I can’t tell you how many times a week I get asked how many calories the 12 Minute Athlete HIIT workouts burn.
I always have a hard time responding, because the short answer is: I don’t know.
Not because the calorie burn can’t be measured at all, but because there are so many different factors to consider when trying to figure out how many calories you’re burning.
- How much you weigh (the more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn)
- Whether you’re male or female (men will burn more, but a lot of that is due to the fact that they’re just heavier)
- How hard you work (you’ll burn more the harder you work)
- What your fitness level is and how efficient your body is at burning fat
And so on.
So, you can see, for all of those reasons and more, it’s tough to give you guys a straight answer when you ask me about calories.
Calories and the afterburn effect
Studies have shown that high intensity workouts like the workouts on the site and in the 12 Minute Athlete app can burn upwards of 12 to 22 calories per minute, so that’s the simplest answer I could give you about calories without knowing more details about you personally.
Compare that to about 10 that you burn exercising moderately (jogging, biking, etc.), and that seems pretty awesome.
But what it doesn’t take into account is the possible afterburn effect of HIIT.
The afterburn effect refers to the amount of calories and fat that your body is able to burn post-workout. Various studies have shown that high intensity interval training can burn up to nine times more fat when compared to steady-state, low intensity cardio workouts—and increase your metabolism for up to 48 hours afterwards (moderate intensity workouts only burn calories during the actual workout, not afterwards).
Yet before you decide to work out and then sit on the couch the rest of the day thinking you’re still burning tons of calories, you have to realize that for any of that awesome calorie-burning, fat-blasting stuff to happen, you have to work really hard during your workouts.
Ideally, you’ll not only be gasping for breath at the end of your workouts, your muscles should also be burning like crazy (in fitness terms, this means you’ll be in an anaerobic state of training). This will allow you to maximize calorie burn both during and after your workouts.
Which leads me back to my original point—there’s no easy answer to how many calories you’re burning.
Stop obsessing, start living
The main thing you should know about these HIIT workouts?
When I was still early on in my fitness journey, I used to track every single bit of exercise I did. I even wore one of those BodyMedia armbands (some of the most accurate wearable calorie counters because they measure your movement as well as skin temperature, sweat, heat produced, and steps taken) so I’d know exactly how many calories I was burning through movement and exercise each day.
Yet despite my obsession about calories, I had a really hard time getting in the sort of shape I wanted to be in.
I’d spend hours exercising every day, absolutely obsessed with how many calories each treadmill and weight training session burned. But it was only when I ditched the crazy calorie counting and started focusing on mostly HIIT training and following the 80/20 rule that I was able to finally start getting leaner and get stronger and fitter than ever before.
It’s not all about the calories
I know most of us (even as personal trainers) learn that fat loss can be reduced to calories in and calories out, but that simple equation just doesn’t take everything else into account.
Because not only will the 12 Minute Athlete workouts give you a lot more time in your day to spend on things you really want to be doing, they work in other ways as well:
They help normalize your appetite. Unlike endurance training, these HIIT workouts won’t make you starving all day long. Sure, you’ll still want to eat—but as long as you focus on mostly the good stuff (protein, veggies, fruits, etc.), you’ll just be fueling your body to help it get stronger and more athletic rather than putting on fat.
They result in muscular gains. These workouts will help you gain muscle—which, in turn, will can turn lead to greater fat loss (as long as you’re not overeating a bunch). Plus, more muscle means you’ll be stronger, healthier, and more confident, all pretty awesome side effects if you ask me.
They help contribute to a better healthier lifestyle. If I had my way, you’d all stop counting calories burned through exercise right this second. Don’t get me wrong, as I explained earlier, I definitely understand the appeal—but on the whole, when people start counting their calories in (i.e. food) and calories out (i.e. activity/exercise), they tend to overestimate their activity levels, leading to a plateau or even weight gain.
Doing these workouts 3-5 times a week, getting more active in your daily life and general, and eating relatively healthy, balanced meals will all help you reach your goals faster than calorie counting will—and help you stay there longterm.
So work hard, eat well, and most of all, remember to have fun! Life is meant to be enjoyed, after all.