What is EPOC? Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption

#calories #hiit #vo2max Aug 24, 2022

Edited By: Danielle Abel, MSN, CSCS

Excess Post Oxygen Consumption Calories Burned

A common question you may have or one that you may hear from your athletes or clients is, "how many calories am I actually burning?"

To figure out how many calories are being burned, you first need to understand how oxygen consumption and heart rate are connected. 

Oxygen Consumption & Heart Rate

From the most basic level, the higher your heart rate is, the more calories are burned because your body uses more oxygen when your heart rate is higher. Research shows us:

  • For every 1 L of oxygen consumed, you burn 5 calories 

When you first start exercising, your oxygen demand and consumption stay fairly equal. However, your oxygen demand goes up as the workout continues or becomes more intense, and eventually, your body can't keep up with the demand for oxygen. This state is referred to as an oxygen deficit. 

Let's just say you workout at a high intensity for 45 minutes; after you get warmed up and start really getting into the exercise, start breathing heavy, etc. your oxygen demand will start to exceed what your body can consume (essentially how much oxygen it can take in and use per minute). 

Demand > Consumption

When oxygen demand exceeds consumption, the body starts burning through other forms of quicker energy that don't require oxygen to produce energy (anaerobic systems), like creatine phosphate (CrP) stored in your muscles, circulating glucose from carbs you've recently consumed, or from glycogen from stored glucose in the muscles and liver. 

After you've finished exercising, you now have an oxygen debt to repay your body; this is where EPOC comes in. EPOC stands for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. EPOC is also known as "the afterburn." 

EPOC refers to the 24 hours after the workout has ended. 

If we take the example of a 45-minute high-intensity workout, and the average person burns about 12 calories per minute at a high intensity, you get about 540 calories. 

The research shows that EPOC is roughly 6-15% of the calories burned during a workout. 

  • So 540 x 0.6% = approximately 32.4 additional calories burned
  • Or 540 x 0.15% = approximately 81 additional calories burned 

Marketing Claims

A claim that is used quite often in marketing is that the afterburn is higher in some workouts (classes, bootcamps, etc.) than the workout itself. This claim is very untrue as indicated by the above data. 

So, now you know what EPOC is and about how much extra calorie "afterburn" you can expect from a workout. 

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