How effective is after burn after exercise?

exercise bikeThere is a long-held belief that exercise can turn you into a fat-burning machine. The idea is based on the suggestion that fat burning occurs not just during exercise but also long after your workout is over. Post-exercise burn, so the theory goes, is instrumental in losing unwanted weight.

As it turns out, however, like so many headlines touting weight-loss miracles, this one is probably more myth than fact according to an article titled ‘Exercise improves fat metabolism in muscle but does not increase 24-hour fat oxidation’ that appeared recently in Exercise and Sport Sciences Review

Edward Melanson, an exercise physiologist from the University of Colorado and lead author of the article said “To our surprise, we have found that moderate duration exercise has little, if any, effect on 24-hour fat oxidation (burning).”

Melanson used an interesting design to challenge the long-held belief that exercise enhances fat burning. Sixty-five candidates of varying fitness level and girth (well trained and sedentary, lean and obese) all cycled at varied intensities until they burned 400 calories, after which they were monitored for 24 hours – a period that exceeds most other studies by several hours. All were monitored in closed quarters and were able to eat during the 24-hour period. None posted results that suggested enhanced fat burning during or after their workouts.

The study has caused quite a stir among fitness experts who now have to think twice before suggesting that exercise boosts metabolism in the short or long term.

Before people begin putting their feet up in protest, keep in mind that this study in no way diminishes the value of regular exercise. Working up a sweat is still one of the best things people can do for their health. Regardless of the amount of fat that may or may not be burned post-workout, there’s no denying that a moving body burns more calories per minute than a sedentary one.

The message about fat burning has always been confusing for the average exerciser wanting to get rid of a little extra baggage. The often-touted premise that certain forms of exercise or that working out at a certain intensity can selectively burn off unwanted fat stores is without scientific merit.

In fact, the fixation on fat burning is misguided. When it comes to achieving weight loss goals, any calorie burned is a good one – whether it be in the form of fat, carbohydrate or protein. As long as we burn more calories than we consume, the weight will come off.

According to Pascal Imbreault, associate professor at Ottawa University’s School of Human Kinetics, any exercise-related after-burn usually runs its course within 15 to 35 minutes of completing a workout. While the actual number of calories expended during this time varies according to exercise intensity, duration and the body weight of the exerciser, he describes the resulting calorie burn to be “very minimal.”

Imbreault suggests that exercise doesn’t do much to crank up metabolism over the long term either, despite what the headlines in fitness magazines claim. “Exercise is not that powerful,” he said.

By making healthy food choices and cutting portion size to reduce the number of calories consumed on more days than not, anyone can become a calorie-burning machine that slowly but steadily loses excess body weight.

Source: The Montreal Gazette

11 thoughts on “How effective is after burn after exercise?

  1. So nothing new there than. Many of us working in the day to day industry of fitness already know that CV training only burns calories during the exertion, whilst MSE training is effective for post exercise metabolism increases due to muscle repair taking place. Tell us something new for a change!

  2. As a practicing fitness professional I find these articles rather irritating. One of the big problems in the fitness industry is that we are quick to draw conclusions from small research projects like this one and then relegate them to gospel. I recall in a recent BBC documentary the observation by one researcher that exercise did effect post exercise fat oxidation over a 24hr period and illustrated his point by putting the narrater through a practical test where the results seemed to verify his observations. What does a broad review of research in this area conclude?

  3. with a list of clients that ranges from complete beginners to elite Olympic athletes and several World Champions I can say that this is one of the most misunderstood areas of exercise knowledge. As a training provider it amazes and disgusts me how many people are taught and follow blindly ridiculous concepts such as 220-age etc

    and then we have comments like “When it comes to achieving weight loss goals, any calorie burned is a good one – whether it be in the form of fat, carbohydrate or protein” … PLEASE!!!! 99% of clients actually want FAT-LOSS … correct use of linguistics please trainers, educate your clients WHY utilising carbs and proteins as fuel substrates is detrimental in the long term!

