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A low-carb diet can help you lose weight quickly, but one downfall is its ability to drain your body of metabolism-revving muscle. Luckily, new research reveals that there is something you can do to combat this side effect: A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that high-intensity training reduces the muscle loss usually related to a calorie- and carb-reduced diet. Researchers found that four-minute intervals of intense exercise (10 in total, with several minutes of rest between) helped maintain lean muscle — allowing the study’s subjects to hang on to more of their muscle than those who were only on a diet. Learn these key points before tackling your own high-intensity routine:
Don’t Overdo It
The best part about high-intensity training is dramatically reducing your exercise time. But you need to allot yourself adequate rest periods. The participants in this study rested for up to three minutes after every four minutes of work. The good news: As you get stronger you will be able to recover quicker, shortening rest time between sets.
Apply it to All Your Training
Cardio workouts are the obvious place to apply this logic – try it the next time you hop on the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike – but you can still exercise at a higher intensity as you strength train. How? Keep your rest periods between sets to a minimum – have some water, then move on – or complete your routine in a circuit format, doing one exercise immediately after the other, then resting before starting again from your first move.
Mix it Up
Sure, high-intensity exercise is fast, efficient and fun, but don’t rely on it alone in your workout regimen. Make sure you still take time for longer, less intense cardio sessions and other activities you enjoy, like your weekly hip-hop dance class or traditional straight-set weight routine.
Go At Your Own Pace
High-intensity to you may not be high-intensity to your neighbor. Listen to your body – are you barely able to get out a few words at a time due to heavy breathing? You are likely reaching your maximum exertion level. Start with small intervals: Going all-out for four minutes at a time is tough for even the strongest athlete. Start with 20-second intervals and work your way up from there.