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EPOC: Torch calories hours after you’ve left the gym

You’ve probably heard your personal trainer or workout partner mention something about “after burn,” but can you really burn big calories when you’re not working out? To put it simply, yes! Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC, is a real thing, and the key to “after burn” long after you’ve finished a workout. But, you can’t just do 20 minutes on the elliptical and expect to torch calories while you’re binge watching your favorite shows later. As with most good things in life, lots of hard work means better results. The same is true when it comes to burning calories.

If you want to keep the calorie-burn going post-workout, you need to give each workout everything you’ve got, and approach each exercise with intention. The “after burn” is the effect of burning calories after a workout when your body is at rest and recovering from the stress you’ve put it through. Essentially, as your body recovers from exercise, for the next 24 hours your oxygen consumption is heightened. This happens because your body has to work even harder to repair the muscle break down and damage that occurred during exercise as well as to restore cellular function to their pre-exercise levels.

Although most workouts can boost EPOC to a minor degree, some workouts are designed specifically to depend on the anaerobic pathway for energy, which allows for optimum EPOC boost. For example, if you’re pressed on time, you’re better off doing a 30-minute high intensity interval training session and not a simple 30-minute stroll on the treadmill.

The following are proven workouts that boost EPOC:

1. Strength Training

Taxing your muscles to exhaustion is a great way to maximize “after burn.” For the best results, you’ll want to focus on compound exercises targeting multiple, large muscle groups.

2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Go for 100% during your high intensity intervals with little rest time in between sets. Note: You shouldn’t do this kind of workout every day.

3. Sprint Interval Training (SIT)
Different from HIIT, the level of intensity during this workout is even greater! The work is often well above 100% VO2 max. You’ll only be able to maintain this effort for 20 seconds max and the recovery between sprints is longer than in a HIIT workout. Just as with HIIT, to avoid injury, you should only do this workout once or twice a week.

4. Tempo Training
During tempo training your entire cardio workout of at least 30 minutes should be at 70-80% VO2 max. The longer this intensity is maintained, the more metabolically demanding it will be.

5. Circuit Resistance Training
As you circuit train, you don’t push your muscles to exhaustion during each set. Instead, the goal is to maintain a higher level of intensity throughout while keeping rest intervals to a minimum.

The good news is, the more you do workouts that boost EPOC, the more efficient your body will become. The bad news is (or good, depending how you look at it), you’ll have to keep upping your game! You’ll have to keep challenging yourself as to get the same effect as your body gets used to the training. Faster, more efficient recovery post-workout, shouldn’t discourage you. Keep mixing things up and you’ll keep building muscle, increase your Resting Metabolic Rate, and your body will become an incinerator for calories as you increase your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.