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Burn Calories after Working Out – the Afterburn Effect of Exercising

The afterburn effect, also known officially as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), is a physiological reaction to intense physical exercise and sport which allows the body to consume more calories for several hours after coming to rest. The afterburn effect ensures an elevated pulse and breathing for a certain period of time, the additional release of hormones, as well as the repair and regeneration of muscle cells.

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What Has the Biggest Afterburn Effect?

Strength training ensures the greatest afterburn effect. Circuit training and high-intensity training (HIT) consume the most calories, but also have the longest recovery time. At very high intensities, metabolism stays elevated for up to 48 hours (Schuenke et al. 2002; Williamson & Kirwan 1997; Dolezal et al. 2000).

Endurance training has a lower and shorter afterburn effect, but more calories are consumed during the workout. (LaForgia et al. 2006).


How Significant is the Afterburn Effect?

The more intense the workout, the more calories will be burned after it. It doesn’t matter if it is endurance or strength, the result will be a more significant afterburn effect.


Afterburn Effect of Endurance Training

Depending on the level of intensity, you can expect to see the following percentages after endurance training:

  • In the aerobic recovery zone (60–65% HFmax), there is practically no afterburn effect at all (approx. 0–5% of the amount of energy used during exercise).
  • In the middle zone (75–85% HRmax), it is approx. 5–10%.
  • You can hope to achieve approx. 10–15% with intensive intervals (LaForgia et al. 2006).


Afterburn Effect of Strength Training

You can expect to see the following percentages after approx. 60 minutes of strength training:

  • Weight training with medium intensity (= max. repetitions for the last set) approx. 5–10%
  • Strength training with high intensity (each set at maximum repetitions) approx. 10–15%
  • Strength training with very high intensity (each set pushing to muscle failure, e.g. HIT or circuit training) approx. 15–20%. (LaForgia et al. 2006)



The impact of the afterburn effect should not be disregarded nor should it be overestimated.

Sample calculation: Strength training burns around 6–12 kcal/minute. 600 calories are burned after 1 hour of intensive workout. Another 90 calories are consumed by an afterburn effect of 15%.

These 90 kcal may not seem like a lot, but if you do this kind of strength training twice a week, for example, you will burn just under 9,500 extra kilocalories over the course of a year. This is equal to about 1.5 kilograms of body fat.

Here are 10 tips on how to increase your basal metabolic rate!

Literature & Sources

Dolezal, B. A., Potteiger, J. A., Jacobsen, D. J., Benedict, S. H. (200). Muscle damage and resting metabolic rate after acute resistance exercise with an eccentric overload. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 24(7), 1202-1207.

Williamson, D. L., & Kirwan, J. P. (1997). A single bout of concentric resistance exercise increases basal metabolic rate 48 hours after exercise in healthy 59–77-year-old men. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 52(6), M352-M355.

Schuenke, M. D., Mikat, R. P., & McBride, J. M. (2002). Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. European journal of applied physiology, 86(5), 411-417.

LaForgia, J., Withers, R. T., & Gore, C. J. (2006). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of sports sciences, 24(12), 1247-1264.