What Is The Afterburn Effect, And Why Is It So Important?

Your gym buddy has just canceled their membership and left you to give CrossFit a try.Your mom is joining the local bootcamp class, and your little brother can’t stop talking about how amazing his circuit training is.What, is going on?Right, and with high intensity training slowly becoming something of standard practice, you’re not alone in this questioning.

What is the big deal with all this “HIIT” stuff anyways?Well, among a multitude of beautiful reasons to be conducting a regularly high intensity training regime, one of the chief proponents of positivity here is something cleverly coined the ‘afterburn effect’. I’ve heard about this before, you might be thinking, but what exactly is this “afterburn effect” and what’s the big deal with it anyhow?We hear you, and as all of us here at Wanderfit Retreats also like to keep ourselves knowledgeable, up to date, and informed, we couldn’t help but sympathize with this pending curiosity. As such, we wanted to go ahead and share with you a bit of our take on the afterburn effect.

So, What Exactly Is Afterburn?

Scientifically, the afterburn effect is actually referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC for short, and thus actually finds itself rather self explanatory.That is, EPOC is a state of being which your body enters post workout. One where it actively consumes more oxygen per unit of time than it would had you not performed said workout.

Further, you experience an incredibly heightened afterburn effect when the workout was one of a high intensity nature.“Why?”, you ask.A great question, and one whose answer isn’t as complex as it might initially seem.Your body relies on two primary sources of energy production when working out, both of which function as a means of utilizing adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. (Where ATP is essentially the fuel your body generates for you to use in energy exertion). These two pathways of production are the aerobic and anaerobic, and can be qualified as follows:

  • Aerobic - The production of ATP as a byproduct of oxygen consumption.
  • Anaerobic - The production of ATP in the absence of an adequate amount of oxygen.

So you see, when you train at a more intense rate than your body can naturally consume oxygen, the body enters an anaerobic state. Here it begins a production of ATP from stored energy sources. As opposed to a production derived from fresh oxygen, and as a result of this occurrence an ‘oxygen deficit’ initiates.It is the need to ‘refill’ this deficit that manifests a state of EPOC or afterburn.

How Do I Get My Hands On Some?

Well okay, you can’t actually “get your hands on some”, per say, but the truth is attaining the afterburn effect isn’t actually that hard to achieve, in theory at least.As we have seen, it is the byproduct of high intensity training, and the more intense the training, the larger the magnitude of your afterburn.Although, it is worthy of note that the quantifiable differences here are small.It is also worthy of note that afterburn is a byproduct of intensity and not duration.

HIIT, That’s How

That is, spending 3 lazy hours in the gym mostly taking selfies and scrolling ‘the gram’ aren’t going to get you the afterburn results we’re looking for here. No, high intensity training is the only real answer.And the good news is, in the world of today finding yourself a high intensity training regime, even one that works specifically well for you and your individual lifestyle, is far from something difficult to accomplish.


CrossFit is a prime example. With high intensity at the core of its value system you’ll be sure to find no shortage of the afterburn effect with these tantalizing, engaging, and all around empowering daily workouts.


Bootcamp classes are also on the rise in the high intensity training scene, and for good reason. They're based on a military style ‘whip your butt into shape’ mentality. As such, they are sure to provide you with a wide assortment of highly intense sweat sessions. And yes, plenty of afterburn effect.

Tabatas and circuits

Any tabata or circuit based training regime is also going to help in producing a plethora of that desired afterburn here as well. As both focus on performing at your peak capacity for short time intervals, with even short rest intervals. Entering that anaerobic stage of ATP production here is surely a given.Even if all of these programs fail to grab your interest, or if perhaps you’ve tried them all already, and to no avail. We would still encourage you to not let this stop you in your high intensity pursuits. Send Coach Will an email at will@wanderfitretreats.com and let’s get you started with designing your very own specialized high intensity training program.

But Okay, Why Is This So Important?

“Okay okay, but you still haven’t told me why.”Why is afterburn such a sought after thing, and why is everyone all a craze about it?To answer this question as simply as we can — the afterburn effect is something which forces your body to continue burning calories at an elevated rate long after the workout itself has been completed.Some studies even show that the afterburn effect from a high-intensity workout can add up to 15 percent of the total energy cost to the workout itself.A body in motion truly does stay in motion.This can be highly beneficial not only in the obvious excess of calories burned, and resultant weight lost or kept off. But also in that an active metabolism is more apt to be on top of producing all those feel good happy hormones. You know those ones that make any day of our lives just that much better. The post workout high is real here folks. Something which indeed finds itself naturally elevated if this workout is one of a high intensity nature.

Can you think of a time when you were feeling good for hours after a really intense workout? Are you feeling your body shed those calories? Do you think you may have experienced this afterburn in the past? Tell us your stories in the comments below!

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