HIIT; All the Pain, but is there more to gain?


By Christian C. Evans

From Fall 2017 of USA Triathlon Magazine


HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT) is a technique that has been used extensively to train athletes as well as for improving fitness and outcomes for people with medical conditions ranging from diabetes to heart disease. HIIT typically involves six to 10 short duration (10-60 seconds), super-high-intensity efforts (all-out or near 100 percent heart rate or VO2 Max) with a longer rest bout in between. Overall, HIIT is considered safe and effective, but is it better compared to moderate-intensity training for improving fitness and triathlon race performance?

As triathletes and consumers of triathlon products and media, we rely mainly on the word of manufacturers, athletes, and coaches to make decisions about the intensity and frequency of training. If there were no scientific literature available, then those sources would be appropriate. But over the past 30-40 years, there has been a lot of research on moderate intensity aerobic training and HIIT. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of the scientific literature evaluating HIIT and advice about its use.

Fortunately, several systematic reviews (studies that objectively evaluate many individual studies and draw a conclusion on the overall effectiveness of a technique) have already been performed that have examined HIIT. Five recent reviews

Four Exercises to Protect Your Knees

knee painDid you know that a source of your knee pain may not be the knee? This one muscle may be causing a lot of your knee issues and it’s not even connected to your knee. It’s way underrated but very important.

I’ll confess that in late 2013 and all of 2014 I virtually stopped doing any strength training. I paid a heavy price for that decision. In 2014 I tore my right meniscus running  that I eventually had to have surgery to repair. The cause was an extremely weak glut. My left side of my body; legs, butt and core, were always weaker than my right side. Thus my right side had to work overtime to compensate. When I placed a great deal of wear and tear to my body through training for the Ironman the right side simply gave out and I eventually tore my meniscus in my right knee.

Having knee surgery and the possible outcome of never running again caught my attention. Since then I’ve dedicated a great deal of attention to rebuilding the strength in my entire body.

Pilates and Glut Strength Training

Below  are four exercises that focus on building strength in your gluts (butt) and thus stabilizing your knee. Two of the exercises are done using the Pilates reformer machine. The benefit of the reformer is you’re not loading your entire body weight on your back, it specifically targets the one muscle and isolates it and you have to engage your core simultaneously as you target your gluts. In the absence of a reformer you can use a large stability ball to raise your body from the ground.

Number of Reps and Sets

Always starting anything for the first time start easy and build up. If you’ve never used a Pilates reformer then you may not be able to do one leg at a time. You may have to start with both legs. Your goal is to always do one leg at a time to specifically target the muscle. When you use both legs at a time, like in dual leg squats, the stronger leg will alway overrule. This is why it’s best to work toward one leg routines.

On the Pilates you may start with 3 sets of 5. As you extend as illustrated you’ll want to make sure you feel it in the glut. If you feel it in your  quadriceps then they are being recruited and you’ll want to stop and refocus making sure your glut is doing the work. In the extension phase hold the pose for 5 seconds before you raise up via the glut and hamstring, keeping the core extremely engaged and body flat, and again hold for 5 secs. In time increase the number of 5 second reps.

The same holds true with the other three routines. Start with 3 sets of 5 reps and work up to 10-15 reps.


How Endurance Athletes Can Minimize Muscle Loss

Mike IM bikeMany people who consider training for a triathlon, Ironman, or other long distance event are hesitant to commit for fear of losing hard-earned muscle. If you are one of these people, fortunately there’s good news. Incorporating heavy lifting into an endurance training regimen along with a diet high in protein may help athletes reduce unwanted muscle loss (1).

Why traditional endurance training can cause muscle loss

The idea that endurance-style training will cause muscle wasting is not unfounded. After all, the striking difference in the musculature of an Olympic marathoner and sprinter is clearly a consequence of the training tactics used to achieve two immensely different goals.

The goal of an endurance program is to improve stamina, and this type of training typically results in muscle loss for two reasons. First, endurance exercise activates pathways that help the body become better at using energy to go further rather than pathways that trigger muscle building (2). Second,endurance exercise can quickly burn through carbs and fat, forcing the body to breakdown muscle to help meet energy needs (2-4).

