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How "EPOC" Contributes to Weight Loss Long After the Exercise Session is Over

EPOC is an acronym that stands for excess post exercise-oxygen consumption. What this really stands for is the amount of calories that are expended after an exercise session is over. The consensus from research studies is that lower intensity workouts (cardiovascular) do not elicit much EPOC. In other words once the workout is over, the caloric benefit from that workout is pretty much finished. Whereas, when a high intensity training session is finished (anaerobic) the caloric benefit has just begun.

The best way to elicit EPOC is through high intensity interval training (HIIT) and resistance training. When the body works at a high intensity creating an anaerobic state it uses carbohydrates and creatine to fuel the exercise. These fuels cause the body to produce certain waste products like lactic acid and signals the release of hormones like growth hormone and testosterone in order to repair muscle cells. It takes a lot of work for the body to shuttle these waste products, restore the body’s pH balance, repair and build muscle, and facilitate recovery after a workout. In order to do all of these things the body needs to use excess energy beyond what it used during the workout alone. This extra energy expenditure can be extremely helpful when it comes to weight loss.

A great example of just how beneficial EPOC can be is when comparing a long distance runner to a sprinter. Long distance runners and sprinters generally look very lean, but long distance runners typically have more body fat than the more muscular sprinter. In general, this does not make sense, because the long distance runner expends thousands of calories each week running upwards of 100 miles some weeks, whereas the sprinter only runs short distances that generally last less than a minute and expends much smaller amounts of calories. That is where EPOC comes in. Despite running shorter periods of time, the sprinter does much more intense short bursts, which cause the body to go into overdrive to repair the muscles, restore the pH and many other processes. This essentially turns the body into a fat burning machine long after the actual sprinting is over allowing the sprinter to expend large amounts of calories despite only working for short periods of time. Sprinters also spend much more time in the gym performing resistance training than long distance runners. Resistance Training at higher intensities can have a similar effect to sprinting and signal growth hormones that also help build muscle and expend fat at rest.

Working at high intensities may not be for everyone, but keep in mind that the intensity is relative. Michael Phelps feels the same way working at 80% of his maximum workload as a beginner walking at 80% of her maximum workload. That being said it can also take time before someone is ready to partake in high intensity workouts. For those people I have created a modified starters guide below. For healthy people looking to partake in HIIT workouts, you can start by warming up for 5-10 minutes on the treadmill. Then exercise at about 85% of your maximum for 1 minute followed by walking at a slow pace for 1 minute. Repeat this sequence 10 times. As you get more comfortable you can decrease the time and increase the intensity.

For those who want to start out slower or are at a lower fitness level, you can start by warming up for 5-10 minutes on the treadmill. Then exercise at about 60% of your maximum for 1 minute followed by walking at a slow pace for 1-2 minutes for two weeks. After that you can increase the intensity by 5% every 1-2 weeks until you get to 85%.

In Good health

Joel