The “After-Burn”

by tinareale on October 3, 2012

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?

after burn

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?


1 lindsay October 3, 2012 at 6:56 am

yes, love this EPIC EPOC. haha. I always tell my cardio queen clients this.. That after burn is awesome!

2 Dawn October 3, 2012 at 7:42 am

I love these tips. I am trying to incorporate more strength training in and not just cardio, so great post to read, thanks!

3 Katie @wishandwhimsy October 3, 2012 at 7:48 am

Thanks for sharing. I knew it existed but never thought much about it. Now, I’ll look at my workouts with even greater appreciation!

4 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More October 3, 2012 at 8:17 am

LOVE this! And thank you for breaking it down – you’re like an easier to understand version of the NASM book – and helping me study! ;)

5 Kelly @foodiefresh October 3, 2012 at 8:49 am

I know these things are important, but I really like mindless running, even though it’s probably not giving me the best benefit. But I know I really need to focus more on this to improve athletically and for the after burn of course. Thanks for the great tips!

6 tinareale October 4, 2012 at 7:41 am

Oh, I do too! I still think it’s great to be a part of a balanced routine…but these are ideas to step it up a few other times during the week and to push new results. :)

7 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats October 3, 2012 at 8:50 am

, I find myself hungrier during the day after lifting heavy weights and my guess is that it’s due to the extra calorie burn afterwards

8 tinareale October 4, 2012 at 7:42 am

Yep. :)

9 Laura @ Mommy Run Fast October 3, 2012 at 9:02 am

Great information, Tina! I have slowly started to include more circuit training and more intensity. I still love running the best, so I’ve been better at including intervals in my runs as well. The heavy weights one is interesting…makes sense!

10 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles October 3, 2012 at 9:07 am

I’ve heard about EPOC before, but thanks for breaking it down so I fully understand it. :-) I lift heavy, do circuit workouts and interval training, but more because I enjoy that approach to fitness. Guess it works out for me even more in the end!

11 Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots October 3, 2012 at 9:12 am

this is great! I love circuits and doing intervals when I do cardio, no wonder I feel like my appetite is reved up on these days!

12 Tamara October 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

I’m and EPOC addict! I’m always telling my classes and clients about it. Not sure that they believe me though (as evidenced by the way they DON’T up their intensity when I ask them to…).

This is a great summary Tina!

13 Danielle October 3, 2012 at 10:52 am

Thanks for the info!!! I’ve incorporated some of this but I’ll be paying more attention to it now!!!

14 Amanda @ Sistas of Strength October 3, 2012 at 11:23 am

#4 – I have so many clients who still won’t buy into the heaving lifting burning more calories later, but once they give up their past beliefs and really commit to this method of training the results are unbelievable.

15 tinareale October 4, 2012 at 7:43 am

I will say that I was my leanest when lifting HEAVY. I got burned out on it (even still) from my competition days, so don’t practice it as regularly as I used to but still love a good heavy day thrown in here and there and agree it does GREAT things!

16 Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength October 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

That’s so interesting that you’re still burnt out on it. Maybe that’s why I still don’t like running that much. It’s all I did for years!! :) Now I would so much rather lift some heavy weights than go for a long run!

17 tinareale October 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I know. Then again, I guess I still can’t stomach the thought of tilapia or asparagus either and I used to love both.

18 Brittany @Berries and Barbells October 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I love this post! I try to mix up my workouts and include a little bit of everything you mentioned. I do have to say, I have a hard time with #4. I lifted heavy weights for my workout this morning and since I didn’t include cardio in-between sets, I felt like I wasn’t working as hard as I do when I complete circuits!

19 Maria October 3, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I just started lifting heavy weights again (inspired to get back to the weight room with BBB) and I love the burn afterwards. Waking up the next day with sore muscles reminds me that my effort was worth it and I’m one step closer to my goals. Also, impressing my husband with two unassisted pull ups was a nice little bonus :)

20 Purely Michelle October 3, 2012 at 1:33 pm

totally agree with really pushing yourself a few times a week to gain even more benefits from you workout!

21 Heather @ Better With Veggies October 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

The splitting up exercise thing is for convenience in my world, but I love the reminder that it actually increases the calorie burn. No complaints here. :)

22 [email protected] October 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm

LOVE me some after-burn /EPOC :) Science is real, people!

23 Miz October 4, 2012 at 6:22 am


24 Michele @ Nycrunningmama October 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I often don’t think about it during, but I can always tell when a workout gets a high after burn b/c of how hungry I am for the rest of the day!! This typically goes hand in hand wtih speed workouts, strength training, and long runs!! =)

25 Bek @ Crave October 5, 2012 at 5:33 am

Awesome post! Thanks for the info. I think too often we forget about what happens after our exercise, and just focus on the during!

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