One of the benefits of working out hard isn't just the calories you burn while you're working out, but the calories your body burns even after your workout is finished. It's called the EPOC effect, which stands for excess postexercise oxygen consumption, also known as the afterburn effect, and it's supposed to rev up your metabolism and turn you into a fat-burning machine even after you step out of the gym.
But if this afterburn effect sounds too good to be true, that's because it is — sort of. We spoke to Andrew Schuth, AFAA, NASM, AFPA, master instructor at Burn 60, who broke it down for us.
EPOC is described as the way increased oxygen requires increased energy in the body, and increased energy allows you to burn more calories after exercise, Andrew explained. And while reaching the EPOC effect depends on a variety of factors, such as fitness level, age, and weight, HIIT workouts are a great way to get your body there. How long your EPOC lasts depends on how intensely you worked out.
But while some boutique fitness classes promise your body to be in afterburn for 24 to 48 hours after a workout, Andrew said that's simply not the case. In fact, he said EPOC only lasts about one to two hours after a workout, which is why this is the optimal time to eat and refuel after an intense sweat sesh.
And it's not likely to burn hundreds of calories, either. Again, although every body is different and reacts differently to exercise, the EPOC effect burns roughly six to 15 percent of the total calories burned, Andrew said. So if you burned 200 calories during your workout, you will only burn an extra 12 to 30 calories after the fact.
"Unfortunately, EPOC is not a magic pill or elixir," Andrew said. "The ability to burn more calories is based on individual factors. However, the metabolism is the key. Train from the inside out. Don't focus on EPOC; focus on consistency and the intensity of the workout plus nutrition."
Overall, he said a better way to increase your fitness is to focus on an overall lifestyle approach. You can increase your EPOC by increasing the intensity of your workouts, but you also need to recover properly and not put extra pressure or strain on your body. Andrew recommended considering resting when you need it and getting proper sleep to fuel your body for the next workout.