The after burn effect

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or as it is more commonly known, the after burn effect, describes what is thought to be the work that your body continues to do once you stop training. The question, as always, is whether or not this is an old gym myth that has just managed to stick around, or is there something to it all?

The first thing that should make you suspicious about after burn is that you always hear about it in cheesy infomercials for extortionate training DVDs. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for those sorts of products so I am always skeptical in regards to their ridiculous claims. But that doesn’t mean that everything they say is untrue.

Logically you can see where the idea comes from. Just because you aren’t doing the exercise anymore, you still feel hot, your heart is still beating and you might feel like you are still working.

The idea that the after burn effect can burn more calories than the workout is something that we can definitely say is wrong. Think of it like this: say you are driving along at a road and suddenly the engine switched off. The car isn’t going to grind to a complete halt immediately and it will continue to roll on. The distance you travel once the engine has stopped is the after burn. But what is obvious is that after the engine has stopped, the car isn’t going to start going any faster. The same can be said of our bodies.

So we can say that EPOC exists, even if not quite in the way that some companies might have you believe. What we need to work out is how to maximize the effects of this after burn, so that we can best use it to help facilitate our training.

The after burn effect can amount to anywhere up to 15% of the calories that you burned when you were working out. And a good way to make sure you get as close to that 15% as possible is by focusing on improving the intensity of you workouts. A steady run can be an effective form of exercise if you are training for long distance events but in general if you want to increase the after burn then you need to be looking at HIIT, which makes sense when you think about it. The harder that your body is working when you stop exercising, the longer it will work for.

The good thing about all of this is that it is going to work naturally. You don’t have to worry about it once you have finished your workout. All you have to do is sit back and let it happen! But that doesn’t mean you can get complacent though. Your body might be doing the work for you, but it can only work as hard as you have been working in the gym. If you decide to take it easy then you can’t expect to see amazing results. But if you are willing to give it everything you can then our bodies are the perfect tool to help us succeed.

Ollie Lawrence