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While interval training, often referred to as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), may seem to be a trendy new way to exercise, the reality is that high performance athletes have been using the technique for years now. The routines better replicate what happens in most sports, and they are great for conditioning athletes to push their own boundaries.

What may be more recent with interval training is that, though customarily geared for the already physically fit, the system is now being adapted for healthy beginners to utilize as well. Even better, for those who can withstand the intensity, the results are much faster than traditional exercise methods, such as walking 30 minutes on the treadmill, circuit training weight machines and other typical gym activities.

The added great aspect of interval training is that it can be done with whatever equipment or form of cardiovascular exercise suits an individual: swimming, running, cycling, rowing, cross-country skiing, dancing, etc. Of course, many of these activities can be done indoors or outdoors as well. The crux of the method isn’t so much based on what’s being done as how it’s being done, so it’s versatile in that way.

What Is Interval Training?

Interval training is a technique of exercise that focuses on fluctuating the intensity of what would normally be a steady aerobic work-out, say jogging. While most joggers would hit a steady pace and hold that for however long they want to run, someone who is interval training would intersperse the relaxed pace of jogging with periodic bursts of sprinting. A workout might consist of a five-minute warm-up, followed by three minutes of jogging then one minute of sprinting, three minutes of jogging then one minute of sprinting, and so on until the exerciser has reached his or her desired total time to work out.

Source: William Warby/Flickr

How Interval Training Works?

The idea behind this is to get the heart pumping and improve recovery times when we push ourselves. The comfortable pace of a jog, an aerobic workout, might keep our heart rate at around 70%, but the intensity of a sprint pushes us to higher levels, say 90%, into anaerobic exercise. At this point, the muscles aren’t getting oxygen and require other energy—glucose— to perform. The goal is to push the heart rate up to the anaerobic levels (85% or more) for manageable bursts while maintaining the benefits of an aerobic exercise. The intervals of intensity improve performance and stamina.

Why Use Interval Training?

For athletes, the advantages of interval training are obvious. Recovery time improves for the sports that require starts and stops, such as basketball and tennis, preventing athletes from feeling exhausted or out of breath. Even cyclists or marathoners, who might be running up and down hills, will feel a notable difference. Essentially, HIIT is a way of training an athletic body to summon that “next gear” sportscasters so often refer to.

For the rest of us, interval training is appealing because it provides faster results, whether they be building up our overall fitness level or shedding some winter weight. It boosts our metabolism and energy levels because it increases our power by building lean muscle, which burns more calories. It also increases bone density, protects joints and lessens the likelihood of having diabetes or heart problems.

Source: Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Lime and Cilantro

Interval Training and Plant-Based Eating

As with any type of exercise program, it’s important to feed our bodies appropriately to get the most out of the effort. For interval training, it’s good to have a plenty of energy—quality combos of simple and complex carbs—going into the training season, and reparative nutrition—protein—coming out of it. These are some ideal plant-based meals and snacks to help before and after workouts.

Before Workout Meal (3-4 hours prior to training)—Carbohydrate Combination

Before Workout Snack (45 minutes prior to training)—Carbs and Caffeine

Post Workout Meal (30-45 minutes after)—Protein and Energy, Low-fat

Intervals of Interval Training

Due to the intensity of interval training, it’s important to allow the body time to recover. This means having intervals between interval training sessions. Ideally, the body will have three days to recover from the previous session before putting it through the rigmarole again. Adequate recovery time is just as important as the exercising itself.

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

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