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The After Burn Myth

When I was growing up, my parents used to drive an old dark blue Saab 900.

It was a great snow car, but it took forever to cool down after even a drive to the store. Even 15 minutes after parking it, you could still hear it hiss and ping while risking burning your hand on the hood.

There is a theory in fitness that the human body works the same way. The idea is that after your workout your body is still torching calories and fat for hours afterward.

It’s a very apealing concept. It’s almost like free money you don’t have to work for after you punch out for the night.

Some marketers have used this notion of the after burn to hock and sell all sorts of stuff from exercise programs to supplements.

The unfortunat thing here is that the after burn (or excessive post exercise oxygen consumption or E.P.O.C.) is largely misunderstood.

Just a quick Google search reveals lots of debate about the topic. Some claim weight training is best. Others claim intense cardio is best.

Some claim the after burn can last for as long as 48 hours and others claim you would be lucky get get 25 minutes.

To compound the issue, even my own personal experience is confusing. Sometimes I can do a workout and feel like a blast furnace for yours afterward. Other times, I just feel like my old self.

To complicate things even further, we can look at all of the millions of factors that might alter the so called after burn. – calorie consumption
– macronutritnet content
– meal timing
– workout intensity
– workout durration
– current energy levels
– stress levels
– exercise selection
– routine program
– exercise pace

These are just a few of the things that may have a significant effect on any possible after burn effect. Not to mention any of these things can easily be in a state of flux and trying to maximize them, and get all of your ducks in a row, may become incredibly taxing.

Finally, we come to the idea that few people can even hazard a guess for how many extra calories you may be burning to begin with. Some say you can burn hundreds of extra calories while others claim even 30-40 would be a stretch.

So here is my recommendation:

Don’t worry about the after burn at all. Don’t even give it a second thought. If it does exist, and it does burn hundreds of extra calories then it’ll be a nice bonous.
However if it is something that’s been blown way out of proportion you may be pinning your hopes of that guilt free slice of cake on smoke and mirrors.

Best not to take the chance. Train hard, eat well and let the cards fall where they may when it comes to the after burn.

The Fit RebelThe After Burn Myth

Comments

  1. Laurie James Mackeson

    Here are some “funny” typical situations where I find this topic relevent:

    a. Hearing people explain how they can eat ‘more’ at their next meal because they will burn it off ‘naturally’
    b. Listening to/Watching people try and calculate how many kJ’s/cal’s they have burned as a result of a workout and then ‘weighing up’ their food options to ‘not go over’ (some amount- maybe their normal amount + the amount worked off)
    c. Hearing people try and explain ‘how’ they think the AfterBurn ‘process’ works and having them (most of the people I talk to who believe in it) realise they have faith (rather than knowledge/experience) in the process working for them.

    I don’t care about the ‘AfterBurn’ as much as I care about how I feel afterwards because it is my ‘feelings’ that determine how I perform for the rest of the day. Too many people, who have not achieved their weight loss goals (I still have no idea what ‘weight loss’ really means to my goals) ‘pin’ their hopes on things that are difficult to ‘calculate’. Instead of trying to determine the quantity of the AfterBurn (presuming it does exist), spend time calorie hacking as some point/s during the day.

    IMO, the body responds positively to ‘good exercise’ but I couldn’t care much about the AfterBurn before/during/after I do it.

    Laurie

    1. Author
      admin

      Once again, your right on Laurie. The after burn deal is there, but we don’t understand it enough to pin our hopes on it.

      You bring up a point I hadn’t thought about. If you exercise in a way that leaves you feeling exhausted and tired, is that going to be different after burn than if you exercise in a way that leaves you feeling good and energized? And if you are tired, is the lower level of activity through the day going to counter act the after burn?

      So many unknowns with after burn!

  2. Ren Collier

    I believe that the after burn theory exist because there is a hightened rate of metabolism in your body during exercise, and it is not going to immediately come back to its normal rate when you stop. I was not aware that there were those who use it as an excuse to consume more after working out beacuse they feel as though they will “burn it off natuarlly”. I checked my Exercise Physiology text and it says that EPOC can last “several minutes” after exercise but nowhere near 48 hours.

    1. Author
      admin

      Yea it’s there for sure. It’s just that it’s a pretty slippery thing that is hard to rely on.

  3. Laurie Mackeson

    How much (if any) does ‘after-burn’ refer to the higher than normal H.R after a workout? I only ask because it seems that H.R (generally) reflects increased intensity and when a workout is over, it takes ‘some time’ for ones H.R to return to ‘normal’. It’s doing my head in….

    1. Author
      admin

      That’s a very good question. I’m not entirely sure what the higher heart rate would indicate, but I would guess that it does mean that your body is still slightly ramped up and working a little harder than at base line.

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