what is the afterburn effect
Afterburn refers to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), where your body continues to burn calories even after your workout

Afterburn is a common term used to refer to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), where your body continues to burn calories even after you have finished your workout. 

During the recovery phase after exercise, your body uses oxygen and calories to repair muscles and replenish stores of oxygen and adenosine triphosphate (ATP or cell energy currency). This is what causes the afterburn effect, which is a beneficial phenomenon that aids in weight loss and helps build muscles.

How many calories you burn during the afterburn depends on the following factors:

  • Intensity of your workout: A highly intense workout tends to burn more calories during and after the workout.
  • Duration of your workout: Performing more exercises in a short time tends to have a greater afterburn effect than a steady-state workout.
  • Weight: Overweight and obese people tend to have a lower afterburn effect.
  • Fitness level: Fit people tend to have a sustained afterburn effect.
  • Muscle mass: People with more muscle mass have a greater afterburn effect as compared to people with less muscle mass.

What workouts give you the afterburn effect?

Aerobic activities, such as jogging, cycling, swimming, and sprinting, all are effective in triggering the afterburn effect. 

However, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), such as Tabata and speed drills, give you an even greater afterburn effect. HIIT workout consists of several high-intense exercises performed with short resting periods between each one.

How to recover from workouts that result in significant afterburn

Significant afterburn can make you feel tired, which can subsequently make you feel less motivated to work out again. Here’s how to ensure a speedy recovery from a highly intense workout:

  • Hot and cold treatments: Getting heat treatments through sauna baths or hot tubs helps improve blood circulation and repair muscles. Another alternative is to use cold treatment using ice packs or ice baths. Post-workout cold treatments can help soothe inflamed muscles.
  • Nutrition: Have a drink or snack that has a carbohydrate and protein ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 within 30-45 minutes of your workout. This boosts your energy and prepares you for the next day's workout.
  • Massage: Use foam rolls, a massage stick, or even a tennis ball to apply appropriate pressure to the muscle tissue and improve circulation circulation. Even getting a massage from a massage therapist can help.
  • Sleep: Some of the substances your body needs for tissue repair are produced during deep sleep. Getting a good night's sleep after the high-intensity workout ensures a speedy post-workout recovery.
  • Alternating your workouts: You can alternate high-intensity workouts with moderate or low-intensity exercises every few days. You can also build up the intensity of your exercises gradually until you reach your goal. For example, if you want to eventually be able to run 5 miles a day, you can initially start with running one mile, then slowly add half a mile each day until you reach 5 miles.
  • Compression clothing: Wearing tightly fitted clothing (compression clothing) during your workouts can improve blood circulation to the muscles and help rebuild muscles faster afterwards.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/11/2021
References
McCall P. 7 Things to Know About Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). The American Council on Exercise. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5008/7-things-to-know-about-excess-post-exercise-oxygen-consumption-epoc/

McCall P. Know Your Recovery Strategies. The American Council on Exercise. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/3628/know-your-recovery-strategies/

Knab AM, Shanely RA, Corbin KD, et al. A 45-Minute Vigorous Exercise Bout Increases Metabolic Rate for 14 Hours. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Sep;43(9):1643-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21311363/