    SPEAK and LISTEN to your clients needs, get educated about the true process of the energy systems (and associated intensities and fuels used) and then construct a programme accordingly including a suitable nutrition plan (a weak area for many and a LOT more complicated than “As long as we burn more calories than we consume”)!

  4. Oh no not again!…. The great debate rages on. It must a positive mindfield of conflicting advice for the newly qualified Fitness Professional. Any trainer worth his salt will tell you traditional cardiovascular exercise is not an efficient Fat-Burning tool, wether the duration is increased or not.
    E.P.O.C. only comes into play when the body is forced to stress with intense resistance exercise with free weights,intense bodyweight exercise,medicine balls, kettlebell training. Any fitness professional who DOES NOT believe this, speak to Graig Ballantyne at turbulence training.com and Mike Geary at TruthAboutAbs.com and see the results these guys have acheived with their clients.

  5. HERE’S A FEW RESULTS FOR YOU: ;o)

    Past & Present Clients/*Students of Cains(** denotes both) Include:
    * Charles Clairmonte – 4 x Mr Universe and leading IFBB Pro
    * Julian Golley – Commonwealth Games Triple Jump Gold Medal winner
    * Stevie Smith – World IBC Boxing Champion
    * Luke Crawley – G.B. International High Jumper

    ** Julie Crane – G.B. & Wales (5 x Welsh champion) Int. High Jumper and Commonwealth Silver Medallist
    Joey Bull – 4 x Ms. Fitness Great Britain
    **Tim Rosiek – Junior Mr Universe Runner Up and Jnr Mr World Runner Up 2004
    Lohani Rochi – 3 x Ms. Physique G.B. & IFBB Professional Body Builder
    Mark Povey – West Mids. Bodybuilding Champion & Novice Mr. Britain
    Warren Dyson – Mr. U.K. Bodybuilding Champion 2000
    Mark Turvey – W.P.F. Senior European Body Building Champion
    Gary King – British, European & World Champion Powerlifter
    ** Tereska Browning – Overall British Female Body Building Champ 2002
    George Gallagher– NABBA 1st Timers British Body Building Champ 2002
    ** Nicola Elding – BAWLA British Powerlifting Champion
    Adam Williams – Jnr. Welsh Swimming Champion
    ** Dennis Francis – British Body Building Champion and IFBB Professional
    ** David White – SPF Mr Scotland 2005
    ** Adele Gibbon – ANB Ms Figure UK 2003 and NPA Ms Trained Figure UK 2004
    ** Corrina Martin – NABBA Midlands Figure Champion and EPF Ms Figure UK 2004
    * Dan Donovan – GB International 400 metre sprinter
    Sharon Clare – British Female Natural Bodybuilding Champion 2004
    Peter Lawson – West Midlands Bodybuilding Champion 2004
    Carl Cort – Professional Footballer
    Nicky Fogarty – Ms Figure Midlands Champion 2005
    ** Kirsty Kent – NPA Female Physique UK, British and World Champion 2004
    ** Andi Black – NABBA Ms Fitness Great Britain & Ms Fitness Universe and WFF Ms Universe 2004, NPA Trained Figure & Overall British Champion and UIBBN Ms World 2004, Ms Fitness Expo and Overall Ms Expo 2005
    Kevin Skelland – NPA Mr Britain and UIBBN Mr World 2005
    * Mark Hylton – Olympic Silver Medallist 4 x 400 metre relay
    * Rick Gannon – British Natural Bodybuilding Champion
    Kevin Brown – 2 x World Masters Discus Champion
    ** Diane Youdale – ‘Jet’ from ‘The Gladiators’
    Karen Norris – Ms Toned Figure Midlands Champion 2006, Ms Body Fitness N.E. 2007
    ** Colette Pendry – British Powerlifting Champion
    ** Brendan O’Neill – Professional Golfer
    ** Debbie Rowe – G.B. Triple Jumper
    ** Mandie Grace – NPA Welsh Womens Natural Bodybuilding Champion and Best Presentation 2006, Gravesend Open Championships winner, Muscle Mania Champion
    ** Lisa Carrodus – BNBF Central Heavyweight Womens Natural Bodybuilding Champion 2006, WABBA UK Champion, FAME Champion 2007, WFF Universe Champion 2007, NABBA Ms World Runner Up 2007
    Tygoli Ano – BNBF Central Novice Mens Natural Bodybuilding Champion, NPA Heart of England Novice Mens Natural Bodybuilding Champion and Muscle Mania Champion 2006, NPA British Champion Runner Up
    Catherine Belso – 2006 Muscle Mania Ms Bikini Champion and Ms Model Champion
    Stan Collymore – Professional Football player
    Michael Ricketts – Professional Football player
    ** Anna Walewska – Professional Racing Driver
    ** Silvana Imbrogno – NABBA South East Ms Figure Champion, NAC Ms UK, IBFA Ms International and NABBA Ms Figure Britain Runner Up
    ** Neil Campbell – Olympic Sprint Cyclist
    ** Tim Benjamin – G.B. 400 m Sprinter
    * John Heaton – NPA British Heavyweight Champion
    ** Darren Coussens – UKBFF London and Southeast Bodybuilding Champion
    Graham Earl – W.B.U. Lightweight World Boxing Champion
    ** Nathan Harman – ex British Champion Cyclist
    ** Mark Findley – G.B. Sprinter
    ** Kelly Jones – Ms Fitness Wales 2007
    ** Marc Giles -WDFPA World Masters Bench Press and Deadlift Champion
    Paul Daley – 3rd in Muscle Mania World Championships
    Craig Mitchell – 5th in Muscle Mania World Championships
    Danny Fowler – 2 x British Junior Amateur Boxing Champion
    Chris Nero – Professional Ruby Player
    Scott Dan – Professional Footballer
    Anthony Gerrard – Professional Footballer
    Kelvin Atuhu – Professional Footballer
    Paul Marshall – Professional Footballer
    Danny Fox – Professional Footballer
    ** Lee Harding – 1st Timers & British Overall Bodybuilding Champion & Mr UK
    ** Neil Perkins- Professional Heavyweight Boxer
    David Le Grys – 19 times World Masters Cycling Champion and World Record Holder
    Chris Truman – European Boxing Champion
    ** Richard Ghent – Professional Boxer
    Ryan Aston – Top Amateur Boxing Champion
    Kate Lawler – TV and Radio Presenter

