Stress may be what’s helping you burn fat, but it’s also the key to getting burned out

By Ea Francisco

We’ve all heard how effective a HIIT workout is. With so many positive reactions, it’s tempting to just keep going at it for maximum weight loss. Part of its success is that it puts your body increased stress so it can adapt. But there should be a limit. Too much stress can cause physical and mental burnouts.

When doing HIIT, you’re using increased amounts of stress so your body releases hormones, similar to those that urge fight-or-flight instincts. These are what help you burn fat, which helps your body adapt, but these also put a lot of strain on your muscles. You need enough rest to recover from the intensity. The recommended frequency of doing HIIT is two to three times a week. Greatist says you need at least a day of recovery between sessions.

The body doesn’t differentiate the source of stress so regardless of where it’s coming from, your system gets flooded with hormones.

It’s also believed that HIIT workouts should only last around 20 to 30 minutes. Some people do it up to an hour but if your workouts last that long, it probably means you aren’t going hard enough to begin with. You can also do it for less than the recommended time, but make sure that the quality is worth it. Spending more time or days doing HIIT causes muscle breakdown and injuries, similar to the effects of overtraining.

Aside from physical stress, too much HIIT is also mentally taxing. The body doesn’t differentiate the source of stress so regardless of where it’s coming from, your system gets flooded with hormones. If you experience a lot of stress from school or work, it builds up along with your high intensity workouts and keeps your cortisol hormones constantly elevated. Chronically high levels of cortisol leads to muscle loss, fat retention, and lower immune system. This also leads to burnout, which would make you feel tired, fatigued, and unmotivated.

If you really want to maximize weight loss, mix HIIT training with walking. Remember that it’s not the only workout there is and you can pair it with low-impact exercises like swimming or yoga. But be wary of the exercises you do with HIIT. It’s not the best idea to do frequent HIITs alongside heavy strength training since they’re both intense workouts. Also, be mindful of what parts of your body you’re focusing on in your workout. If you do a lot of sprints, then your legs won’t recover enough if you follow it up with running.