How to Continue Burning Extra Calories After Your Workout

You may not have heard of the afterburn effect, and it may sound like something you’d like to avoid, but especially if you are looking to lose weight, it is for you.

Kevin “KC” Reed, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer at Benefitness NYC, told StrongPath what it is, why it’s beneficial, and how to trigger it.

What is the Afterburn Effect?

“The afterburn effect or excess post oxygen consumption (EPOC) refers to the caloric burn after a workout is completed,” said Reed.

Scientifically speaking and according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), afterburn is “the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting metabolic function (called homeostatis).”

Why Does it Matter?

Many people want to make sure they are optimizing their workouts, especially if the goal is to shed some extra pounds. By engaging in intense physical activities, like heavy resistance training or HIIT, the body requires more oxygen to recover and repair, which leads to more net calories being burned throughout the day.

Strength Training for the Afterburn Effect

“Balancing your body effectively and gaining lean muscle mass will help you become a more efficient calorie burning person for the long term,” said Reed. By increasing the intensity of a strength training circuit with compound movements that work both the upper and lower body, heavier loads and/or shorter rest periods in between sets, the greater the afterburn effect. It’s more important to work at a high intensity versus a long period of time to trigger EPOC.

“While steady-state cardiovascular exercise is also important, especially for heart health, it doesn’t create an effective afterburn effect because you won’t necessarily be burning calories once your heartrate returns to normal. Your body doesn’t continue to burn calories post-workout like it does if you are weightlifting,” said Reed.  

One study conducted by researchers from the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education found that resistance training had more of an impact on EPOC than running at a steady pace. According to the research, “studies in which similar estimated energy cost or similar exercising VO2 have been used to equate continuous aerobic exercise and intermittent resistance exercise, have indicated that resistance exercise produces a greater EPOC response.”

Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found resistance training increased EPOC “for up to 48 hours in both untrained and trained subjects.”

How Many Extra Calories are Burned?

The number of calories a person burns depends on the individual and the intensity level of the exercise. Over time, the cumulative number of extra calories burned per week may be significant. A study published in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that participants who did 45 minutes of vigorous exercise continued to burn energy at a higher level for 14 hours post exercise, which burned 190 calories, compared to a rest day.

Bottom Line

Increasing the intensity of your workouts and resistance training can trigger the afterburn effect. In isolation, the extra calories burned may not seem like a lot, but over time, it can make a significant difference. Not only is strength training important for better health and an enhanced quality of life, it’s essential to developing lean muscle mass, which burns more calories and contributes to maintaining a healthy weight. Contrary to popular belief, while HIIT and other cardio is important to heart health and overall health, if you had to choose one (which you shouldn’t, choose both!), choose strength training.

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