I’ve seen guys with Doctorate Degrees in exercise science as well as huge fitness marketing companies push this ridiculous nonsensical after burn theory and the science clearly contradicts it.
What is the after burn effect and what does science say about it?
The existence of the after burn effect
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Let’s be honest we’ve all seen on late night TV infomercials where they are marketing an exercise DVD and in that is extremely embellished marketing in terms of claiming that boot camp cardio or circuit training workouts is going to magically give you this herculean after burn effect. And that the after burn is going to be in the 1,000 calorie plus after each daily workout.
The after burn effect after an intense workout will never be greater than the calories you burned at the workout whether it be cardio or weight-training or both. If that was the case everybody in our society that exercised would be in great shape.
What is EPOC?
It stands for Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption also known as the after burn effect.
When your body is exercising at high intensity level and then you stop the workout; your body is still hot and it takes time for your body to cool off.
So the amount of oxygen it takes to get your body to get back to its normal resting level is what happens during EPOC, aka after burn effect.
During this phase from hot to warm to cold in terms of what your body is going through is when you are burning calories after the workout.
A great analogy is if you are on a long 3 hour trip driving your car and then you stop your car on the road for an hour or so.
Well now your engine is really hot and it’s going to take some good time for your engine to cool down to resting temperature. This is what happens to your body after an intense exercise session during the EPOC phase and during that phase is when you are burning calories after the workout.
Truth of the matter is the calories that you are burning will never be greater than the calories you burn at the workout.
The average after burn effect is anywhere from 6 to 15% from your total calories burned. Now does that even sound like a lot?
No, not really but if you do this over an 8 or 12 week period then it adds up from a cumulative aspect.
Let’s just say you burned 600 calories after an intense workout well 10% of that is only 60 calories which would be your potential after burn effect. As I said earlier that is not many calories in terms of an after burn effect but if you add that 60 extra calories over an 8 or 12 week period then it does add up.
Up the intensity
It’s important to understand that the duration of the workout doesn’t influence EPOC, it’s the intensity that does.
What is actually interesting is that research shows that heavy weight resistance training and HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training can produce a bigger EPOC effect than running at a steady state.
It all comes back to HIIT
There was a study that was done in 2003 where a group of people did aerobic cycling at 40 minutes at 80% max HR and circuit training of 4 sets of 8 exercises at 15 reps at 50% of your 1 rep max.
And then there was another group that did heavy resistance training exercise at 3 sets of 8 exercises at 80 to 90% of their 1 rep max to exhaustion. The study revealed that the heavy resistance training group produced the biggest EPOC effect.
So when you are working out and if your goal is to increase or heighten your EPOC-after burn caloric effect then you should be mindful of heightening the intensity of your workouts and increasing the load of what you are lifting.
The science says that this will give you the greatest calorie burn after you work-out.
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Bersheim, E. and Bahr, R. (2003). Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33, 14, 1037-1060
LaForgia, J., Withers, R. and Gore, C. (2006). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Sport Sciences, 24, 12, 1247-1264.