Burning calories after a workout is known as the afterburn effect. It doesn't occur with moderate exercise, which has led some researchers to believe the afterburn effect is a myth.
However, new evidence indicates that there is a direct correlation between the intensity of your workout and the amount of calories you burn during an exercise session — and long after. Although there is no equation to calculate your afterburn, there are certain exercises that will give your metabolism a long-lasting boost.
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There is no current way to calculate how many calories you continue to burn after a workout. The evidence though, points to the afterburn effect becomes more pronounced with vigorous, rather than moderate, exercise.
How Afterburn Works
Intense physical activity creates an oxygen deficit. The afterburn effect, also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption —EPOC — occurs when your body continues to burn calories after you exercise to replenish oxygen stores in the muscles while you are recovering according to My Zone.
This process increases your metabolism, which is also marked by an increase in blood flow, as your body regulates its temperature back to a pre-exercise state. The more intensely you work out, the longer your body takes to recover. The afterburn effect can help people burn calories to lose weight and reduce body fat if they create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than they burn.
Calories You Could Burn
Amy A. Knab of Appalachian State University and a team of researchers set out to determine how many calories a person can burn after a vigorous workout according to a 2011 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
Ten men recruited for the study performed a vigorous 45-minute workout on a stationary bike. The participants managed to burn 420 calories during the workout. The afterburn effect was measured in a metabolic chamber for over 14 hours, which revealed that the participants burned an additional 190 calories.
Afterburn With Resistance Exercise
The afterburn effect is not limited to cardiovascular exercise. Researchers from the Department of Sport and Movement Science note in a 2013 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that resistance exercise, such as weight training, can elevate your metabolism for up to two days.
The researchers also concluded that using heavier weight does not extend or elevate calorie expenditure after exercise. Perform a fast pace and intense resistance exercise session, such as a circuit workout, to maximize your calories burned after weight training according to Len Kravitz writing for the University of New Mexico.
What is a Vigorous Workout?
To determine whether your exercise session is intense enough to create an afterburn effect like in a HIIT session, calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR). The most accurate way to calculate your MHR is to have a clinical test using a maximal treadmill.
For the meantime, subtract your age from 220 for an estimate. For instance, a 30 year old would have an estimated MHR of 190. To burn calories after a workout, you should maintain a heart rate between 70 to 80 percent of your MHR. Work out using a heart rate monitor for the intensity of performance.
- University of New Mexico: "Exercise After-Burn: Research Update"
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: "A 45-Minute Vigorous Exercise Bout Increases Metabolic Rate For 14 Hours"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "National Strength and Conditioning Association: Effects of Load-Volume on EPOC After Acute Bouts of Resistance Training in Resistance-Trained Men"
- MyZone: "(EPOC) Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption Explained"