EPOC Training for Serious Results
EPOC training – I’m a broken record when it comes to talking about the afterburn or EPOC effect (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). It’s basically a measure of the oxygen you consume post-workout to return your body to its normal resting state; 1 liter of oxygen consumed equals 5 calories burned (Vella & Kravitz 2004). So the more oxygen consumed, means you are burning more calories after that workout.
Hypothetically, you can even be burning calories due to your intense workout 38 hours after the workout (Schuenke et al 2002). EPOC training can be pretty mind-blowing!
EPOC Training – Are you ready?
Putting the effort into a high-intensity workout can have you burning through calories while sitting on your couch watching re-runs of “That 70’s Show”…
Yeah, the afterburn effect via EPOC training can be that awesome! Here is a simple breakdown of how to get a high magnitude EPOC effect after your workout is over:
- Workout at a high intensity
- Exercise for 20-30 minutes or more
- Strength Train
Workout at a High Intensity
The most important aspect of achieving a high magnitude EPOC is keeping the workout at a high-intensity… that seems like a no-brainer. Science has demonstrated that when participants exercised at either 85% or 45% of their 8 rep max, the higher intensity cohort had a significantly higher EPOC and therefore caloric burn after their workout (Thornton & Potteiger 2001).
I can go on and on about how a higher intensity workout leads to a higher EPOC. Basically, keep your workout at a high intensity and you will be fine!
“But what is high friggin intensity?” One study found that a good way to induce the EPOC effect was to exercise at 70 – 75% VO2 max (Kaminsky et al 1990). You can determine your heart rate associated with that particular VO2 max by using this calculator.
Then all you basically do is the workout and try to keep your heart rate elevated up to that point the entire time; easy as that! This, of course, is not 100% accurate (need lab equipment for that) but is a good estimate!
Exercise at that intensity for at least 20-30 Minutes
The second most important part of achieving a high magnitude afterburn effect via EPOC training is exercise duration. The longer you workout the larger your afterburn will be.
But this can put us in a predicament because we don’t have endless time to exercise… and not many of us want to.
We need to find a happy medium that allows us to achieve an afterburn in a timely manner.
This can be done in about 20-30 minutes. For instance, while the EPOC effect was higher for the longer exercise duration in a study by Quinn and associates (1994), those that performed the exercise for 20 and 40 minutes still achieved calorie burn after their workout was over!
In fact, although the participants only exercised 1/3 the time (20 minutes) they still achieved over half of the EPOC effect (57%) compared to the longer exercise cohort (60 minutes). That’s the time trade-off we need to look for and implement into our workouts to exercise smarter, not longer!
In fact, if you are just starting out – exercising at this level for 10-15 minutes is a great way to get started!
If you find yourself consistently strapped for time but still wanting to maximize that EPOC effect, try Sprint Interval Training (SIT). Simply put, it consists of doing all-out effort sprints for 20-30 seconds, rest for 3-4 minutes, then sprinting again. Repeat this for a total of 4-8 sprints.
Although it may not seem like a lot, pushing your body to the maximal intensity for that short bout is extremely powerful. In fact, a meta-analysis done by RunRepeat.com sought to figure out, which is the best cardio for weight loss? They found that Sprint Interval Training was able to burn significantly more fat than HIIT and traditional cardio in a fraction of the time spent exercising. Be sure not to overdo it though. Start with one SIT session/week and slowly build up to 2 or 3 times per week.”
Lastly, when it comes to the best type of exercise to achieve the greatest afterburn, science tells us that resistance training is ideal. Not only does resistance training increase your EPOC more than any other training method, but circuits are also the best (Murphy & Schwarzkopf 1992).
This is because you are resting less than 30 seconds between sets. This doesn’t give your body enough time to return to rest and you stay ramped up the entire time causing your EPOC to be larger after the workout is over!
If you are going to do normal cardio make sure to perform it in an intermittent fashion which increases your EPOC more than steady-state cardio!
I recommend resistance training by super setting your exercises (with little rest between sets; less than 30 seconds) for at least 30 minutes.
This should keep your workout at a very high intensity (when your arms are so full of blood they feel like they may pop, do another set) and you will be blasting through calories 38 hours after your workout is over!
EPOC training makes it count!
Kaminsky LA, Padjen S, LaHam-Saeger J (1990) Effect of split exercise sessions on excess postexercise oxygen consumption. Brit J Sports Med 24: 95-98.
Murphy E, Schwarzkopf R (1992) Effects of standard set and circuit weight training on excess postexercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research 6: 88-91.
Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM (2002) Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: Implications for body mass management. Eur J Appl Physiol 86: 411-417.
Thornton MK, Potteiger JA (2001) Effects of resistance exercise bouts of different intensities but equal work on EPOC. Med Sci Sports Exer 34: 715-722.
Vella CA, Kravitz L (2004) Exercise after-burn: A research update. IDEA Fitness Journal 1.5: 42-47.