Articles » Lifestyle » General Health » Afterburn Effect: Burn 500+ Calories from 10 Minutes of Exercise?

Afterburn Effect: Burn 500+ Calories from 10 Minutes of Exercise?

By Marc Perry / October 16, 2016

I have an interview below with Dr. Christopher Scott, PHD, who is an exercise physiology professor at the University of Southern Maine and one of the world’s foremost experts on the Afterburn Effect, which is calorie burn AFTER exercise.

At BuiltLean, we think the afterburn effect is so important that we created our strength circuitsTM method to help increase the afterburn effect so you can burn more calories for days.

Surprisingly, very few people in the exercise physiology community and more generally in the fitness industry have acknowledged his pivotal research and its potential to change public health policy and your ability to burn more fat in less time.

I was able to get Chris on the phone and record a 40 minute conversation with him. You can play the audio of our conversation below, download the 20-Page transcript, or view the summary and highlights I put together below.

Click the image below to view/play, or right click to download

Audio MP3

(40 minutes)

Written Transcript

(20 Pages)

Document Type: pdf, Size = 0.36MB

Afterburn Effect Summary

What is the Afterburn Effect?

In short, the afterburn effect is calorie burn AFTER exercise. The afterburn effect is difficult to estimate as you’ll learn in a moment. The more intense the exercise, the greater the afterburn effect. For example, sprinting as fast as you can for 30 seconds for 5 rounds will have a much larger afterburn effect compared to jogging for 30 minutes.

What is Energy Expenditure?

Energy expenditure is the total amount of calories you burn. More specifically, energy expenditure refers to the amount of energy a person uses during all bodily activities from movement, to blood circulation, to breathing, to digestion. When it comes to exercise, energy expenditure is the total measure of calorie burn during and after exercise.

What is Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise?

Aerobic exercise is a type of activity marked by long distances and slow paces like running, or cycling. Anaerobic exercise is marked by activities that require strength, speed, and power like weight lifting, or sprinting.

Energy Expenditure From Exercise: 3 Components

While total energy expenditure is the sum of the following 3 components, the Afterburn Effect is the sum of #2 and #3 components:

1) Calories Burned During Exercise (O2) – This is the amount of calories you burn during a workout. A metabolic cart can accurately measure you calorie burn aerobically during exercise. This is because oxygen uptake (how much oxygen your body uses) is proportional to heat expenditure (calorie burn) for aerobic activities. This component is NOT part of the afterburn effect.

2) Calories Burned AFTER Exercise (EPOC) – At higher exercise intensities, oxygen uptake is NOT proportional to heat expenditure. An oxygen debt is created, where EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is used to help restore the body to a resting state and adapt it to the exercise just performed, which requires energy. This component is part of the afterburn effect.

3) Lactic Acid Contribution of ExerciseEPOC is NOT enough to fully account for anaerobic contribution of exercise to total energy expenditure. This is a VERY important point and what differentiates Chris’ research. Chris has proposed that by measuring blood lactate reasonable estimates of rapid glycolitic ATP turnover are available and should not be omitted from the estimation of energy expenditure from anaerobic exercise, especially when anaerobic contributions are large. This component is part of the afterburn effect.

The Afterburn Effect Can Be BIG

Energy Expenditure component #2 is typically referred to as the “Afterburn Effect”, when it should really be #2 and #3. The afterburn effect is minimal for traditional cardio, but can be significant for strength and power related activities.

In his first major study, Chris proposed that as much as 95% of the calorie cost of intense anaerobic exercise can come AFTER exercise! While Chris says the numbers are not perfect estimates and were used to help highlight the importance of anaerobic contribution to exercise, they are still revealing.

Why Most Exercise Physiologists Estimate The Afterburn Effect Incorrectly

One reason may be that the exercise industry is dominated by aerobic exercisers like runners, cyclists, and triathletes:

“I think that the way scientists have started the origins of exercise physiology are pretty much all aerobic exercise. That’s what it is. Now many people are applying aerobic exercise concepts like long-distance running and cycling, and they’re using what they found there and applying it to resistance training and weight lifting. That’s where I pretty much have drawn the line. I’m not going to do that.”

A Possible 4th Component of Energy Expenditure – Hypertrophy

While Chris did not separate out the effects of Hypertrophy as a possible 4th component of total energy expenditure and 3rd component of the afterburn effect, he did note that it does require energy and that it’s not being estimated/measured.

“If you’re working your muscle to the point where you’re causing damage at the microscopic level, it’s going to take energy to repair that… breaking proteins and laying down new proteins, that is most certainly going to be raising your energy expenditure…There’s also medical issues, if you will, that increase energy expenditure, and the largest one is burns. If you’re a burn victim, you can literally double your resting metabolic rate with severe burns. The reason why is you look at your skin, which is mostly protein, you’re laying down new protein. Your nutritional demands are literally off the chart.”

