The Afterburn EffectBy Jared DiCarmine On September 17, 2011 Under Exercise For Fat Loss
So what the hell is the afterburn effect? It’s a popular term that is thrown around in bodybuilding and strength and conditioning circles quite often, especially on the internet for some reason. I have no idea why but it just is. I don’t know who invented the term, but I do have a gut feeling that it was Alwyn Cosgrove who actually has an entire fat loss program out that has to do solely with the afterburn effect. Alwyn is a genius when it comes to exercise and training knowledge. I have learned a lot from him and would hope to meet him one day.
Okay enough about the warm sentimental stuff regarding another trainer let me get down and dirty and explain to you exactly what is the afterburn effect. The afterburn effect is a way of talking about your excess post oxygen consumption levels and how it relates to you burning extra calories post workout from an increase in your metabolism. It’s pretty awesome stuff and not many people realize this. That is why they usually never get any results with their weight loss and exercise programs. And it’s also another reason why sometimes they hit a wall and stop losing weight.
Now excess post oxygen consumption is commonly referred to as EPOC. This is the exact definition that I pulled from Wikipedia. They just say it better in technical terms than I could say. EPOC is a measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity intended to erase the body’s “oxygen debt. When in recovery oxygen is actually used to bring the body back down to baseline homeostasis levels and is also used as a repair mechanism. But it can’t just repair itself from oxygen, it needs nutrients and vitamins aka CALORIES. And guess where those calories come from? Your fat cells! Awesome stuff I know.
So when you exercise for a period of time in an intense state, you create an oxygen debt inside of your body which then has to be made up because you essentially threw your body so out of whack. This oxygen debt is made up with an increase in metabolism which burns up extra calories in the form of fat to repair itself and rebalance all of its systems. This is so awesome because you can get the same benefit of working out for only 30 minutes plus more while someone would have to exercise for an hour in order to achieve the same amount of calories burned. However, it’s not that simple when it comes to the afterburn effect and fat loss.
You see, this phenomenon only happens when you exercise at a high intensity level. I guess you can also call this afterburn training. What I mean by that is you really need to push yourself and your body. You can’t slowly drift through a set of exercises, take a break, get some water then do another set. It just doesn’t work like that. You have to force your body out of its comfort level which is very important. The best form of exercise that I have witnessed to get this to happen is any form of intense interval training. Interval training involves doing periods of high intensity training with periods of low intensity training. A good example is running 40 to 100 yard sprints.
Then jogging or walking back only to do it again. Another good example is running up a hill only to walk back down. Another great example that has to do with weight training is any form of circuits or complexes. However, you do have to push yourself and this form of interval training is a lot harder because of the total body build up of lactic acid. It’s a painful thing and I do say I feel a bit of mercy for my clients when I put them through one of these circuits.
The options are limitless with these weight lifting circuits. You can start with a front squat for 12 hard repetitions, then immediately move to chin ups till failure, then immediately move to weighted incline pushups, and follow it up with dumbbell rows for 12 reps on each side. If you push yourself to failure for each exercise, the total caloric expenditure that you’re going to experience will be astronomical.
You’ll for sure jack up your EPOC levels and experience that coveted afterburn effect. However, you’ll also become extremely fatigued and tired probably half way through this workout. This is because you’ll be taxing your nervous system on a high level and burning out your alpha motor neurons, the one’s whose job is to fire your muscle fibers. This is not a bad thing per se, but it does tire you out and the central nervous system does take longer to recover then the muscular system. So I personally wouldn’t do this type of workout more than 2 times a week in the beginning.
And for the other time, perform some sort of total body workout 1-2 times during the week that hits every major muscle group using the big multi joint compound movements going 2 reps shy to failure. This will help prevent over training in the beginning and allow you to gradually ramp up. Another great piece of the puzzle you could add in would be recovery workouts. These are awesome and I learned them from Coach Thibs over at T-NATION. Recovery workouts are workouts that don’t tax the nervous system that much nor the muscular system but you can do a ton of volume which increases your recovery.A good example is any exercise utilizing the sled.
Looks Like Mine Almost
I have my own that I made and I’ll teach you the same thing with a video one day. Another good example for a recovery workout is any explosive movements not taken to failure. For example medicine ball throws, box jumps, explosive pushups, explosive pull-ups, jump squats etc…Remember, just don’t go to failure. I recommend doing around 3-5 reps for 5 sets for each exercise. Pick a bunch and just rotate.
You can do these before your workouts, after or in between training sessions to enhance recovery. Oh and another thing with the afterburn effect, this you will not get from any type of regular slow boring cardio like jogging, running on the treadmill, hopping on the elliptical etc…This is because it’s a pretty easy mode of exercise for your body to adapt to. It doesn’t throw your body that far out of homeostasis, especially if you’re used to it.
Therefore, once you complete your workout, your metabolism will return back down to baseline levels immediately. Again the only way to achieve this effect if you’re going to do strictly cardio is interval sessions. All in all the afterburn effect is an awesome training element to strive for. If you’re trying to drop a ton of fat or just stuck at a plateau start adding in some interval training sessions in the form of cardio or weights and I guarantee you’ll watch your body transform right before your eyes.