Do you want to continue burning calories well after you’ve finished exercising? There’s no need to finish burning fat as soon as you finish your workout. You could burn extra calories and fat for hours, or even up to a day or two after your workout. It’s all possible through a process called EPOC.
EPOC – Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption
What is the EPOC effect? EPOC is all about your post-exercise oxygen consumption. When we work out, we use oxygen to fuel our muscles. There’s a reason why you start breathing harder as you exercise. The harder you exercise, the harder you breathe, and the more oxygen you use.
This oxygen deficit that you created during your workout needs to be replenished post-workout. Not only does this oxygen deficit need to reach homeostasis, but many other reactions occur within the body to bring it back to its pre-workout resting state. Some of these include:
- Bringing the heart rate back to a normal resting rate – How high did you get your heart rate up to during your workout? Your heart is beating out of your chest because it needs to supply blood, nutrients, and energy to your muscles. Your heart rate doesn’t just return to normal as soon as you’re done. It takes time (hours), and during that time, you continue burning an elevated amount of calories.
- Re-oxygenation of blood – During exercise we use oxygen to fuel many cellular processes. Once we’re done exercising, we need to re-oxygenate our blood. This oxygen debt we created needs extra oxygen and calories to reach homeostasis – the EPOC effect.
- Replenishment of muscle glycogen – If you work out hard, muscle glycogen will be your primary source of fuel. It takes energy, and therefore calories, to replenish these energy stores.
- Cellular repair – You just broke down your muscle tissues during your workout. It’s time to build it back up. Building muscle (cellular repair) takes a massive amount of calories – the afterburn effect in its purest form.
All of these processes need oxygen and fuel to be performed. What kind of fuel? Fat and glucose and some protein. Fatty acids are mobilized to help in the recovery process. This is what the afterburn effect is all about – creating an environment that causes your body to need additional fuel to recover from an intense workout.
Create an Oxygen Debt to Continue Burning Fat
Alright, so we know what the EPOC effect is, but how do we go about creating it? Much research has been done on the duration of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, and the methods by which you can get the greatest effect out of it. Here is one such study.
…prolonged exercise at intensities above 40% to 50% of VO2max is required in order to trigger the metabolic processes that are responsible for the prolonged EPOC component extending beyond 2 hours postexercise .
For those of you who aren’t good at deciphering studies, this study basically shows a direct correlation between exercise intensity and the degree of EPOC. Not only was there a correlation, but the correlation was exponential. In other words, working twice as hard doesn’t give you twice the results, it gives you multiple times the results.
Effective EPOC training means that you will be busting your butt. You will be out of breath. Walking or other low-intensity exercise just isn’t going to cut it. If you want that afterburn effect, you’re going to have to work for it. The extra effort will be well worth it though.
You will continue metabolizing fatty acids for hours or days after your workout. On top of the extra fat burned from the EPOC effect, you will have built additional muscle – which means you will be burning even more calories. Muscle eats fat. It eats it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every moment in between. Muscle is a fat grazer.
Keep your workout intensity high. Create an oxygen debt that results in excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), and be rewarded with extra fat loss for hours and days after your workout.