Incinerate Calories After Your Workout Using These Secrets

It’s common sense that when you work out you burn calories. It’s why a grueling workout the morning after a pizza binge feels so good (and sometimes necessary). Cardio machines like treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines even log the calories you burn during a workout. What no machine can track and most gym-goers forget about is a workout’s potential afterburn effect or the additional calories your body burns long after you step out of the gym.

The afterburn effect is almost like a well-deserved award for dragging yourself to the gym — who doesn’t dream of burning calories while watching TV on the couch? It sounds simple enough. Hit the gym and then enjoy the calories that melt away while you go about your daily life, right? Unfortunately, like most things, there’s a catch. Don’t expect the awesome impact of post-workout calorie burn after a lazy 15 minutes on the stationary bike. To get the extra calorie-burning benefits, your workout needs to be intense enough to increase your temperature, heart rate, and leave you sweating. Intrigued? Here’s how to make sure your workout has what it takes to obtain the desired afterburn effect.

1. Up the intensity

Man relaxing after workout

Burn more calories after a workout thanks to these tips. | iStock.com

Your workout’s intensity level is arguably the most important factor in reaching optimal post-workout calorie burn. The afterburn effect is caused by excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. When you complete a high-intensity session, you push your body to the point that it has to keep working after the workout is done to build its oxygen stores back up. Research suggests this can take 16 to 24 hours. As the body works to return to normal oxygen levels, it’s using extra calories.

Take advantage of this awesome freebie by noticeably amping up your workouts. Rather than going for a long, steady-paced run, opt for a shorter (win!), more intense variation by adding in sprints with minimal recovery time. At the gym, up the intensity by pushing hard and limiting your recovery time between sets.

2. Throw in some cardio

man jumping rope outside

Jumping rope is great cardio. | iStock.com

You may hate to run, but by suffering through just 10 minutes of cardio before your weights session, you can increase your afterburn. One study by Brigham Young University found that men who hit the treadmill for 10 minutes before switching to resistance training had higher levels of post-workout calorie burn when compared to men who did weight training first and then cardio or those who only participated in one of the two activities.

3. Increase duration

Tired man running on a treadmill

Make your workouts a little longer. | iStock.com

The wonderful benefit of high-intensity exercise is that the workouts are typically short and sweet. While it’s better to get in a short 30-minute workout than nothing at all, the impact of the afterburn increases based on the duration of your workout. Some studies recommend 45-minute sessions, while others suggest 60 minutes as the ideal workout duration in order to maximize post-workout calorie burn. The biggest thing to be aware of when you enter into the realm of high-intensity exercise is that you’ll be working hard, so make sure to keep your pride in check and don’t overdo it.

4. Build muscle

man lifting weights at the gym

Building muscle will help you burn more calories overall. | iStock.com

The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. Research shows that one pound of muscle at rest burns seven to 10 calories a day while one pound of fat only burns two to three calories. When you feel like you’ve mastered your routine, take it up a notch by increasing the weight you use or adding an incline or resistance to your cardio. Increasing muscle and decreasing fat stores in this way has a noticeable long-term impact on your body’s metabolism.

5. Treat yourself

chocolate cookies on a table

You deserve those cookies. | iStock.com

If it takes an army just to get you to the gym, knowing that a special treat is waiting for you post workout may inspire you to push yourself harder and go longer. Studies show that the best time to indulge in a high-caloric cheat meal or snack is right after a particularly tough workout. After intense exercise your skeletal muscle is low on glycogen, which is what muscles use as fuel during exertion. To restore this glycogen deposition, treat yourself to a guiltless sugary or starchy treat.