The Afterburn Effect: Everything You Need to Know

While the methods for “boosting” your metabolism are often overstated, the potential metabolic effects of the afterburn effect are the rare exception to this rule. But while the concept of burning up to 37-percent more calories after your workouts may sound like fitness fools gold, the afterburn effect is grounded in science. [1]

What is the Afterburn Effect?

The “afterburn effect” is just a more marketable term for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Similar to the way your car engine stays warm hours after a long road trip, your body can continue to burn calories after an intense workout, even while performing sedentary tasks, like typing at a desk. This phenomenon is EPOC, and it is one of the most effective and proven ways to help your body immediately burn more calories.

The Afterburn Effect: Everything You Need to Know

How Does the Afterburn Effect Work?

Exercise produces an increase in the amount of oxygen the body needs. That same effect carries over after exercise, as your body requires additional oxygen to recover and return to a rested state.

During that recovery stage, additional oxygen demands are required to return your body to a rested state. That process includes the production of ATP to replace the ATP used during workouts, the resynthesis of muscle glycogen from lactate, restoring oxygen levels in the blood, repairing muscle tissue damaged during workouts and restoring body temperature to a resting level. [2]

How Can You Increase the Afterburn Effect During Aerobic Training?

The short answer – the higher the workout intensity, the greater the afterburn. In fact, multiple studies have established a correlation between elevated exercise intensity and the number of post-exercise calories burned.

One study examined the recovery rate of runners who ran on the treadmill for 20-minutes at 60, 70 and 80% of their VO2max (maximum rate of oxygen consumption). It found that the higher intensity workouts produced the greatest post-workout caloric burn. In another study, 45-minutes of vigorous exercise increased participants post-exercise caloric burn by 37-percent! [3][4]

The Afterburn Effect: Everything You Need to Know

Does Weight Training Elicit the Afterburn Effect?

The afterburn effect is commonly associated directly with aerobic exercises, such as cycling or running. However, weight training can also help increase the number of post-exercise calories your body burns.

In fact, studies show that weight training elicits a greater afterburn effect than cardio performed at a consistent pace. But weight training is not necessarily superior to either. HIIT workouts, such as sand sprints, have shown to produce a comparable afterburn effect to weight training workouts.[5][3]

What Type of Weight Training Produces the Greatest Afterburn Effect?

Different types of weight training tend to elicit a greater afterburn effect. For example, weight training with compound movements (e.g., squats) that require the recruitment of additional muscle fibers burns more calories than weight training with isolated movements (e.g., chest fly) that require less muscle recruitment.

Another way to increase your post-exercise caloric burn is with supersets. Supersets are a form of weight training that alternates multiple sets of high-intensity agonist-antagonist muscle groups (e.g., upper-body and lower-body) with limited recovery between sets. Similar to compound movements, the recruitment of additional muscle during supersets helps increase the afterburn effect. [7][8]

The Afterburn Effect: Everything You Need to Know

So, What’s the Best Workout to Burn Calories After I Workout?

At the end of the day, the type of workout you enjoy most is likely the best option. After all, you’re more likely to stick with a fitness routine you consistently enjoy. However, if you want to burn more post-workout calories, you should increase your training load (e.g., intensity, weight). If you’re a weight lifter, increase the weight, or incorporate supersets into your routine. If you’re a runner or cyclist, work intense bouts of exercise into your regular training routine.



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written by

James Gardikas

James Gardikas

Contributing Writer