High Intensity Anaerobic Exercise Burns More Fat Than Cardio

“There was a study I saw years ago, and I still quote it, and they were doing these six-second bursts of all-out cycling. It was 10, 15 sets of this, and they found this unheard of amount of free fatty acids that were broken down from fat stores within the muscle. It begs the question why, during an anaerobic activity that clearly utilizes glucose as a fuel, why is so much fat being broken down?

The answer appears to be, well, the exercise component is six seconds long, and that’s using glucose, but however long the recovery component is, that’s when you’re burning fat. If you add all these intermittent periods together…you’re primarily burning lactate and fatty acids, and that’s where the body composition stuff comes in.

If you want to lose weight, lose body fat, get ripped, I’m under that impression that intermittent bursts of high-intensity activity followed by rest periods, that’s the way to do it.”

And one more add on:

“A similar thinking [by many health organizations] was that if you wanted to burn fat, you would have to do long, slow, distance activity because that’s going to burn the most fat. We’re starting to realize now that in fact it’s the other way around that during really brief, intense intermittent bouts of strength, speed and power-related stuff, I’m under the impression you can burn even more fat.”

Nutrition Is Still King For Losing Fat

“Then another thing I always tell people – I’m not a nutritionist, obviously, but I know a little bit about it – if you really were to come to me and wanted to lose weight, and we made a list of ten things, one through seven of them would be dietary, watching what you eat. Then eight, nine and ten would be exercise.”

The Afterburn Effect: Research Still Has a LONG Way to Go

“We have a long way to go before we understand this, and that there are times when it’s almost – for me, from a scientific standpoint – it’s almost overwhelming because we’re finding out that isotonic contractions are different than isometric, that are different from isokinetic. Then you add different one repetition maximums or ten repetition maximum, how much exercise time’s involved, number of reps, the number of sets, the number of rest periods in between sets.

We have a long way to go before we find the perfect exercise program, if you will. The truth of the matter is there’s probably not one perfect program. There’s probably dozens of perfect programs. Again, it all goes down to the independence of the person that’s involved. What’s actually best for them?

The bottom line, though, I think, though, Marc, and again, from anecdotal evidence that I’ve heard from you and others, is that when you really start doing the intermittent large muscle group, high-intensity-type exercise, that’s when people start getting into these ripped, cut, nice body composition adjustments.”

About Dr. Christopher Scott, PHD

Dr Christopher Scott is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern Maine. Dr. Scott has been called a “pioneer” for his research focusing on the determination of energy expenditure for strength, speed, and power related activities, both during and after exercise. He has been a professor of exercise physiology for 9 years and is the sole author of the 5-star ranked textbook “A Primer for the Exercise and Nutrition Sciences: Thermodynamics, Bioenergetics, Metabolism”.

For a longer bio, Curriculaem Vitae, and Publications, you can visit Dr. Scott’s website at http://www.anaerobicenergyexpenditure.com.


  • stu says:

    Hi, I've been looking into this concept to get more lean. And reduce my body fat% to under 10% (I'm currently at 12%).

    How would diet effect afterburn and EPOC?

    I plan to do metabolic strength exercises and skipping but I just want to know what my approach should be regarding carbs.

    Is there a certain amount you should include in your diet that will be more effective to burning body fat?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Stu - check out this article which should answer your questions - How to Get Ripped & Cut

  • vodin says:

    so what we have to do when we finish our exercise?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @vodin - Nothing. That's the whole point of the afterburn effect. Workout intensely, then rest.

  • JakeE says:

    This kind of work for an afterburn effect sounds very legit for burning off fat and calories, but my question is does this kind of workout make it hard/impossible to gain muscle mass? My logic is that it takes calories to bulk up your muscles and gain size. I want to know if there is a happy-medium where fat can be cut and size can be achieved.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @JakeE - check out this article - Can You Lose Fat & Build Muscle At the Same Time?. I think you should choose either losing fat without losing muscle, or trying to gain muscle without gaining fat, but not both at the same time.

  • luigi says:

    Hello Mark:

    I am a biology and chemistry teacher and I also practice brazilian jiu jitsu. I also have a program to work out with parallel bars and other gymnastic kind of excercises. I have a few questions if you don't mind.

    1. When it talks about ATP you mean the actual intake of glucose/sugar from outside of the cell and its subsequent transformation into energy? (glycosis*)?

    2. On the subject of afterburn, can brazilian Jiu Jitsu with its extensive output of 02 and C02 obtain afterburn within the cell?(muscle cells) How does ATP fit into it?

    3. Can both brazilian jiu jitsu and gymnastics (kettlebelts also come to mind) be considered aerobic and anaerobic excercises. and most importantly how beneficial are they for afterburn and subsequently losing body fat and avoid complete muscle burn out.

    for the layman reading, I apologize if I got too tecnical, but was needed to make the question shoter.

    I appreciate a response via email , or a notification if you could kindly do it. Happy Easter..

