We know that all activity, from working at the office to sleeping, requires energy, studies show that intense exercise is especially effective at burning energy. It make sense that the harder you work, the more you burn. However it’s not just during exercise, it’s for hours after it’s concluded, and this is where things get interesting.


What it’s all about

The “Afterburn effect” is scientifically known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or simply, EPOC. You may be surprised to know that it isn’t new in the world of fitness. Several studies have shown a strong correlation between the amount of calories burned post exercise and the activity’s intensity. In other words: The more intense the exercise, the more oxygen your body consumes afterward.

In one study, participants who cycled vigorously for 45 minutes burned roughly 190 calories more in the 14 hours after exercise than on days when they didn’t work out at all. The level In another study conducted with those who had certain health issues such as obesity and diabetes, EPOC also had significant positive effects—meaning this type of training could be especially useful in combating these health issues.

The studies have shown that your Afterburn will increase significantly with duration (i.e. the longer and more intense your workout, the more you’ll burn), you don’t have to work out for a long time to stimulate the effect. The range of time or amount of post energy consumption therefore varies, however it can be up to 38 hours post workout.


How do I get my Afterburn on?

That’s where short, high-intensity workouts come in to play. Training protocols like interval training, that include bouts of high intensity followed by periods of active recovery, are effective ways to trigger the Afterburn; and the popularity of these workouts (or HIIT routines) are due to the results they achieve. The key with any of these workouts is that you need to be working hard. We’re talking exercise performed at periods of above 85% of an individual’s max heart rate. In a 45-minute session, we aim to achieve between 12-20 minutes in this zone.

It’s important to know that you don’t need to stick to traditional cardio in order to achieve an EPOC effect. Studies have shown that weight training with various types of equipment can also elicit elevated EPOC—and the combination of interval cardio and strength training may even be more effective than just cardio training in certain scenarios. This is the principal that 38X Fitness applies to it’s Afterburn and Metcon training programs.

If you’re new to this type of intense training, try a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2, says Paula Allan, Head Coach at 38X Fitness. For instance: 60 seconds of work, followed by two minutes of rest. Paula suggests a workout structured like this: a five-minute warm-up, 60 seconds of fast running, and two-minute recovery walk; repeated six to eight times; followed by a five-minute cool-down. That adds up to about 30 minutes in total. As your fitness level increases you can play with the work to rest ratio – and it’s important to remember that you’ll need to keep challenging yourself. Paula advises that using biometrics like live heart rate training really assists in this. Even as your base fitness level increases you can continue to gain the benefit of the Afterburn effect if you are challenging your system to work at the right levels of intensity. In the studio we ensure that our clients are achieving their ‘red zone’ minutes!


The Takeaway

Vigorous exercise keeps the body burning calories for hours after the workout is through. And there are other benefits of HIIT training: You may find you lose weight faster, build muscle quicker, and increase aerobic capacity. Give HIIT a try in order to stimulate EPOC. However remember to train smart – 2-3 high intensity sessions per week are right, on your other days include some solid strength based sessions and more moderate workouts. We’d also recommend that you complete your high intensity sessions on non-consecutive days. It can take between 18-24 hours for your body to recover from a high intensity workout.

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