Weight loss (namely excess body fat) is a goal for many of us, and you may wonder from time to time if the heavy lifting and short, intense conditioning workouts we perform at Intrepid are ideal for meeting your fat loss goals.  Let me introduce you to EPOC, no relation to 2Pac, or Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption.  Those who attended the 70′s Big Seminar may have heard Justin allude to EPOC after lifting but I learned about it from reading this CrossFit Invictus post.

In a nut shell, oxygen consumption is a marker used to indicate how many calories the body is burning in a given period of time, or your metabolic rate.  EPOC is the effect seen following intense workouts where the body consumes more oxygen (and calories) to help the body adapt and recover from the strenuous workout.  According to one study, heavy resistance training circuits produce this “afterburn” effect for upwards of 38 hours!

Now compare that to the the dark days of long sessions on the treadmill and/or elliptical machines.  After a tough session the display shows you burned 3oo calories after an hour’s work.  EPOC has been found to occur after aerobic training but research has shown that it’s not nearly to the magnitude or duration than that experienced in resistance or interval training.  Now say that your smart friend did the Intrepid WOD while you ran on the treadmill which happened to consist of a heavy lift, say Press (5×3), followed by a met-con workout, say Helen (3Rds:  Run 400m, 21 KBS, 12 PU).  Although your friend probably did not burn as many calories as you in that 1 hour time span, if they were able to bump their post-WOD EPOC up by a measly average of 8 calories/hour, in the 38 hour time span it takes for their oxygen consumption to return to normal they will have burned more calories and accomplished it with a much shorter workout than you.  Although, the cumulative effects of EPOC are not fully understood at this time just imagine the EPOC effects your friend might experience if they did the Intrepid WOD the following day.  It’s one thing to work your butt off for the 1 hour you’re at Intrepid, but I bet you didn’t realize that the workouts you perform are helping you burn additional calories throughout the rest of the day too!  Don’t shy away from the strength work, especially this month with our monthly challenge emphasizing strength, and with a little attention on your nutrition and recovery you’ll be well on your way to meeting your weight loss goals!

WOD 02.23.11

Back Squat 3×5
Press 5×3

3 Responses to “Of EPOC Proportions”

February 23, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Great post Sean! I’ve always been curious about how to quantify/understand the benefits of weight training versus “cardio” in terms of burning calories. This was very helpful putting things into context.

February 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM

Nicely put!

February 23, 2011 at 12:40 PM

And I’VE always been curious if EPOC was related to 2pac…. thanks for clearing it up. :)