Before I even get to what EPOC is let us visit a statement that is just dripping with common sense, whether we want to admit it or not. [I know it is hard]
We humans are not made to sit around all day in front of a computer or at a desk. If that describes your job like it does mine, then you need to get to the gym and hit it hard to make up for all that ‘do nothing time’. You can’t get in there and walk at a comfortable pace reading a magazine and then head over to the bike so you can sit some more and just spin the wheels. We need to get to huffing and puffing. We want to have the sweat dripping and suffer from dehydration if we didn’t drink a quart of water earlier and a bit more during and after the workout.
Make those endorphins flow and you will become addicted to the workouts. I am craving workouts, I kind of took it easy this week after my triathlon and I am jonesin’ for a bike ride or a bout with the elliptical trainer. It is a foriegn feeling to me and I love it. Love it I say. I… Love…. it! It only took 10 weeks of commitment, and now I am truly addicted. I am sure I could ween myself from it if something happened like injury but I am of course going to try and keep it up.
Everyone has seen the cardio thing on the equipment that tells you fat burning is in the low range, and cardio is higher. This could not be further from the truth. Unless you are prone to injury you should work out hard. By hard I mean your heart rate should not be in the fat loss zone as labeled on the machines, it should be in the cardio zone with bouts above it. Again, unless you have heart issues which you have to talk with you Doctor about. Now I got to tell you hard for someone trying to lose weight is going to look like an easy workout to someone fit. Heck, I can sneeze a couple times and get my heart rate over 100. While the marathon runner, who does things so efficiently, would have to run 5 mph to get up to 100. The key is the heart rate.
Now the myth of the fat loss zone needs to be described, or you wont’ believe me. I mean anyone can just up and start a blog. [Have no fear I provide references.] The fat loss zone is like taxes. If you work and make $25,000 a year and have a kid, you will not have to pay many taxes, for an example let’s say you paid $2,500 if you add up everything. You are living in the low tax zone, you only put 10% in to all the stuff we as a society share. You are making just enough money to get by and the Government is going to give you a break on your taxes. Sure it is written in a bunch of confusing rules and regulations, you pay in one spot get credits in another, but none the less, overall, you don’t pay all that much in taxes. Now, you make more the next year, Lets say you make $35,000, that is an extra $10,000, now you pay your $2,500 from the year before and another $1,500 on the $10,000. You are now paying 11.4% in taxes. You make even more and you will pay even more. Someone could come along and argue that you want to live in the low tax zone you need to make less money. I say if you can make $120,000 and have to pay $25,000 in taxes, who cares, for every dollar you make you get to keep more. This is how the fat loss argument works too. You might burn a higher percentage of fat if you workout in the magazine-reading-fat-burning zone, but you will burn more all together if you up it to the cardio and above. Put another way you could do a low intensity workout to burn 300 calories, of which 150 are fat, so 50% of your effort directly burned fat. If you instead workout intensely and do 500 calories you might drop to 40% fat, lower fat burning, more of your effort is “wasted” right? Well, you burned 200 calories, which is more that 150. If the story ended there this would be convincing enoguh argument. But it doesn’t. Now the fun part, EPOC.
EPOC is the key to losing weight with workouts. EPOC stands for excess post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. Another way to put is is: “You just increased your metabolism”. You burn more just sitting there after a hard workout than after an easy workout. And we are not talking about the few minutes it takes you to get back to a normal heart rate. We are talking about, depending on the intensity, of as much as 36 hours later. Now there is a lot of mumbo jumbo science stuff to describe all the details. I think sometimes I go into too much detail. Instead, I am going to try and describe it a little more simply.
Everyone knows the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. You are either burning the fuel with oxygen, the normal way your body works, or in bouts of excess need your body has a way to cheat and burn it less efficiently overall but more quickly. The key to stored energy is to break chemical bonds to give off energy when you need it. A chemistry equation that has the resultant compounds plus energy released. The efficient way is to do so with oxygen, but that is a little slower. If you need it faster, you need it faster period, and a different chemical bond can be broken to give off energy. Now the thing about doing it this way, is eventually your body has to make up for this. It takes all the chemicals that got busted up quickly, disposes of some compounds and sends others down a path to put them back together the right way so you can burn them through the normal method. What does it take to do this? Well, energy. Thats right, you burn the energy the quick way and your body is forced to expend more energy to put it back right. You also get some bonus, of things like it makes your muscles that much more strong, it repairs the microtrauma in them, it makes you able to handle that same level more easily. You are building up your endurance.
