There have been many exposures in the media about the extreme effectiveness of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) due to the numerous health benefits from elevated levels of human growth hormone (HGH). Studies have shown that HGH can be increased as high as 771% following a high-intensity workout. Benefits of HGH include:
- Reducing stress levels
- Preventing disease
- Achieving health and wellness goals more quickly
- Increasing lean muscle mass
- Minimizing the aging process
- Enhancing energy levels
- Improving fitness performance
- Decreasing body fat
How does HIIT trigger HGH to increase? During HIIT you are utilizing your fast twitch muscle fibers, which when utilized, trigger the release of HGH. With that said, in today's fast-paced society, many individuals feel that they lack time to exercise.
Therefore, due to the growing body of evidence that HIIT is one of the most effective ways to workout, it's no wonder why it is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of exercise. Likewise, there has been increased attention regarding the risk for the potentially fatal condition, rhabdomyolysis, which can be triggered by HIIT. This leaves you with a conflict of interest. What do you do?
What Is Rhabdo and How Can It Affect You?
First of all, what is rhabdomyolysis? Simply put, it is a condition where muscle injury occurs due to various risk factors that put additional stress on the body. In addition to the muscle injury, electrolyte imbalances, lack of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (energy transporter in cells), and increased calcium in muscle cells also contribute to the physiological response resulting in rhabdomyolysis.
When the muscles rupture, proteins leak into the body's system having the potential to cause several conditions, with kidney failure being the most prominent because the kidneys are unable to filter the surge of proteins that are released during injury. It is more common among untrained individuals. However, it can happen to anyone. Roughly 26,000 people/year fall victim to this in the U.S.
How Can You Avoid Rhabdo?
So how can you benefit from HIIT while avoiding the risk of rhabdo? It's always easier to prevent rhabdo from occurring versus having it and treating it. With that said, let's first understand what the science says about performing high-intensity exercise properly. Technically, you really only need to exert yourself at 80-100% effort for 20-30 seconds during a high-intensity interval.
It must then be followed by a 30-90 second recovery period (depending on how well you can recover) in order to completely be prepared for subsequent intervals and reap the benefits of the exercise.
Here Are Some Things to Keep in Mind When Considering HIIT
- Be aware of any pre-existing conditions you might have that are considered to be additional risk factors for rhabdo, and always check with your healthcare provider before starting any program.
Aside from excessive physical exertion, other risk factors can include metabolic and genetic disorders, prescription/non-prescription drugs (e.g. statins prescribed for high-cholesterol), alcohol use, muscle ischemia, crush injury (natural disasters/accidents), infections, and autoimmune disorders.
- Do your research. Find an appropriate program to attend or implement on your own that emphasizes safety, several fitness levels, and proper recovery periods.
In addition to recovery, it is important that a program encourages taking breaks especially when you are just starting out to ensure that your muscles are getting adequate oxygenation. Lastly, make sure that your program maintains quality control of its coaches by requiring a foundational education or certification as well as their certification related to interval training.
- Stay in tune with your body and your workout environment. Ensure that you are adequately hydrated and avoid HIIT in extreme hot or cold conditions.
- Be a good manager of your recovery. Typically, it is recommended to do no more than 3 days of HIIT per week to ensure that there is adequate recovery time. However, strength training should be incorporated as it provides a vast array of benefits. Knowing your body and your capabilities is key. Be sure not to overdue it.
If You Think You May Have Rhabdo
Despite all efforts to prevent rhabdo, it can still occur. Therefore, be aware of how to take action should you suspect that you have it
- Increase your water intake to help flush toxins and protect your kidneys.
- Avoid any type of heat application such as soaking in a hot tub, sitting in a sauna, or using a heated blanket that can exacerbate your condition.
- Get to a doctor. Not knowing how much your condition could worsen, it's always safer to be seen sooner rather than later.
Proper Nutrition Is Key for Safe and Effective Workouts
It's always best to mix in these intense workouts with strength and core exercises for the ideal fitness regimen. Furthermore, with nutrition contributing to 80% of the health benefits that come from a healthier lifestyle and only 20% from exercise, it's important to recover with real food.
Think of the foods you eat as an extension of your workout. A big part of how you function after training depends on what you consume. You need to refill your glycogen stores with non-starchy carbohydrates; not sugars and grains. Research shows that vitamins have the ability to reduce the amount of damage to your muscle during intense exercise. Eating fruits and vegetables provides the best vitamins you can get. Combining this with grass-fed proteins and healthy fats will help your body to recover more effectively and promote better regulation of blood sugar and insulin levels.
About MASH Up Conditioning:
MASH Up Conditioning, LLC was established by Jamie Zacharias, CPT, RN, MSN, NP-C and Stacy Redwine, CPT, BS Exercise Physiology/Pre-Physical, MA Missiology. They are passionate about helping individuals obtain optimal wellness in less time. They offer various avenues for individuals to achieve fitness and nutrition goals through their ACE (American Council on Exercise)/AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America) approved 5XM group training format, 5XM DVD systems, and group/corporate wellness programs. For more information please visit www.mashupconditioning.com.