What is the afterburn effect and when does it occur?

Posted in Fitness

The afterburn effect, also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), refers basically to the increased quantity of KCAL (calories) burned after exercise.
Physical activity increases muscles' demand for oxygen (VO2), which oxidizes carbohydrates and fats, producing the energy required for movement. The demand of the human body for oxygen increases proportionately with the intensity of your workout. During intense exercise, your body needs more oxygen than breathing could provide. This gap between the demand for oxygen in the muscles, and the actual amount of oxygen delivered is called the "oxygen debt". In order to "pay off" the oxygen debt, restore balance and "cool off", the human body usually needs a few hours. In that time, it consumes more than 10 liters of extra oxygen, thus burning more calories post–workout.

To take advantage of this fascinating ability of the body and enjoy the reward of extra calories burned, you should make sure you train the right way.


1. The intensity of the activity. With an increase in the exercise intensity, the magnitude and duration of EPOC increases.
2. Training duration. The principle is simple: shorter duration of EPOC is observed after exercises with lower intensity and shorter duration, and the greatest impact of EPOC follows a long high-intensity workout.

And what effect does fitness level have on post-exercise calorie burn?

Fit people regenerate quickly after exercises, and their "oxygen debt", heart rate and blood pressure return to normal in a relatively short time.
After training, fit people burn more calories than an untrained person, because they may train with greater intensity, for a longer time. Thus, a more athletic person might have a higher EPOC, but the duration of the post-workout energy consumption will be longer in the case of an untrained person – they need more time to restore the body to the state of rest.
Training of appropriate intensity and duration is essential because most calories will burn during the actual training, and the ensuing EPOC effects are just an additional perk.


Given the fact that the post-exercise combustion may take up to 48 hours, we can lose weight even while sleeping. That's worth a lot of commitment during every workout. It really pays off! Our Personal Trainers will create a training schedule that suits you best. Also recovery has a great effect on the EPOC.


In any case, exercising strains the body and is inevitably followed by tiredness. When resting, strained organs and muscles regenerate and rebuild their capacity. At this moment the body reacts to the stimulus set on by the exercising and does not only recover from the exertions, but also prepares for expected strain in the next workout. With short gaps, training overload could be created and the muscles may not be able to regenerate nor are they able to become stronger for the next training session. However, resting for too long is also counterproductive. EPOC diminishes after a while and the training effect deflagrates. The gap between training sessions should be about 24 hours to attain an ideal recovery effect. Three or four training sessions per week are ideal for the optimal exploitation of the afterburn effect and related fat burning and muscle growth. You can support the afterburn effect with your diet, too.


For the use of the afterburn effect your diet plays an important role. It is recommended that you eat light. Eat foods high in protein after training as to not immediately supply the body with the same amount of energy it has burnt while exercising. Try to avoid sugar and fat, often present in health food and energy drinks. Mineral water should be your constant companion, before and after exercising. Of course it is important to eat your fill in the evening. A yummy protein shake is also a great option. Protein supports muscle building and maintains the afterburn effect. For breakfast you can have a feast, since a trained body needs energy intake by way of food. The metabolism gets stimulated by physical activity and the breakfast calorie intake will be distributed throughout the whole day. Generally, it is better not to workout directly after eating and not directly eat after working out.

If you have further questions, please contact our professionals.

Lidia Zamyłko
Regional Business Studio Manager, Fitness Instructor
Holmes Place Poland

Posted in Fitness