Time for a workout! So, let’s strap on the ‘ole heart rate monitor or enter our information into a cardio machine so we can get one of those readouts of our calorie burn for a workout. Grab your number at the end of the session and move on with your day.
Have you ever thought about the after-effects of a workout, though? If your body is doing different things inside that affect your metabolic rate outside of your workout itself? Because it happens.
It’s called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Or EPOC for short. What is it? It is the oxygen consumption of the body to help the body recover and return to a resting state – returning to normal blood circulation, lowering body temperature, removing lactic acid, resynthesizing proteins, etc . In other words, it is the state in which the body’s metabolism is elevated after exercise and the “extra” calories burned above the typical resting rate after the official exercise session.
You like the sound of that don’t you? I can see those wheels turning. “So you’re telling me that I can do certain exercise that will make me burn lots of calories all day long?!”. Extra? Yes. Lots and lots? Er, no. You will experience elevated calorie burn with some activities, but we’re talking like an extra hundred or couple hundred calories above your normal rate and not 1,000. Hate to break it to ya, I know.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider ways you can get some of that EPOC action, especially considering it is usually also related to other benefits such as increased VO2 Max and mitochondrial density (metabolism part of cells). What workouts will help increase EPOC levels?
1. Intensity. If you complete 30 minutes of an interval based cardio workout with a higher intensity level versus 30 minutes of steady cardio, you will experience greater and longer effects of EPOC. This is one of the easiest ways to increase not only the calorie burn of your workout, but the after-burn as well.
2. Duration. Research has also supported that increasing the duration of an activity at the same level of intensity will have an increased impact of EPOC. One study showed that participants working at 70% of their VO2 Max (intensity max, for everyday terminology) for 20, 40, or 60 minutes showed a significant increase in the EPOC rates going from 33 to 165 excess calories burned.
3. Splitting up exercise. Completing a cardio session earlier in the day and weights in the evening could give you a double dose of the excess calorie burn. Splitting up a workout into smaller sessions will not hinder the overall effects of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
4. Lift HEAVY weights. In the research done on EPOC and resistance training, lifting heavy weights provides one of the greatest increases in EPOC even related to cardiovascular training. The benefits, however, came by lifting weights at 70% of the individuals’ one rep max for 8-12 reps. In other words, it doesn’t work to toss around weights for 20 minutes without real effort. The workout would have to challenge you.
5. Circuit Training. If heavy weights aren’t really your thing, then there were also noticeable increases to EPOC amid circuit training workouts as well. In fact, when rest between exercises within the circuit was kept to 30 seconds, the circuit training workouts elicited an even greater EPOC response than the heavy lifting. Either way, the workout was done at a challenging level and intensity.
What does this all boil down to and how should we apply it to our training? Aim to push yourself in a few workouts each week by really working hard in the weight room or upping the intensity or cardio training. Workouts aren’t all about the calorie burn, though. Test your limits so you can keep improving your health and fitness…and gain the benefits that come from doing so. But don’t forget that you can burn more calories throughout the day by staying active in your everyday life and activities, too.
Your Turn – Have you ever thought about the “after-burn”? Do you do any of the 5 things mentioned?