What Is the Afterburn Effect?

What Is the Afterburn Effect?

You’re probably well aware of what happens after you use an iron to press a shirt or dress. The iron itself stays hot for quite some time. The same thing can happen with your body when you’re done crushing a workout. You may not even realize it, but your body continues to burn calories when the effort’s over through a process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Commonly referred to as the afterburn effect,  it’s like getting more bang for your buck.

Afterburn Effect: What's Going On

“As the recovery phase begins, your body has some immediate maintenance to do to bring you back to homeostasis or rest,” says Chelsea Aguiar, performance coach in New York City. “It must replenish energy stores, reoxygenate your blood, cool your sweating body, and rein in your racing heart. All of which require energy (calories) to execute.”

And while there is arguably some sort of EPOC after every workout, the more intense your sweat session is, the more EPOC you’ll have, says Rachel Mariotti, a certified strength and conditioning specialist based in New York City.

“Your typical high-intensity interval training, including Tabata and metcons [metabolic conditioning workouts], are the first entry points into experiencing EPOC,” she says. “Higher-intensity training like CrossFit workouts, specifically AMRAPs (as many reps as possible), sprint repeats, and high-intensity interval runs reaching 95 percent max heart rate with short recoveries are ways to increase EPOC to higher levels.”

But how much calorie burn are we really talking about here with the afterburn effect? Runners and cyclists who participated in speed interval training burned between 45 and 65 calories within the first two hours following a workout, according to an article in Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism. Is 65 calories a total game-changer? Maybe not one session’s 65 calories. But if you think about it, over time (days, weeks, months) that accumulates to a lot more than just sitting around.

Want to get your EPOC on and burn off fat? We don’t blame you. Try one of the two below workouts.

Afterburn effect

2 Afterburn Effect Workouts

Dumbbell Burner

Your trainer: Chelsea Aguiar

Do: 5-minute AMRAP

The Workout

5 dumbbell squats

5 dumbbell shoulder press

10 alternating reverse lunges (dumbbells at sides)

Tip: “The weights you choose should be heavy enough for the last two minutes to feel like a serious struggle, but light enough for you to maintain proper form.”

Run for It

Your trainer: Rachel Mariotti

Do: Repeat 5 to 8 sets

The Workout

30-second treadmill sprints on a 4 percent incline

Rest 90 seconds between each (hop up so your feet are on the sides of the treadmill)

Tip: “You have to be near max effort here, huffing and puffing after the first one,” she says. “If you find that you don’t need the whole 90 seconds to recover, then you’re not working hard enough.”

Here's a training plan that puts the Afterburn Effect into wide use: The Spartan Get Fit Fast Plan.