Another secret way the body burns calories is with Exercise Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), or what most of us refer to as after-burn. When we exercise, we throw the body into a form of chaos. Once the workout is over, our bodies expend calories to get the body back into its pre-exercise state.
Just how many calories we burn after exercise is tough to answer but a general range is about 30-120 calories for 30-60 minutes of cardio (including cycling and treadmill) at 70% of VO2 max ( about 70 % of your maximum heart rate). And, it isn’t just cardio that produces an after-burn. High intensity resistance training and circuit resistance training (discussed below) also produce an after-burn as well. Results can differ based on gender and the type of exercise but, in general, the tougher (and longer) the workout, the greater the after-burn. Does that mean you should get out there and kill yourself with every workout? Of course not. Doing too many high intensity workouts can lead to burnout, overtraining or injury. But gradually incorporating more high intensity workouts can make a difference in how many calories you burn both during and after your workout.
Interval training is a great way to boost endurance, burn more calories and work harder without having to spend an entire workout at a high intensity. The idea is to work harder than you normally do for a short period of time to overload your body (overload is how you make progress). Then you fully recover with a rest interval so that you’re ready to do it all again.
Another way to boost your workout is to try higher intensity workouts, or continuous training at about 80% of your maximum heart rate, which is right in your aerobic zone. In other words, you want to be out of your comfort zone, but not so far out that you can’t catch your breath. You might try adding one higher intensity workout a week and start with 10-20 minutes at this level if you’re a beginner, gradually working your way up to 30-60 minutes.
Lifting weights and building muscle will make you look good and help you burn calories, but focusing on high intensity training can also increase your after-burn, though you should be an experienced exerciser before adding too much intensity.
The general guidelines for heavy resistance training include 8-10 exercises and 2-4 sets of 3-8 reps; use enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps – you should lift to momentary failure. Take 2-3 minutes of rest between sets
Circuit Resistance Training
The guidelines for circuit resistance training are 6-10 exercises, 2-3 circuits, performing each exercise one after the other. 10-12 reps using a medium-heavy weight for each exercise.
Doing cardio and strength during the same workout won’t necessarily double your after-burn but splitting your workouts can. If your schedule allows for it (and you want to workout more than once a day), you can split your routine so that you’re doing cardio in the morning and strength later that day (or vice versa). You can even split your cardio into two or more high intensity workouts and the same goes for your strength training. Remember, you don’t have to split your workouts and you shouldn’t feel that you won’t get a good workout otherwise. Most of us would find it hard to workout more than once a day and you’ll still get results if you work hard. But, if you find some extra time now and then, splitting your routine is just one way to get a little more bang for your buck.
It’s important to be safe when increasing intensity to avoid overtraining and injury.
~Add intensity gradually. If you’re a beginner or aren’t used to high intensity cardio workouts, gradually increase your pace or resistance/incline over time so you don’t overdo it.
~Limit high intensity workouts. Experts recommend you do no more than 1-2 interval or high intensity cardio workouts a week to avoid overtraining.
~Add more warm up time. Because high intensity workouts are hard on the body, it helps to give yourself plenty of time to warm up and get your body ready for hard work. Plan on spending a good 10 minutes gradually getting your heart rate up and your muscles warm.
~Be sure to cool down. Giving your body time to slow down and recover from high intensity workouts is important for staying safe and ending your workout on a good note. It’s also a great time to stretch.
Weight-Bearing Cardio Workouts
Another way to burn more calories is to participate in activities that are weight-bearing and involve more muscle fibers. Typical Weight-bearing activities include: Walking, running, stairclimbing, tennis, soccer, step-aerobics, kickboxing, dancing and hiking. When you engage in weight-bearing exercises, gravity works against you which requires your body to work harder and, thus, expend more energy. Similarly, activities that involve the entire body (like cross-country skiing) will usually burn more calories than activities that use fewer muscle groups (like cycling or doing a bicep curl). You can also add hills or incline to your cardio workouts…walking or running up an incline will require your body to expend more energy than flat terrain.
Does this mean that non-weight-bearing exercises like swimming or cycling are useless? Not at all. While you’ll typically expend fewer calories during those types of activities, there are some benefits – not as much repetitive stress on the joints and longer workouts because your body can better tolerate that kind of training.
When choosing activities, don’t feel like you have to pick the hardest one. Instead, start with an activity you like and go from there. You can always add other cross-training activities over time, which is a great way to work the body in different ways and protect you from injuries. The best exercise is the one you enjoy the most…that’s the one you’ll do more often and work harder at.
This last secret weapon isn’t necessarily a function of the body so much as a function of what you do after your workout. It’s fairly common to overcompensate for exercise without even being aware of it, which can compromise your attempts to lose weight if you’re not paying attention. The most common ways we overcompensate include: Eating more calories. When you start exercising, you may eat more calories to offset that extra energy expenditure. Some people do it because they’re hungry and others because they feel they can reward themselves by eating what they want.
Resting more. Another way we overcompensate is by moving around less after the workout. Again, this is something you may do without even being aware of it. If you work hard for a 45-minute run and then reduce your usual activity after that, you reduce the effect of that workout on your weight loss goals.
To get the most out of your workouts, pay attention to what you do the rest of the day by (1) keeping a food journal—I love ueing Lose it! It is a great, free app for your Smart Phone if you want, or you can just use it on your computer. Tracking your meals and calories is a simple way to make sure you’re not eating more to offset your workouts. On the other hand, if you’re starving, you may need to add more calories to avoid being miserable (no one likes to go hungry all the time) and to make sure you’re getting enough fuel for your workouts. (2) Keeping an exercise log. You can track your workouts and progress while maintaining an awareness of how active you are on the days you exercise. Do you tend to nap after a tough workout rather than doing normal activity? You may need that nap but, if so, be aware that you’re not burning quite as many calories as you would if you got up and moved around. You can do that with Lose it! as well.
It’s easy to get in a rut with exercise and forget the many small things we can do each day that will add challenge and, sometimes, help burn more calories so we can accomplish weight loss goals. The key is to incorporate small changes on a regular basis and get the most we can out of our time and our workouts.