    (*Glycogen must be oxidized to pyruvate, lactate and CO2 to provide the ATP required for muscle activity. )

  • Norm says:

    Hi--some great content here. I just found this site tonight. It is rather late so I will just post a quick question for now, although I have a couple of others that I will post later. I have jsust ately been doing some HIIT workouts in order to maximize fat burning, and besides I really enjoy the intensity. Re running I have a base of 3 months running 3 times a week at an average distance of 4 miles. So, I have just transitioned into doing sprint intervals. I have done 3 workouts so far. I started with 250 meters x 8, then 200 meters x 10, and my last workout I did 100 meters x 20 repeats with a 50 second jogging recovery between each sprint. During the workout I felt pretty good, and experienced no pain whatsoever. I actually did my last sprint one second faster by getting my arms more into it. However, 4 hours later I had fairly severe knee pain. I realized the next morning that it was actually a hamstring strain. I immediately began icing, using a compression bandage, and also did some stretching. I continued this regimen today, and by tonight the pain is almost completely gone--whew!! I really dread any injury like a serious muscle tear that would lay me up. So I am wondering what would constitute a proper warm up routine before sprinting? Prior to the last workout I took my dogs for a 2 1/2 mile walk, and then after 15 mins. to gear up went for a 1/2 mile jog. Then straight into the sprints. I am also wondering how long I should wait before sprinting again if I am fully pain free in a couple more days (which would be time for my next sprint session). Thanks for any suggestions.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Norm - Regarding the second question of how long you should wait, that probably best for an orthopedic doctor, or physical therapist. I just can't answer that as I write on my computer. Regarding your first question about warm ups, here's your answer:

      1) Warm Up
      a. Foam Rolling + Massage Ball - Myofascial Release - 5 minutes (you can also do this at your home, possibly daily)
      b. Dynamic Stretching - 5 minutes
      c. Run a couple laps

      2) You probably have posture problems
      Close to 99% of people have posture problems. Here are the 5 most common posture problems and how to fix them. Here's another video with some extra squat corrective exercises and ways to identify any posture problems you have.

      Good luck!

  • F.M. says:

    hi mac , i have a bit of dilema
    i m 28yrs of age , i have abnormally large man boobs ,m fat , i can not afford surgery ,and really cant afford gym , as i have my young brothers to look after ,
    i want to excercise and inspire young fellas like me , with boobs , what excercise routines can i try on ,? and how many times a day ?
    thanks to everyone who has asked all the above questions it helps others who do not know as well , above all thanks mac in advance

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @F.M. - The only option it sounds like is to focus on your nutrition and start doing bodyweight workouts. Here are a couple Push Up Workout + Metabolic Conditioning.

    • kanye says:

      i have the same problems as F.M.,
      man boobs , what can we do to reduce them

      • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

        @kanye - Focus on losing fat without losing muscle, that's the only healthy way to go about it. A good place to start is by checking out my free Get Lean Guide.

  • William Shoucair says:

    Hey, Marc.

    Thanks for the great post on the afterburn effect. I'm a huge fan of Tabata drills and typically wrap up my workout with one an intense 4 minute burst cardio session on the elliptical or rower.

    Have you found any particular exercises that work best for Tabata?


    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @William - The other exercise to consider is the stationary bike, and an elliptical where you hop off of the it and stradle the sides as your rest. Of course, tabata can be applied to just about any type of exercise because it's based on timed intervals.

  • jonny says:

    Hi Marc
    Its really nice to see your work. I still have some confusion about all this. In short if i want to be thin but muscular, what should i do? Light weight with 50 reps OR Heavy weight with 15 reps?
    Also m taking low calories diet.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @jonny - I suggest you check out my free Get Lean Guide. That should help you. Just focus on losing fat without losing muscle and everything will take care of itself. The number of reps you lift does not necessarily have any impact on how much muscle you will gain/lose. For example, you can lift very heavy weights all the time and never gain a pound of muscle if you don't eat more calories than you burn.

  • Tom says:

    Hi Marc, great site thanks. I have a long commute to work (about 1.5 hours each way). I only get to work out at night so I get home and straight to my weights. I then have a protein shake and then dinner. I then have about 90 minutes till bed time. My question is whether its better to work out first then eat dinner or eat dinner and then do my weights?

    Its the same on my cardio days - home - exercise - eat.



    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Tom - I think it's a personal preference, but I personally would rather get it out of the way, then eat dinner before. I would also reconsider the purpose of your protein shake if you are trying to lose weight if your meal is within an hour of your workout.

  • joe says:

    Hey Marc!!! iv always had an interest in losing some of my body fat(mostly around my stomach) and iv done exercises from sprinting,crunches,ab workouts, stationary bikes. I am able to workout everyday of the week but im lost on what workouts i should be doing for how long and how often

    please reply!!!---Joe

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @joe - I think a good place to start if you are very confused is downloading my free Get Lean Guide. You just have to add your email to access the report. Should be able to get you on the right track. If you want a structured plan, my Builtlean Program will not disappoint!