The Afterburn effect – High Intensity Interval training (HIIT) workouts  for superior fat loss. 

If you’ve read some of my other articles you’ll know I often knock your typical 30-45 minute slow, steady-state cardio sessions, favouring shorter, more intense, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). 

I think many people have a hard time understanding how a shorter, high intensity interval workout is superior to the longer, slower cardio sessions. 

They argue that 45 minutes on the treadmill burns 400 calories whereas 15 minutes of HIIT burns only 250 calories, so how is it possible that the latter is superior?

While yes, it’s sometimes true that during the ACTUAL WORKOUT, more calories are possibly burned by the longer cardio session, you need to realize that the calories burned DURING the workout is only one part of the whole picture.

After your workout, a process known as EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption), or informally referred to as the ‘afterburn’ effect, begins in your body. 

This is basically a process of increased oxygen intake to correct the body’s ‘oxygen debt’ brought about by exercise. 

The more INTENSE the exercise, the greater this ‘oxygen debt’ – note I emphasized the word intense, not longer.

Your body increases oxygen consumption to restore itself to a resting state. 

To reach a resting state again, it needs to restore hormone balances, replenish phosphagen stores, carry out cellular repair and oxidize built-up lactic acid.

Carrying out all of these chemical processes requires energy. Where do you think your body is going to get this energy?

That’s right, it will get a lot of this energy from fatty acids – your body breaks down fat stores, to release fatty acids into your blood stream. 

These fatty acids are carried to your cells where they provide the energy your body needs to return to a resting state.

The more intense the exercise, the greater the repair process and the more energy it requires.

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Long, slow, low-intensity cardio will produce a small EPOC effect that will at best, last only a couple of hours after the workout. Basically the 400 calories you burn during the workout will be all that you burn, because the EPOC effect afterwards is negligible.

However, studies have shown that after HIIT workouts, the EPOC effect can still be found up to 38 hours after the workout – basically your body is burning fat to fuel the restorative processes for 38 hours AFTER your workout!

So, even though you may have only burned 250 calories during your HIIT workout, the total calories burned after will be far greater.  Those calories, plus the 250 burned during the HIIT workout surpasses the 400 burned during the slow, steady-state workout by a LONG, LONG way.

What’s an example of an EPOC inducing, fat-burning HIIT workout?:

In the video below, I show you an example of a good HIIT workout that will induce the EPOC effect and have you burning fat for hours and hours after the workout. 

It only takes about 10 minutes to perform.

Try performing it after your usual workouts, 3-4 times per week and you’ll ramp up your fat burning abilities to new levels.

It can be performed almost anywhere and is ideal for doing at home. In the video I use a pair of dumbbells, but you could easily substitute in some bodyweight exercises should you not have dumbbells.

Leave a comment below if you need some bodyweight exercises to substitute in.

Give it a try! 

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 Article by: Bryan Hamann.

Bryan is a personal trainer, certified bootcamp instructor, Ironman Triathlete and author of THE PRISON WORKOUT.

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