HIIT Workouts Not Only Burn More Calories, They Suppress Your Appetite

Would you be motivated to try a HIIT or Tabata workout if you knew it would act as a natural appetite suppressant?

Researchers at the University of Western Australia in Perth decided they would find out what effect exercise intensity has on appetite. The results of the small but significant study suggests that intense exercise sessions – such as the popular HIIT and Tabata workouts – lead to short-term suppression of appetite.

Box Jumps are a HIIT and Tabata training exercise.

Box Jumps are a HIIT and Tabata training exercise.  Flickr photo by Cathe Friedrich.com

For the study researchers recruited 17 overweight but otherwise healthy men in their 20’s and 30’s.  The men were asked to come to the university’s exercise physiology lab on four separate days.

During the first session the men rested idly for 30 minutes.  In the next session they rode an exercise bike continuously for 30 minutes at a moderate pace at around approximately 65% of their predetermined maximum aerobic capacity.

In the third session the men completed 30 minutes of interval riding.  They rode for one minute at 100 percent of their endurance capacity, then pedaled gently for 4 minutes.

In the final session the work load was ramped up.  For 30 minutes the men biked for intervals of 15 seconds at 170 percent of their normal endurance capacity followed by pedaling for one minute at 30 percent of their maximum capacity.

After each 30 minute session the men were provided a standardized liquid breakfast.  About 70 minutes after that they were taken to a table loaded with sweetened but bland porridge and were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.

The results were surprising.  After the resting and light pedaling sessions the men loaded their bowls.  But after the higher intensity trainings they weren’t as hungry, didn’t eat as much and consumed, on average, 200 fewer calories.

Blood draws that measure the levels of the hormone ghrelin, which is known to stimulate appetite, were taken from the participants both before and after the exercise sessions. After the higher intensity sessions the men not only had lower levels of ghrelin, but also measured higher levels of both blood lactate and blood sugar, which act as natural appetite suppressants.

Researchers acknowledge that the studies on the relationship between appetite suppression and high intensity exercise are in their infancy and more research will be needed to make an absolute determination. But this study does show that there is a link between high intensity exercise and decreased appetite which is what I’ve always experienced.

What This Means For You

We already know that HIIT and Tabata trainings burn more calories both during and after the workout.  If they also diminish your desire to eat, that’s even better.

Plus with this research the two most popular excuses to not exercise – “I’m too busy” and “exercise makes me hungry” – can be thrown out the window.  Effective HIIT and Tabata workouts can be done is as little as 10 minutes.  In those 10 minutes, not only will you burn calories and increase your cardiovascular health, you won’t feel the urge to blow it afterwards by over-eating.

HIIT and Tabata Workouts

The popular High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts usually consist of a warm-up followed by a pattern of 30 to 40 seconds of a high intensity exercise followed by a period of 15 to 20 seconds of a lower intensity exercise.  Repeat this pattern for 15 to 20 minutes with a target heart rate of somewhere between 70 to 90 percent maximum during the high intensity segments.

The Tabata method consists of a basic warm up followed by 20 seconds of an ultra-intense exercise that targets large muscle groups followed by a 10 second rest period.  Repeat the 20/10 cycle eight times for a four-minute workout. You can do different exercises during the ultra-intense cycle, or repeat the same one to target a specific muscle group. Maximum heart rate should be between 90 and 100% during the 20 second bursts.

For more information about HIIT and Tabata workouts check out the post I wrote: Is It A HIIT or a Tabata Workout and Which one Is Better?

The study can be found in the International Journal of Obesity.

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