Workout for an Afterburn
Generally we've been told that if you run five miles you'll burn about 500 calories. And that's true (give or take a few dozen calories depending on weight, speed, and fitness). But if you throw a few hard intervals into the mix you'll burn those 500 calories during the workout and burn more calories throughout the rest of the day too. Excess post exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, is when your body continues to consume oxygen at an elevated rate after your workout. The workout with the greatest after-burn effect is called High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. "It's not necessarily about how many calories you burn during the workout, it's about the 22-23 other hours when you're not working out," says Sternlicht.
In order to really get the benefit from a HIIT workout, you have to go hard. Really hard. Working anaerobically is key to igniting the EPOC flames. Intervals can be as short as six or 10 seconds, but you need to be working at your max capacity for those 10 seconds. "You're improving aerobic capacity and mitochondrial density and applying stress to your muscles. When you recover from the workout, you gain fitness and muscle and that requires more calories, more energy," says Sternlicht, meaning you'll be able to burn more calories all the time, not just after a hard workout. Start by adding in a few short HIIT intervals once or twice a week and add more or longer intervals as you gain fitness. Your all-out efforts need to total at least three minutes to get the HIIT benefits.