Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption

As people get on the path to losing weight they tend to focus relentlessly on the amount of calories that they are taking in every day and the exact amount of calories that they burn off on their 30 minute jog. However these people are overlooking the amount of calories that can be burned off after the exercise. Train in the right way and this number can be huge, with excess calories being burned for up to 24 hours post exercise. This phenomenon is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, often referred to as the afterburn effect.

What is excess post exercise oxygen consumption?

EPOC the state whereby your metabolism is raised after the exercise is complete. It occurs so that the body can return to it’s natural resting state, and involves consuming excess oxygen in order to pay off an “oxygen debt” or “oxygen deficit”. This means that more calories are burned for as long as the oxygen debt is being ‘paid off’, and so, the likelihood that you will be burning off excess fat is greater. The effect is greatest immediately after exercise and reduces over time, but the total duration has been measured at up to 38hrs in some cases.

How is an oxygen deficit produced?

In order to maximise your afterburn effect you need to produce as large an oxygen deficit as you can, but how does this happen? The oxygen deficit occurs naturally because as you are exercising your body is producing a whole host of reactions and products that need to be returned to their original state after the exercise. For example, hormone levels need to be rebalanced, depleted fuel stores need to be replenished, and lactic acid that builds up in the blood stream needs to be oxidised, breaking it down. All of this requires additional oxygen, and so you consume more until things are set back in balance. The question is, how do you build a big oxygen deficit?

Intense Exercise is the Key

To maximise fat loss you need to maximise the amount of calories you are burning and a good way to do this a large EPOC effect. Many studies have been undertaken to determine the types of exercise that create the largest excess post-exercise oxygen consumption and the general consensus is – the more intense the workout, the greater the EPOC. This is relevant when doing both weight training and aerobic exercise.

Weight Lifting

When performing weight training, heavy lifting is the way to go to maximise EPOC. Lifting heavy weights raises your heart rate dramatically, particularly when you perform compound movements – movements that use more than one muscle group such as pull ups, squats or dead lifts. These types of exercise keep your heart rate longer and lifting heavy weights means that your body is repairing muscle longer, further increasing your EPOC.

Cardio Training

When doing aerobic or cardio type training it is all about intensity. Forget about jogging for an hour, 15-20 minutes on interval training will get your EPOC through the roof. Research shows that even though high intensity anaerobic exercise, ie sprinting, burns off less calories than aerobic exercise at similar durations, the total calorie expenditure from the anaerobic exercise is greater, due to the effect of EPOC. Studies clearly show that EPOC is greater in favour of higher intensity but intermittent (ie High intensity interval training) when compared with lower intensity, continuous exercise.


Excess post-exercise oxgen consumption is a raising of your metabolism after exercise in an effort to return your body to its comfortable resting state. The more intense you workout, the longer your body works to return the balance and consequently, the more calories, and fat, you burn off.

One thought on “Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption”

  1. I used to do long cardio on a treadmill and while having success in reducing my weight from 97kg to 80kg, it was hard to maintain because there was no afterburn effect. I found mixing that with compound exercises and weightlifting, I put on muscular mass and kept the body fat down, even on weeks where I could not do exercise.

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