7 Things to Know About Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)

Sweating after running

What happens to your engine at the end of a long car trip? It doesn't require a degree in automotive engineering to know that once you've reached your destination, your car's engine stays warm as it gradually cools to a resting temperature.

Here’s a cool fact: The same thing happens to your body after exercise. Similar to how a car's engine remains warm after being turned off, once a workout is over and you're back in your daily routine, your body's metabolism can continue to burn more calories then when at complete rest. This physiological effect is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Also known as oxygen debt, EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function (called homeostasis). It also explains how your body can continue to burn calories long after you've finished your workout.

Your metabolism is how your body converts the nutrients you consume in your diet to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel your body uses for muscular activity. ATP is produced either with oxygen using the aerobic pathways or without oxygen relying on the anaerobic pathways. When you first start to exercise, your body uses the anaerobic energy pathways and stored ATP to fuel that activity. A proper warm-up is important because it can take about five to eight minutes to be able to efficiently use aerobic metabolism to produce the ATP necessary to sustain physical activity. Once a steady-state of oxygen consumption is achieved, the aerobic energy pathways are able to provide most of the ATP needed for the workout. Exercise that places a greater demand on the anaerobic energy pathways during the workout can increase the need for oxygen after the workout, thereby enhancing the EPOC effect.

Here are seven things you should know about EPOC and how it can help you achieve optimal levels of calorie burning from your workouts:

1. During the immediate post-exercise recovery period, oxygen is used for the following functions:

  • Production of ATP to replace the ATP used during the workout
  • Resynthesis of muscle glycogen from lactate
  • Restore oxygen levels in venous blood, skeletal muscle blood and myoglobin
  • Work with protein for the repair of muscle tissue damaged tissue during the workout
  • Restore body temperature to resting levels

2. Exercise that consumes more oxygen burns more calories.

The body expends approximately 5 calories of energy (a calorie is the amount of energy required to heat 1 liter of water 1 degree centigrade) to consume 1 liter of oxygen. Therefore, increasing the amount of oxygen consumed both during and after a workout, can increase the amount of net calories burned.

3. Circuit training and heavy

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Fitnovatives Blog — Courtesy “American Council On Exercise” (ACEfitness.org)

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