If I were to say you could burn calories doing nothing more than sitting on the sofa, you would probably call me mad, well it’s true! Obviously, you can’t ONLY be lounging around, it’s what you do before it that really counts. The afterburn effect is real, but are these mystery benefits too good to be true? Lets see.
So, What is the afterburn effect?
The afterburn effect, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) as it’s better known, is the additional oxygen used by your body during recovery, after a workout.
Your body uses oxygen to help create the fuel (ATP) that fires up your muscles when working out. But it also uses energy from separate stores that don’t normally require the extra oxygen.
When in a resting state, and in recovery, your body moves into a state of repair and replenishment. These include, but not limited to, processes such as:
- Removal of lactic acid
- Regeneration of oxygen levels
- Production and Replacement of used ATP (adenosine triphosphate)
- Reparation of damaged muscle tissue (protein use)
- Restoration of body temperature to normal resting level
All these together, require oxygen, which rises significantly after exercise. An increase in oxygen requires extra energy; which means burning extra calories in addition to the calories you already burned when exercising.
Obviously, this is a very simplified explanation, for those that wish to go more in-depth, these studies may help:
Intensity is important
The key to EPOC is vigorous exercise. The best way to benefit from the afterburn effect is through activities such as HIIT (High-Intensity Interval training), Tempo Running, Fartleks, Interval Training and any other form of training that involves short bursts of extreme effort followed by rests.
Intensity is important and whichever activity you choose, it needs to involve stages in which you can hit a 70% – 85% of your max heart rate. This will help achieve the best afterburn benefits.
How significant is the Afterburn Effect?
So now you know what it is, and how it is achieved, the next question is usually, is the afterburn effect worth it? The short answer is yes. Research tells us that EPOC increases calorie burn by up to 15%. Let’s not get carried away though, to reach those levels, you need to be engaging in vigorous HIIT sessions or high-intensity sprints. Those doing lower intensity activities, such as Jogging, can expect around 6% extra calorie burn.
This is just the afterburn effect though, fat loss during a workout is always the most important factor, the afterburn effect is just a nice bonus! Plus, high-intensity training has countless of extra benefits to your overall fitness and well-being, including increased production in epinephrin and HGH (which both have great fat-burning abilities), improved insulin sensitivity and better blood pressure.
The bottom line
The afterburn effect isn’t exactly a free pass to go binge eating junkfood, but it is a great side effect to a more intense workout than your usual routine, that’s not to say you should ditch your normal run club, but if your looking to burn the extra calories, try and add some speed training or HIIT sessions to your normal workout.