HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, has become a popular way to train in recent years. But does HIIT really help you build muscle? In this article, we want to answer that question and discuss what is needed to build muscle mass. We’ll also look at the difference between HIIT for different types of athletes, and whether HIIT burns fat or builds muscle. Stay tuned for more information!
Does HIIT build muscle?
To answer the question “Does HIIT build muscle?” right away: yes it definitely does!
It might not be the most effective and fastest way to build lean muscle mass, but high-intensity exercise does build muscle.
So, the answer is “yes”, but there is more to it, and if you want to learn which components have to work in line together with HIIT workouts in order to finally really build muscle mass, stay here and find out.
Building muscle mass
Before we continue down this path, let us align our understanding of what we expect from our HIIT workouts and what our goal of “building muscle mass” is.
If your goal is to become a bodybuilder, then high-intensity training might not be the way that gets you where you want to go.
The same applies to triathletes, long-distance runners, etc…
However, many people are looking for physical and mental fitness to perform better in their everyday lives. Plus they don´t have the time to invest hours and hours in a meticulously preplanned workout routine for certain muscle groups and then attack another muscle group the next day.
Their goal is to improve their overall athletic performance and health in a very efficient way.
And that is where high-intensity workouts come into play.
Does HIIT burn fat?
The answer clearly is: YES!
HIIT workouts cause:
- improved insulin sensitivity, helping you to use blood glucose more effectively
- increases post-exercise energy expenditure, as you will have a higher oxygen consumption and energy expenditure for a longer period of time after a workout
Go ahead and search Google on what people expect from HIIT.
You will have questions and answers alike and most of them reflect on topics like “burning fat”, “cardiovascular fitness”, “getting a toned body”, “increase overall health”, “burn calories”, etc…
You see, the overall assumption when it comes to HIIT is that interval training will predominantly burn fat and help to lose weight.
But is this really the main – or even the only – benefit?
Look at HIIT-consumers
We might get one little hint already by looking at those who mainly train in the high-intensity interval training regime: Crossfitters!
Regardless of all the neigh-sayers who will now jump to their feet and scream “but Crossfit has a steroid problem!” – wait, calm down and relax! Other muscle-centric types of sports also have steroid problems. But these problems usually occur within the top 3-5% of all athletes.
There is a huge group of individuals who train and eat very healthily and who are very aware of what they put into their bodies and what they do with their bodies!
These athletes also build quite an amazing muscle mass by complying with a good dietary plan and HIIT workout plan.
Muscle growth triggers
Increasing muscle mass and burning fat – if possible both at the same time – seems to be something like the holy grail in today’s fitness industry.
So we need to understand what is needed to get the muscle growth process started.
Building Muscle is like building a brick wall. You need several components for the final product. Workout, proteins and amino acids, nutrition, lifestyle – all these are your building bricks.
You have to align three components in order to get the results you are looking for:
1 – Workout
Our bodies will start their muscle-building mechanism which is also called “Muscle Protein Synthesis” when we work out: you have to stress your muscular system with resistance training, strength training, weight training, HIIT routines, or any other form of intense workouts that put considerable strain on your muscles.
The trigger signal for your body to kick off the muscle-building process is the stress imposed on your muscular system.
Compared to resistance training or strength training, cardio exercises don´t provide enough resistance to your muscles to provide this trigger signal.
High-intensity interval training usually is a combination of cardio exercises to get your metabolism started and a set of intense exercises including lifting weights.
HIIT sessions are intense enough to trigger Muscle Protein Synthesis!
2 – Nutrition
You are what you eat! That is an old saying, but it is very true! The key is: Proteins, proteins, proteins!
For that matter, the amino acid leucine which is contained in protein is of utmost importance. Of all amino acids, leucine supports the muscle protein synthesis process best.
If you are new to the world of sports supplementation and if you are a little overwhelmed by what is being offered, then simply focus on two supplements that are absolutely safe to consume:
- high-quality Whey Protein (make sure that your product of choice contains a significant level of the Amino Acid Leucine)
- Creatine, which is a completely natural supplement (your body also produces creatine) is needed by your body to perform better
Educate yourself about the amounts of protein needed to support the muscle-building process in your body by using our calculator.
The truth is that if you really want to see results, then nutrition is at least as important as the workout part of the equation.
You can work out like crazy – if your nutrition is sloppy, you might get massive, but you´ll always keep a soft, spongelike look.
Your muscles will stay covered under a blanket of soft, fatty tissue.
So focus on high-quality nutrition!
3 – Sleep
For muscle-building efforts to provide good results you also need to get a proper amount of sleep. A rough figure to stick to is about 8 hours of good, undisturbed sleep.
While we sleep our muscles release an increased amount of muscle-building amino acids into our blood flow which in return help the muscles grow.
Can I get ripped doing HIIT?
Maybe this should be the real question here. “Ripped” in this context means: a sculptured body composition with low body fat levels and a visible lean muscle mass.
Isn´t that what we are looking for?
What we have learned so far
1 – HIIT builds muscle
The intense exercise which is usually included in HIIT workouts triggers Muscle Protein Synthesis.
2 – HIIT burns fat
HIIT workouts boost our heart rate and kickstart our metabolism which burns body fat even hours after the workout.
3 – Nutrition is key
You can (and should) support the buildup of muscle cells with high-quality and healthy nutrition.
4 – You need Proteins
You can further support your body to build muscle by adding protein supplements.
5 – Live healthily
A healthy lifestyle with enough sleep gives your muscle-building plan the finishing touch.
HIIT workouts alone will not do the trick to building muscle, but it definitely puts enough strain on your muscular system to trigger the necessary mechanisms to build muscle.
Together with high-protein nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, you will build not only more muscle, but also a toned, sculpted, athletic, and highly functioning body.
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Maybe you want to check out our article about how to tune your mind for success – then have a look here.