There aren’t shortcuts, tricks, or magic hacks toward a healthier body. But there is efficiency. When you’re willing to dig deep enough in the gym or work ahead in the kitchen, your next 20 minutes could pay off in huge health benefits, says Brett Hoebel, a former Biggest Loser trainer and creator of the 20 Minute Body workout series.
From his own personal experience, and recent research on high intensity interval training (HIIT), Hoebel says you can accomplish a lot more than you think you can in the same time it takes to shower.
Hoebel’s gone inside the gym, inside the kitchen, and inside your head to provide six tips to get healthier in the next 20 minutes.
Less time doesn’t mean less effort. In fact, it means exactly the opposite. To reap the true health benefits from a 20-minute workout, you will need to push yourself further than you are accustomed during a standard workout. The best way to do this is through HIIT training.
“You have to get your intensity up to a certain degree that will cause a disturbance in the nervous system,” Hoebel says. “When you do normal workouts your body does not need to turn on the turbo charge, but when you ask the body to do HIIT training with that type of intensity, the body’s like ‘OK we’re not running on our normal gas tank.’”
You shouldn’t feel comfortable during the workout. Hoebel says a good effort indicator is whether or not you can carry on a conversation. If you’re doing it right, you shouldn’t even want to talk with anyone.
Use "big bang" moves
You’ve only got 20 minutes, so your muscles need to multitask. To do this you need exercises that engage multiple muscle groups while working on multiple planes of motion. Hoebel calls these “big bang” moves. They include jumping squats, lunges, pushups, and burpees. More motion and more activated muscles mean burning more calories in less time.
If you dig deep enough for 20 minutes, your body will continue working long after you shower up. Scientists call this phenomenon EPOC, or excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption. Hoebel calls it the afterburn.
If you disrupt your body’s resting rhythm enough during the workout, it naturally wants to return to its equilibrium. It takes energy to do this, which means your body actually burns calories while you recover. The harder you push during the workout, the more calories you can burn during recovery.
“You're burning calories after the workout when you’re sitting on your ass at work. Who doesn't mind doing that?” Hoebel says.
When you’ve only got 20 minutes to squeeze in a workout, don’t waste time commuting. Build a workout plan that let’s you break a sweat in your own home. Hoebel says you can do a lot without fancy or expensive equipment. “Invest in your own jump rope, weights, or DVD program,” he says.
If you need a gym, find one near your office or along your commute. If you can only invest a short amount of time in a gym, you shouldn’t spend the majority of that time getting there.
You can make a nutritious meal in 20 minutes or less, it just takes some prep work when you have more time. Hoebel uses the weekends to batch-cook lean protein. If you build your weekly recipes around one or two proteins, you can cook it all at once. Hoebel, for example, will ground turkey and use it as the main dish for three different meals, like turkey burgers or Sloppy Joes, during the week.
You should also use that prep time to chop vegetables for future use. Hoebel says he puts them back in the fridge with a damp paper towel on top to keep them crisp for the next few days.
It might sound trivial, but taking the next 20 minutes to pen a few words on why you work out can actually make you feel less fatigued when you actually do hit the gym. According to a 2013 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, bike riders at the peak of exhaustion performed better when engaged in “motivational self-talk.”
“It's going to pop up in your ear and it will get you to the workout,” Hoebel says. “It’s about getting a little more connected to why you really want to train.” During a particularly intense HIIT session, Hoebel himself has a phrase he implements: “Walk your talk. The rest will follow.”