“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! =)