Does the afterburn effect really help you lose weight? Not likely, but the misconception still makes the rounds.
The Afterburn Effect ExplainedThe good news is that the afterburn does exist.The bad news is that it is very unlikely to have an effect on your weight or fat loss.Worst of all, too heavily relying on it could entirely damage your weight loss plans:
En DetailI know the matter is complicated, so let's recap. The three acronyms we are working with here are "BMR", "TDEE" and "EPOC":
- BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of energy your body burns when you do nothing).
- TDEE is the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (which is the BMR plus what is burned when you do stuff).
- EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) finally is what is colloquially called the "afterburn effect" - the energy that is burnt because your body remains excited for a while after you did stuff, especially exercise.
EPOC's Existence Makes SenseIn a way the existence of EPOC / the afterburn effect makes sense, doesn't it? I don't know about you, but when I finish a running session where my pulse was around 150 bpm, it doesn't go back to 75 right at the moment where I press "Stop" on my watch.Usually when I get back home, drop down on the couch and drink something, I can for the next 15 minutes or so feel my heart go boomboomboom and then boom-boom-boom until everything is apparently normal again. That my heart rate will be higher for even longer, without me noticing it, is likely.But the big question about this was not if EPOC really existed, only how much it really burns.
Afterburning From 1919 To NowAs said in the video, most research that saw huge effects of EPOC was done in the fifty or so years after Harris and Benedict published their formula in 1919. Often these studies confused how many calories were burned and by what, as at that time laboratories didn't have the necessary equipment - much of it didn't exist yet.But once the methods of measuring energy expenditure became better, the real magnitude of the afterburn effect was more clear. Consider this more recent research:
- Japanese researchers put a 11 men in a metabolic chamber (a room where their burned calories can be completely controlled and measured) for 72 hours and had them do moderate or vigorous exercise. They found that the afterburn effect was so small that it didn't need to be added when calculating the TDEE.
- A German study found that the afterburn effect "after usual fitness training does not contribute significantly to weight loss" (PDF).
- To make it big enough, the intensity would have to be so high that untrained, overweight individuals wouldn't be able to sustain it, another paper found.
- The same paper also concluded that even at high intensities, the percentage of calories burned from the afterburn effect does not go further than 15%. Which means that if you managed to run at a very high intensity and burned 300 kcal, a mere 45 kcal would come from the afterburn effect.