How do we switch on the after burners in our workouts? What do I even mean by the after burners?…….
One of the great things about exercise is that we not only get the benefits during our workouts, but there’s an added bonus, and the rewards just keep on coming.
The reward I refer to is what we call the afterburn, also known as post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). The afterburn refers to the amount of oxygen your body consumes above resting level after your workout. Or put another way, it’s how many calories your body burns before it returns to its pre-exercise state.
Exercise triggers a number of responses in the body, starting with metabolism. Your metabolism goes up and, if you work at a high intensity, it will stay up for a period of time afterwards.
There are a number of physiological mechanisms responsible for this, chemical reactions that replace oxygen stores, replenish energy stores and more, and the good news is that we don’t have to understand how it works to take advantage of it.
The bottom line is that the more afterburn you can generate, the greater your potential for either weight loss, or weight maintenance.
How to get more Afterburn
When it comes to cardio, there are several factors that determine your afterburn:
- Exercise Intensity and Duration.
- The structure of your workout.
- Your fitness level.
Various studies looking at the afterburn have shown that the greatest afterburn occurs when you work at about 75% of VO2 Max.
VO2 Max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during intense exercise.
A truly accurate measurement of VO2 Max can only really be obtained in a laboratory setting, which for most isn’t realistic. Although it is possible to obtain a reasonable estimation using a calculation based on resting heart rate and age.
We can also gain a fairly good idea by using equivalents to estimate VO2 Max. For example, 75% is equivalent to about a Level 8 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale (RPE), and can be achieved by for example, fast running, skipping and bike or rowing intervals.
In general you will get more bang for your afterburn buck by incorporating some short bouts of exercise at a high intensity into your workouts rather than a longer continuous workout at a lower intensity.
When you’re new to exercise you will also generate more afterburn because the movements are new to your body, which means you’ll be expending more energy. However, as you become more experienced, your body becomes more efficient and will expend less energy to do the same work – it’s therefore essential to ensure that you keep changing up your routine to maintain challenge.
So, ensure that you keep finding ways to switch on the afterburners in your workouts – the benefits outlast the workouts themselves……absolute bonus!