Fitness. Fatloss. Results.

The Afterburn Effect

Excess adipose tissue around a male's mid-section.

Image via Wikipedia

There’s lots of talk in fitness magazines, on websites and in other articles and books about EPOC.  Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption.

Basically the idea is that you continue to burn more energy (calories) after a workout than you would if you hadn’t completed the workout in the first place.  So there’s the energy you burn during the workout and the energy you burn afterwards that is over and above what you would have burnt anyway just being.

Examination of various studies (and there are many of them to choose from) show variations in what type of workout produces the most value in terms of EPOC.  In other words, different studies have ‘proven’ that different types of workouts are best to give you  better EPOC value.

Some things that can be agreed upon are:

  • The EPOC effect is greatest straight after you workout session and the results diminish over time.  In other words, say your workout increases energy expenditure by 15% for the 2 hours following your workout, it might reduce to 10% for the next 2 hours and 6% for the hour after that before returning to normal (these are just made up examples)
  • Very low intensity exercise doesn’t produce a worthy EPOC advantage as well as not using much energy during the workout itself
  • Any type of higher intensity training is more effective at raising EPOC that low intensity training.  It just can’t be agreed upon, whether weight training, intervals, circuits etc are best-there’s just too many variables to consider
Other things shown in various studies, make the EPOC effect very confusing.  Just because a certain training method or intensity burns more energy during the workout, doesn’t mean that the EPOC effect will be greater.  Likewise, it has not been proven that a higher EPOC effect actually ends up meaning that you lose more body fat!!
If you look at the various studies, you will notice that across the board, even in studies that produced the biggest effect, the effect isn’t that great anyway.  An increase of 15% on hardly anything, is still….well, hardly anything.  So it doesn’t mean that you can go and eat extra for lunch due to this magical EPOC effect!!
To produce the biggest effect in terms of increased fitness, more fat burning, more calorie burning, less body fat and greater health benefits, you have to train with an increased level of intensity at least some of the time.  The more ‘work’ you do at any given time, the more benefits you will reap.  Of course, this also depends on allowing time for recovery and preventing injury-both acute and chronic.
So make sure that you include intense training in your workout regime.  Lower intensity exercise will burn some calories, but in these days of limited time, who has time to do hours of low intensity exercise, when higher intensity training will get the job done more efficiently and in less time?
What’s high intensity for me, may be different for you, but if you’re not huffing and puffing and putting in some effort, chances are, you’re probably not working hard enough.
What you also have to remember, is that burning a certain number of calories, whether during or after you workout, is a lot harder than consuming them.  So just because you work out, doesn’t give you a licence to eat whatever you want.
A healthy diet and effective training go hand in hand with recovery to give you the most benefits.  Don’t forget that!

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