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Interval Training Workouts for Weight Loss

Interval training is a popular method for increasing workout intensity to burn more calories and lose weight (body fat) faster. By definition, interval training is physical exercise routine that intersperses bursts of high-intensity (vigorous cardiovascular or aerobic) work with periods of lower-intensity work. The high-intensity periods should match your fitness level (longer high-intensity intervals for advanced exercisers). Strive to workout for at least 20 minutes (including warm-up and cool-down).

Interval training basics

You can engage in an interval training workout using a variety of exercise machines (stationary bicycle, treadmill, elliptical trainer and/or rowing machine) as well as outdoors. Interval training is used in many sports’ training. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends performing at least one (if not two) circuit or interval training workouts weekly to overcome weight loss plateaus and challenge your body. Interval training takes your exercise routine to a new level. The recommended methods for making the high-intensity intervals ‘tough’ include increasing resistance, speed or incline. A simple interval training cycle might involve cycling at a higher resistance level/faster pace for one minute and then reducing the resistance level/slowing your pace for two minutes. You’ll repeat this cycle several times depending upon the length of your workout.

Interval training: Importance of RPE

Use perceived rate of exertion (RPE) to gauge how hard you are working (1 = easiest, 10 = most strenuous). Begin your interval workout with a 5-minute warm up on your cardiovascular machine. Begin your interval training workout with a 5-minute warm up (RPE of 3 to 4) followed by 20 to 30 minutes of cycles alternating high-intensity periods with shorter, less intense or ‘recovery’ periods. During the high-intensity periods, work at a RPE of 7 to 8 and during the less-intense periods, work at a RPE of 5 to 6. End your workout with a 5-minute cool-down at a RPE of 3 to 4.

Boot camp interval training

Have you ever participated in a boot camp-style workout? These high-energy group workouts often more sophisticated interval training. During a boot-camp style workout (in a gym) you might engage in cardiovascular intervals (jump roping intervals followed by recovery jogs). Another method is to combine interval training with circuit training. You can do this yourself or in a small group. Circuit training basically involves going from one exercise to the next, doing different exercises on using various exercise equipment.

Interval training plus circuit training

Combine both styles of training by performing one set (in fairly rapid sequence) of three to five challenging strength training exercises (after a 5 minute warm-up). Sample exercises might include squats to overhead presses (with dumbbells); straight-leg push-ups with alternating dumbbell rows (one row after each push-up) and alternating lunges with bicep curls.

Next, jump on a piece of cardiovascular equipment, such as an elliptical trainer for about six or seven minutes, alternating high intensity 30 second ‘intervals’ (faster speed and higher tension) with lower-intensity recovery periods for 45 seconds to one minute. Immediately complete another set of your three to five strength training exercises (do the same exercises, choose different exercises that target the same muscles or alternate upper and lower body focused exercises). Keep in mind that compound exercises (such as squat to overhead press) are time-savers as they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. All the while, your heart-rate remains elevated since you are never really ‘resting.’

After the second set of strength training exercises, jump on another piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment, such as a rowing machine, for another six to seven minutes for interval training. Again, alternate 30 seconds of faster rowing periods (and/or increasing tension) 45 second to one minute periods of ‘recovery’ rowing.

Do this one more time with another set of three to five strength training exercises and another six to seven minutes of interval training on another cardiovascular exercise machine, such as a treadmill. Finish this workout with a 5-minute cool down. At the end, you’ve completed a 45-minute to 1 hour workout that blasts calories and fat. Interval training, with or without circuits, keeps the intensity and pace high throughout your workout.

Interval training benefits

Two of the most significant and rewarding benefits of interval training are that it beats boredom and torches more calories in less time, aiding in weight loss. Scientific studies indicate that interval training workouts build muscle endurance more quickly than traditional (static) workouts.

Snacks: Best Low Calorie Dairy Snacks

Snacks are no longer considered to be ‘bad’ or a diet taboo. These days, as long as you watch your calorie intake and choose wisely, you can graze on small meals and low calorie snacks several times daily and still maintain or even lose weight. So, what is the criteria for ‘healthy’ snacks? Keep the following in mind when choosing your snacks:

  • Offer between 100 and 200 calories
  • Are fat-controlled, providing 0g trans fats and 3g saturated fat or less per serving
  • Are relatively low in sodium; strive to limit the sodium in your low calorie snacks to 400mg or less
  • Are nutrient-rich: a good food source of protein, dietary fiber and/or key vitamin and minerals (such as iron, vitamins A, C or calcium)
  • Offer a little something extra: are available in calorie-controlled portions, contain no high-fructose corn syrup and little added sugar; are gluten- or lactose-free, have added omega-3 fatty acids, etc…

There are low calorie snacks for every craving: sweet, smooth and creamy, crunchy and salty and everything in-between. For part 1, we will concentrate on those that fall under the ‘dairy’ category, such as cheese, milk, puddings, etc. Unless you are lactose intolerant, or have an allergy to milk, there is no reason to avoid dairy products. These snacks are all about convenience – they are widely available and take no preparation time/work.

Dairy: Top 5 low calorie snacks

Cheese snacks

  • Cabot 75% reduced-fat sharp cheddar (block) or Laughing Cow mini Babybel light cheese rounds (individually wrapped, comes in small bags). These cheeses offer less fat but lots of flavor without being rubbery. Cheese is rich in both protein and calcium. A 2-oz. serving of the 75% reduced-fat Cabot sharp cheddar (lactose-free) provides 120 calories, 5g fat, 3g saturated fat, 18g protein and 400mg sodium. Two Babybel cheese rounds provide 100 calories, 6g fat, 3g saturated fat, 12g protein and 320mg sodium.

Fermented dairy snacks (yogurt & kefir)

  • There aren’t many snacks that compare in texture and flavor to Greek yogurt. Though more expensive than other varieties, the difference is substantial. Choose plain or flavored, non-fat varieties and you’ll stay under 150 calories and take in more protein that you would choosing regular yogurt. If you like a little crunch try YoGreek vanilla + granola. It comes in a 4.6-oz. cup with a little ‘sidecar’ of granola. The snack provides 140 calories, .5g fat, 11g protein, 22g carbohydrates and is a good source of calcium.
  • Kefir is a thick dairy beverage (like ‘drinkable’ yogurt) made by fermenting milk with kefir grains (lactic acid bacteria, yeast and polysaccharides). It’s a tangy, slightly effervescent drink that promotes digestive health and supports a healthy immune system. Choose non-fat or low-fat plain or flavored for snacks that are high in protein and  calcium. This fermented dairy beverage also contains magnesium, riboflavin and vitamin B12. One cup of low-fat strawberry kefir provides about 140 calories, 2g fat, 11g protein and 20g carbohydrates.

Sweet snacks

  • All Kozy Shack puddings are made with only all natural ingredients. They come in a variety of sizes (including ‘snack’ packs) and many flavors though the original rice pudding was the first and is a favorite. A 1/2 cup serving provides 130 calories, 2.5g fat, 4g protein and 24g carbohydrates. It’s also a good source of calcium and is a treat. They also make ‘no added sugar’ puddings that are sweetened with Splenda and offer only 70 calories per serving.
  • Who doesn’t love chocolate milk? It was good for you when you were a child and is still a great choice, especially as a post-workout snack. Obviously regular chocolate milk does have lactose and sugar…to cut back on the sugar try Nesquik ready-to-drink no sugar added reduced-fat chocolate milk (comes in 8-oz. bottles). One serving provides 100 calories, 2g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 8g protein, 13g carbohydrates and less than 200mg sodium.

Snacks are back in vogue – stay tuned for best low-calorie snacks part 2!