Now in some of the studies they talk about how you burn fewer calories during the exercise and then “catch up” later with the EPOC. But this is because they gave the subjects less exercise to do. I would argue that you workouts are bound by two things, neither of which is a research scientist. Time and willpower. Obviously if you go to workout and have just exactly one hour, you will burn more if you do it intensely than if you just stayed in the aerobic zone. You also can’t just decide to burn 1500 calories that day, you might get a little to tired and your delusional state will convince you that it was a bad idea and you will stop. We want to stay in the keeping it fun zone or we might not be so eager to workout.
Many of the studies are concerned with resistance training, which is using weights, or an equivalent. This is not going to lose weight, but it will lose fat. Since you add muscle your net weight can’t move as much. This is still good, but discouraging to hop on the scale. The studies I looked at measured from 60-120 calories but the exercise is a 60 minute or so weight lifting bout. The other exercise to do for the highest EPOC is interval training. The ultimate goal to get the benefit of EPOC is to take you body from its resting state and disturb as many chemical bonds anaerobically as possible so that it takes your body longer to get itself back to its normal resting state. This is of course where you hit it again. Who knows what the real numbers are without personal expensive testing, but if you do a hard workout interval style for 30-60 minutes you should be able to burn the extra 100 calories they talked about. You should also be able to add some quick ones in as descibed below to keep the EPOC up there, as long as you still take a rest day to actually get back to normal sometimes. This extra 100 calories might not seem like much, but anyone overweight knows how those extra 100 calories of snacks and completely sabotage your weight over time. It will add up to nearly 10 pounds of fat in a year. Just by changing how we work out, not how much.
I recently read an article that describes interval training to increase EPOC as something you can do in 15 minutes. You warm up for four minutes, then run as fast as you can for 2 minutes, slow down for two minutes, fast for 2 minutes, slow for two minutes, and so on. If done correctly, they said you were supposed to feel like throwing up. I would tend to think that was overdoing it, but I do understand what it feels like in your core if you work out hard past the current endurance capability. [Yeah, my stomach muscles hurt after the triathlon running is what I am getting at.] It isn’t really a throw up feeling, it is more like the good muscle burn when you worked out a muscle and look at the pain through a different lens, except with your stomach muscles.
Here are links for further reading, I also listen to the naked nutrition radio podcast which is where the third link is from:
Here is what I am going to try and do:
Currently I am working out 3 times a week and I like the interval training. When I swim I do about 12×100 at about 90% effort going nearly as fast as I can. I plan to get up to 1800 soon so I can say I swam a mile. Usually I start higher and taper off once I realize I still have 10 sets left. It takes me around 2 minutes each and then I rest for one minute. I am working on keeping at that level anyway, I don’t quite make it on a set that takes me 2:20 for example. I have been hoping to be able to rest less and less time so I can eventually just do 1200 yards in 24 minutes. This is not a a short term goal, it will require some good fitness on my part, as in getting nearer my ideal weight, as well as efficincy improvements. When I do the elliptical or the treadmill I recently went from the interval to a steady pace for trying to do the triathlon efficiently. I will now go back to the interval type training and I hope to do them for 45 minutes workout plus a warmup and cool down. I am thinking about a 4-5 mile run at this time including the whole 60 minutes. There is a triathlon training class I will be going to I think where I may change some of this, but for now, this is my plan of action. I need to get some biking in, but I don’t quite know how to work it in. I might just do a fourth day every other week, or I might workout in the morning instead of at the YMCA treadmill if my wife and my schedules don’t line up a particular week. The last thing I am going to try and do is a quick 15 minute high intensity interval workout, yeah the feel-like-you-are-going-to-puke workout. I will add one or two per week. I would say two but I know how I am in the morning. I will do them in the morning so I get the benefit of feeling good about myself and what I am doing about my health first thing in the morning. Lastly, I am still on phase 2 of the South beach diet, a very liberal phase 2. I focus on eating only whole grain carbs and some fruit now and then. I still have trouble working in all the fruits and veggies. I eat too many nuts I think, usually late at night. If I can get in the habbit of working out early I can maybe just sleep during that problem time. This is at odds with my unrealted goal of trading Forex which I tend to like to be up midnight my time when the european session opens. I will just have to do that a couple of days a week and take the rest off I think.