain similar fitness benefits in a shorter amount of time than you would during a longer endurance workout. HIIT may burn more calories after the workout is over, too. HIIT may improve fitness, lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and reduce belly fat and weight.
If you want to reap all the benefits of HIIT, know that what you do outside of the gym matters, too. Fueling your body well before and after HIIT sessions can help you get the most out of your training.
Eating Before a HIIT Session
Before you work out, it’s important to fuel up your tank so you can perform at your best. If you don’t eat before HIIT, you may feel sluggish and lightheaded. Pre-workout nutrition should focus mostly on carbohydrates with some protein. Carbs are the main source of quick-burning energy that helps power your muscles. Protein can help prime your muscles for intense exercise.
Plan to eat one to three hours before HIIT. Good options include:
- Banana or apple with almond butter
- Peanut butter on whole wheat toast
- Low-fat Greek yogurt topped with berries
Refueling After a HIIT Workout
Carbs are also crucial after a HIIT session. Our bodies can store some of the carbohydrates we eat in the liver and muscles as glycogen. But during intense activity, most of these glycogen or energy stores become depleted. Intense exercise also breaks down muscle tissue. This means you also need protein after a workout to help repair and rebuild damaged muscles.
For the best results, eat mostly carbs with protein after your HIIT session. Aim for a 3-to-1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. This combination gives the muscles exactly what they need to heal, which may improve performance in your next workout. Try these ideas:
- Turkey on whole grain bread with sliced tomatoes
- One cup of low-fat chocolate milk
- Hummus with sliced veggies and pita bread
When it comes to recovery, when you eat seems to be just as vital as what you eat. The sooner you eat after a workout the better for muscle recovery. Strive to eat within 15 to 20 minutes of finishing a HIIT session.
A Word on Water
Good hydration is also a must for HIIT. You should drink enough fluids before, during and after workouts. If you’re active for an hour or more, use a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes. Electrolytes, including potassium and sodium, are lost through sweat during exercise.
Keep in mind that when it comes to fueling for workouts, everyone is different. Your nutrient needs depend on the duration and intensity of your HIIT sessions. You’ll need more calories for a 90-minute workout than a 20-minute workout, for instance. You may feel better if you have a small snack an hour before HIIT, while others may need a meal. Experiment with eating and note how you feel. Making nutrition a priority can help you perform and feel your best in HIIT workouts.
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