Mind & Body

The Afterburn Effect Makes You Burn Calories Even After a Workout Is Over

The adage "calories in, calories out" sounds simple enough: If your workout burns the same number of calories as you eat, you'll maintain your weight. That's true in theory, but tough in practice. How many calories does your workout burn? If you're going by the number on the treadmill or your exercise watch, you're probably getting it wrong. Exercise doesn't just burn calories in the moment. The afterburn effect describes the way your body continues to burn calories after — sometimes long after — you're done working out, and some exercises do it more than others.

Related Video: Why Is It So Hard to Start Working Out?

Keep the Fire Burnin'

Most people think of the human body like a car: while it's running, it burns fuel in the form of calories, and while it's at rest, it doesn't. In reality, the human body is much more complex than that. Not only do you burn calories just by being alive, but exercise can also burn calories long after you've left the gym.

The scientific term for the afterburn effect is excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, and the research says the more intense the exercise, the more it kicks in. One study found that participants burned more calories in just the 14 hours after an intense workout than they did for an entire rest day. Another study showed that even though you burn more calories during cardio workouts than weight training, the calories you burn after each workout are roughly the same.

Don't Sweat It

With the way people talk about diet and exercise, it seems like a good workout can be completely ruined by a single donut. The afterburn effect demonstrates how false this thinking is. Exercise has an impact that goes far beyond a few extra calories, which is why it's important to make it a regular part of your life.

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One workout that's been proven to kick the afterburn effect into high gear is high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. That's why we're recommending you read "HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training Explained" by James Driver. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Hamer December 16, 2016

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