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EPOC – What happens after you hit home?

Posted by on March 25, 2012

“I go to the gym 4 times a week, for 2 hours each time. I join the classes, I go on the treadmill for 30 minutes every time. Why am I not losing weight?”. What’s missing from this statement? The intensity of the work out.

If there is one thing you should ever learn about weight loss and fitness is that our body is not simple. It runs a million different systems 24/7 and if it were a smart phone, the battery would last only a minute with the amount of applications running in the background. But all systems have one goal, that is to maintain the body’s normal state – be it in temperature, water levels, hormone levels, cell levels, blood pressure, everything. This state of equilibrium is called homeostasis. (Yup, some of you may recall this word at the very very very back of their heads from high school times). So the moment something shifts and the body is not in homeostasis, something’s gonna start moving to get it back there. And THIS, my dear fitness aficionados, is the key to ensure you get those extra calories burned off. =)

EPOC is the word. Stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. EPOC is the increased intake of oxygen (when you’re huffing and puffing after doing those burpees) after your exercise. How big of an EPOC you get depends of how intense/strenuous your exercise was. The further and longer you push yourself through a high intensity work out, the bigger the EPOC experience you’ll get. Why do I want you to suffer like this is because during EPOC, your body continues to burn calories!!! Amazing or what? It’s like interest from the bank, really. You park a certain amount of money in the bank (how much intense exercise you do) and you get an interest from the bank (EPOC)! Epoc can typically last up to 3 hours post exercise if you work out hard enough i.e. to at least 80% max HR, minimal rest periods, body is still sweating after the work out, body is hot, and you’re feeling really good about yourself ;) 3 hours of work-free caloric burn, yo!

Now here’s the geeky sport sciencey bit you may skip if you are not interested. When you work your body out to a certain degree of intensity, your body’s systems are obviously no longer in homeostasis. Core temperature is up, lactate is built up in your blood stream, muscle glycogen is depleted, your heart is bouncing off the wall, and many other parts of your body is lacking in oxygen. It takes a while to return all of this back to normal, and the processes that take place uses Energy (calories!!) and Oxygen. Yeah, in case you didn’t know calories = fuel = energy. Again, how long would all these processes take depends on how puffed out you are post exercise. Studies show that high-intensity exercises (weight training, interval training) results in a slightly larger EPOC experience compared to aerobic exercises (cardio, long distance running, cycling etc.). BUT, before you decide to ditch cardio altogether, cardio exercise is said to use up more energy during exercise and it burns up more visceral fat (I’m talking about love handles).

OK, now that you know this, might I suggest that the next time you rock up to the gym, you want to make sure that you work out hard enough till you’re well panting, your heart rate is up to about 80% of your max, and your all sweaty and hot! =)

11 Responses to EPOC – What happens after you hit home?

  1. Pauline Liow

    HI CHER! Just wanna like ask…
    How to burn thigh and calves fats..
    Done so many types of exercise but nothing’s happeningg..
    Even tried some fat burning cream or something but all of those didn’t really work..

    • karen

      Hello Pauline =) First thing u need to understand is that you cannot target a specific part of your body to burn fats from. Second thing is to burn fats in general u need to do a lot of cardio work – jogging, swimming, running, cycling, skipping, etc. Do the cardio work to burn off the fats, then do the strength exercises (lunges, squats) to tone up. And it’s not going to happen overnight, so stop switching exercises. Keep to a routine of maybe 3x a week and slowly you’ll start to see results. =) Can understand??

      • pauline liow

        Yeah. Thanks :) But many people said running and jogging makes your thighs bigger :O Especially if you step on the ball of your feet alot..

  2. Simon

    Can the body reach a state where you exercise too regularly, no fats or weight loss happens?

    • Karen

      What I think happens when you see not fats and weight loss anymore is:
      a) you reached a plateau in the intensity of your exercise regime and your body is so adapted to it that it does not need to burn any extra calories to perform the exercise.
      b) you’re not recovering well enough and so your body does not function as efficiently as it used to so metabolic processes may have slowed down.

  3. Evie

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks for sharing your regime. When you say you run on the treadmill for 30mins each time you’re at the gym, is that part of your 2 hour regime or on top of the 2 hour classes you go to. Possible to share your work out regime?



    • Karen

      Hi Evie! That is not my regime…haha just an example. Quite honestly I haven’t had much time to actually follow a regime. But because my main sport is running, I try my best to log in some runs at least twice a week and then a strength work out day once a week. I don’t have time to work out for 2 hours straight unfortunately (and I don’t really like to anyway, because there’s so much more life to live outside the gym). So yeah, I really don’t train that much, as you can tell now. Just eat right and train when it matters most ;)

  4. william m.wijaya

    Hi Karen, how are you girl? Been a while and still amazed of how you switch from metro’s business graduate to a successful runner!!! Got a question for you, i gained weight so much after my marriage and doesnt seem to have the time and desire to go to gym.. i work from 7-8 monday to saturday.. any advice?



    • Karen

      Heyyyy! Are u still based in Indonesia? Which part? Can I come and visit you some day? :) It is very normal for people to start gaining weight after marriage and working. 7-8 pm is a long working day and I’m not surprised if you do not have the drive to go to the gym after work. But I really encourage you to pick up a sport that you enjoy, like maybe Badminton or futsal or something. Start once a week, and I warn you that it’ll be hard to get active again after you have been inactive for so long. But keep doing it and you’ll feel the difference in a few weeks. When you’re fitter and stronger, you need to do more than once a week, maybe twice a week. Just a jog around your neighbourhood is good enough.

      And because you obviously sit down a lot all day, I suggest you control your diet a little bit. Cut down on rice and carbohydrates, and oily foods. Eat more veges, lean meat (chicken and eggs), and fruits. You’ll be able to see the difference in just a month. =) I hope this helps you!

  5. farid dadachov

    Hi, good article. It is 2019 now and I just came across your article. Just wanted to find out heart rate range – one may have under Epoc effect ? And blood pressure is it should be elevated as well, if yes for how long also 3 hours ?

    You also mentioned about 3 hours time frame but many material reffing to upto 24 hours. Please explain if youbget my message. Thank you in advance.

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