By Joie Goh

The holiday season is gone, and so will your post-potluck bloat.

“I’ll go for a jog tomorrow.”

How many times have you heard someone (or yourself) say this after a big, indulgent meal? It certainly feels great to put on your sneakers and hit the pavement the day after being stuffed to the gills, not only physically but also mentally. Because hey, you’re burning all those extra calories, right?

While jogging is one way to expend extra energy, it’s not the most efficient. Instead, opt for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)! Here’s why:

What Happens After You Eat

Before we go into all that, it’s important to understand what exactly goes on in your body after eating that big meal. Forget that old cliche “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips”. Fat storage doesn’t happen that way! Whatever you eat does not go straight to your butt, thighs or belly, but is broken down into different components during digestion in the gastrointestinal tract.

Simply put, excess energy from carbohydrate intake is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles. However, your body can only store a limited amount of glycogen. Once the liver is full of glycogen, the body will then turn excess carbs into fat for storing.

Burn That Glycogen

In theory, the answer to preventing fat storage is simple: just use up all that glycogen before the liver gets maxed out! However, simple ain’t easy.

When you start exercising, the body goes through several stages of utilizing stored energy. In the first 10 seconds, your body utilizes the phosphagen system to “fire up” the body. After the 10 second mark and up to 2 minutes, the body then switches to the anaerobic system, which taps into the glycogen stores to fuel the activity.

However, in the case of Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio like jogging, cycling or swimming, a third system is used. The aerobic system takes over when activity is sustained beyond 2 minutes. Instead of stored glycogen, the energy transfer from fat to muscle uses oxygen.  Sounds brilliant? Not entirely. The body adapts incredibly quickly to become more aerobically efficient. Meaning, you’d have to jog longer, harder or faster each time to reap the fat burning benefits.

Enter HIIT

So, to get rid of all that excess glycogen before the body starts turning it into fat, you have to stay within the anaerobic zone. That’s where HIIT comes in. Short bursts of intense activity within the 10 second to 2 minute mark, followed by a short moment of rest, continually trigger the body to dip into its glycogen stores instead of switching to oxygen. When glycogen is used up, the body won’t have to convert excess carbs into fat.

Voila, food baby crisis averted!

An added benefit of HIIT is that it also increases the body’s metabolism due to its “afterburn” effect. You’re in a heightened state of fat burning for several hours, even after your workout. What better way to use up all that extra fuel from that big blowout party over the holidays?

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