  6. I am sure it has already been suggested, but, continuous “aerobic” exercise typically has little EPOC at moderate levels. There needs to be some form of “supramaximal” resistance interval. Or, why not perform a bout of intense circuit training and compare the EPOC levels.

    It seems to me that even though a calorie burned is a calorie burned, we don’t always burn calories from fat. I don’t have the studies handy, but I do know there have been high intensity studies comparing results with cardiovascular training, as above, and found the high intensity group burned less calories overall but had greater reductions in body fat.

  7. I agree that we can’t entirely trust short term studies on things like this, but with such overwhelming responses and various studies that prove the same point, you have to lean that way also. Thank you for the work done here.

  8. I always think it’s useful to look at extremes. When I take a 15 minute stroll, it seems clear to me that my EPOC is close to zero. Were I to measure the EPOC of Tour de France riders after a long hard stage, I’m sure it is probably quite high. That suggests to me that the question of after burn is more complicated than at first blush. A review of the research on factors affecting EPOC by Vella and Kravitz provides a good overview of the various factors affecting EPOC.

  9. So Dr Melanson says aerobic exercise is useless. Do we believe him? Well, we’ve all got to take all ‘science’ with a pinch of salt, and remember what works – then coonsider how little the average scientist knows about health/fitness/exercise physiology.

    I can’t say that aerobic exercise plays a major role in my clients’ programs, but the idea that exercise does not increase metabolic rate is a little shocking… see Bryner et al, 1999 – metabolic rate is still 5% higher than controls 16 hours after exercise.

    Nice work, Cain 🙂

Leave a Reply