So how can muscle loss be prevented if endurance training overrides the body’s muscle building systems and at the same time contributes to muscle breakdown? The key is to strategically design anendurance program that includes heavy lifting, as well as a nutrition program that meets calorie needs while including the right amount of high quality protein.

Training to prevent muscle loss

The key for preventing muscle loss is to follow a training program that incorporates both heavy weights and endurance training. The type of exercise you do tells the body how to adapt. If you trained strictly for endurance without adding weights, you would build stamina but would sacrifice muscle size, strength, and explosive power. If you trained only using weights, you would build muscle mass, strength, and power, but would sacrifice stamina.

Therefore, it’s critical to keep your main goal in mind when planning how much of each type of exercise to do. There are diminishing returns to having a lot of muscle, which is heavy and requires more blood flow, oxygen, and energy to maintain and cool during exercise. However, muscle provides power and strength, which can mean the difference between first and second place. The key is to design and follow a program that fits your goal. If you’re an elite endurance athlete, prioritizeendurance training and include one or two heavy lifting sessions per week. If you’re more of a recreational endurance athlete afraid of losing muscle, you may choose to include heavy lifting as often as three times per week.

In addition to balancing endurance sessions and weights, a well-planned training program should be “periodized” to prevent heavy lifting from interfering with endurance performance during racing season. A periodized program breaks up a training period into blocks of time, changing the type, amount, intensity, and duration of exercise within those blocks of time as an event approaches. Because heavy weight lifting can cause soreness and interfere with the quality of endurance sessions, it’s best to lift more often in the off-season and taper down during in-season. For example, an athletemight lift heavy three times per week in the off-season to activate muscle building pathways and gain strength, and then maintain gains by lifting just once or twice a week leading up to an event.

Nutrition to prevent muscle loss

Along with a well-planned training program, incorporating the right nutritional strategy is essential for preventing muscle loss while endurance training. Special attention must be paid to make sure that protein and calorie needs are being met.

Protein serves as both a trigger for activating muscle building pathways, as well as the main substrate with which muscle is made. To ensure that muscle synthesis matches or exceeds breakdown, at least 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight should be eaten daily (80 to 120 grams for a 150 pound person) (5).

Protein timing and quality should also be taken into consideration. Meals consisting of 20 to 40 grams of protein should be consumed at regular intervals at least three to four times throughout the day, with one such meal being positioned strategically right before and after a workout (6, 7). Whey protein is the best type for consuming pre and post-workout because it’s high in branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are most effective for stopping muscle breakdown that occurs during extended exercise, as well as for promoting muscle growth and repair after exercise (9).

Getting sufficient calories and carbohydrates is also important for preventing muscle breakdown. Meeting these needs will ensure that the body has adequate fuel, in turn sparing muscle from being broken down and used for energy (2, 4). For endurance athletes with the goal of losing body fat during training, research shows that protein should be increased to as high as 1.8 to 2.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight to offset muscle loss (7).

Don’t let fear of losing muscle stop you from training for an endurance event. When training and diet are done right, you can prevent unwanted muscle loss while building stamina and strength to beat out the competition.

To calculate your own personal protein needs.


1) Daniel R Moore et al.  Beyond muscle hypertrophy: why dietary protein is important for endurance athletes. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 10.1139/apnm-2013-0591

2) Tarnopolsky M. Protein requirements for endurance athletes. Nutrition. 2004 Jul-Aug;20(7-8):662-8. Review.

3) Howarth KR et al. Effect of glycogen availability on human skeletal muscle protein turnover during exercise and recovery. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 Aug;109(2):431-8. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00108.2009. Epub 2010 May 20.

4) Nutrition and athletic performance. Joint Position Statement, American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, and Dietitians of Canada, 2009.

5) Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;11(Suppl 1):S29–S38. [PubMed]

6) Willoughby DS et al. Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. Amino Acids. 2007;11:467–477. doi: 10.1007/s00726-006-0398-7. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

7) Phillips SM et al. The role of milk- and soy-based protein in support of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein accretion in young and elderly persons. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Aug;28(4):343-54.

From Isagenixhealth.net