The „afterburn effect“ is an expression applied in the fitness for something called scientifically “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” (EPOC). Such a process is triggered by specifically designed exercise and to put it simply, afterburn effect means that the body continues to burn off calories several hours (or days) after such an exercise due to an increase of the metabolic rate. The basic physical condition for this effect to occur is something called oxygen debt.
And what this all can mean for you? Can you imagine how nice it would be to lose the weight in your sleep? So, this is it! This effect can help you „super charge metabolism to overdrive“ and enables you burn off extra calories many hours after properly designed workout. Therefore, it has never been easier and faster to get rid of the excessive body fat.
What is the „oxygen debt“?
Oxygen debt is a lack of oxygen which occurs in the body during or after high intensity exercise. Oxygen debt is usually caused by anaerobic respiration in which short amounts of energy are made without oxygen which later needs to be repaid.
You are probably familiar with the symptoms of oxygen debt. It´s the moment when your breath becomes deep and shallow… Sometimes the stimulated muscle is not able to respond due to oxygen debt and in such a moment cramp appears.
Let´s say that the physical exercise designed specifically to trigger the afterburn effect will cause the oxygen debt in your body. What exactly happens there inside and how the body can deal with it?
Physiological processes during the afterburn effect
Our body is usually provided with a constant supply of oxygen. When we start working out, the muscles are strained and the heart rate increases. The latent amount of oxygen is used up quickly in this situation and the body has to turn to another strategy. We deal with the oxygen debt by deep breaths. However, there are many other elements to assist the EPOC process in the body.
Oxygen is stored in myoglobin in our blood. Pyruvate helps with the production of energy in the body and glycogen is stored up and ready for a scenario that will require a burst of power – for example workout. Any time usual stores of oxygen are used up, the body processes have to switch momentarily to a different strategy. When myoglobin is depleted, the muscle tissues begin to function without oxygen. And this is the moment when exercise starts to be called „anaerobic“.
Since the supply of oxygen is now reduced, some parts (as adenosine triphosphate) must help to transform pyruvate into lactic acid. Lactic acid can afterwards be converted into glucose or glycogen. Like this it can be used as the source of energy or released into carbon dioxide and water as the body continues working out.
After you finish such exercise, the depleted storage of myoglobin, glycogen and ATP has to be renewed. Here, the afterburn effect comes!
How long does the afterburn effect last?
There is no given amount of time necessary for this replenishment as the time depends on the intensity of workouts. However, recovery of components like the storage of oxygen can generally take something between a couple of hours and a couple of days.
You should also know that almost all types of exercise (even a few minutes) will trigger some kind of afterburn effect. But as you can see, the duration of the effect and after that the amount of calories burnt off even after the workouts can vary quite a lot. So, if you want to make use of the afterburn effect, it is important to chose or adjust your exercise accordingly to maximize its effect. Because, you really want to burn calories even in your sleep, right?
How to apply the afterburn effect in your exercise routine
You can apply this effect almost in almost any exercise or sport you love. You just have to change your exercise routine to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with some specific requirements.
High-intensity interval training has been proven as much more effective compared to traditional endurance training methods. It generates the afterburn effect (EPOC) in very powerful way and increases the resting metabolic rate to it´s maximum duration limit of 24 hours following the workouts.
So, how to apply it? First of all, you should keep the rule of the ratio 2:1 (or 1:1) for high intensity training and resting periods and repeat the exercise according to this pattern for 10-30 minutes. In the beginning such an exercise could be quite hard, but don´t worry as you will get better with regular training. And the good news here: 30 minutes (3 times per week) should be sufficient enough for anyone.
If you don´t want to do or learn some new specifically designed workouts, you can try to adjust your favorite sport to this scheme. Instead of one hour of relaxed jogging (swimming, etc.) you can sprint with regular intervals of resting (with ratio 30s sprint : 15s resting). Someone else could have a lot of fun with boxing which is another perfect sport to apply and enjoy HIIT.
So, let´s strat! Don´t be afraid to experiment and do your workouts in the way to enjoy them!