Updated: Jul 10, 2019
Are you interested in burning calories even when you aren’t working out? (Sounds like a dream come true, am I right?) If so, it may be time to amp up your workout!
EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, is the scientific term for the after burn effect. Unlocking how to do workouts that activate EPOC is the secret to quicker fat loss, and more effective workouts! So let’s dive right in!
How EPOC works
Let’s start basic- to consume just one liter of oxygen, your body burns 5 calories. So, when you increase the amount of oxygen consumed (such as during exercise) you increase calorie burn. This is why people exercise to burn calories.
However, something special happens during high intensity training sessions. Your muscles will start to burn and accumulate lactic acid as your oxygen stores deplete. Because your body lacks the oxygen it needs, it will require more oxygen to recover up to 16-24 hours post-workout, burning even more calories long after the workout is over.
The bottom line is: more total calories burned than if you worked out at a lower intensity for the same or longer period of time!
What does a ‘high intensity training session’ entail?
So, what kind of workout should you be doing to get EPOC working on your side? Going on a slow jog for an hour or so will most likely get you a good calorie burn during your workout; however, lower intensity cardio won’t get you working in the same way as intense training.
Studies have shown that heavy weight workouts, or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts are superior to steady-state running, or lower-intensity circuit training in creating EPOC.
For example, in a literature review, one study revealed that when aerobic cycling (40 minutes at 80 percent Max HR), circuit weight training (4 sets/8 exercises/15 reps at 50 percent 1-RM) and heavy resistance exercise (3 sets/8 exercises at 80-90 percent 1-RM to exhaustion) were compared; heavy resistance exercise produced the biggest EPOC.
In fact, the EPOC generated from a heavy weight workout, or HIIT workout have may burn up to 6-15% of the total calories of the workout.
Don’t Forget to Rest
When adding more intense training into your workout routine, don’t forget the importance of rest! Take care to rest and recover body groups for 48 hours before going hard again.
When you begin to train more intensely, you’ll find your muscles getting tighter and sore in ways that you may not have felt when you were just light jogging around the neighborhood. Keep an eye out for tight muscles, and take care of them by foam rolling, stretching, doing yoga, or going for a light jog to increase blood flow.