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Ask Marc: What Is The Afterburn Effect?

By Marc Perry / February 20, 2016

What Is The Afterburn Effect?

In short, the definition of the afterburn effect is calorie burn AFTER exercise. If you are doing an intense activity like sprinting, your body experiences a metabolic disturbance. It takes time and calories for your body to get back to homeostasis. This is the crux of the afterburn effect. The greater the metabolic and muscular disturbance, the greater the afterburn effect will likely be.

Why Is The Afterburn Effect Important?

In short, the more calories you burn, the easier it is to lose fat and keep your metabolism humming. So if you are seeking to get leaner and lose fat, might as well try to maximize the amount of calories you are burning during and after exercise.

Why Has It Taken So Long To Understand The Afterburn Effect?

For decades, most exercise physiologists focused on estimating calorie burn during exercise. For exercises that don’t require a lot of intensity like jogging, or walking, this makes a lot of sense. It’s easy to estimate how many calories are burned during a jog by measuring the oxygen your body consumes during that jog with a metabolic cart. But what about if you are weight lifting intensely, or sprinting? Recent research shows that as much as 95% of the calorie burn from anaerobic exercise (short bursts of intense activity) may occur AFTER the exercise.

How Do You Maximize The Afterburn Effect?

In a phrase – short burst of intense activity. In other words, high intensity interval training and strength circuits types of workouts, which are the foundation of the workouts we create at BuiltLean. The better shape you get in, the less time it takes to maintain your great shape because you can crank up the intensity.

How Do I Learn More About The Afterburn Effect?

Check out a 45 minute interview with the world’s foremost expert on the Afterburn Effect Dr. Christopher Scott right here: Afterburn Effect Interview.


  • Hgriffis says:

    Wrong. Speed or power walking, getting body temperature higher for 24 to. 34 min has long term (entire day) increase in burning cal , combined with 1 b vitamin. For gross body mass folks, that's corrective action. Daily speed or power walking, will do great things for body. This is phase 1, part a in building NEW body, size and shape. For sure, need to refine diet, but less change than most folks expect. I'm 57, but NOW better than most 20 year old gents. Correct exercise, better food intake, useful additives for body, useful additives for brain, and Music. Moving brain into today's Music is not optional. Your BMI pictures are outstanding.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Walking does not create a large afterburn effect, nor does jogging (see afterburn effect interview), but both are excellent activities that promote health for sure.

  • Jesse says:

    Hi Marc,

    A couple of questions, one, if you are fairly overweight or in bad shape, won't any exercise cause some amount of after burn effect? Basically, walking and jogging for a very sedentary person could be considered "high intensity" for their body, and cause a similar afterburn to what a fit person would feel after sprints or high intensity cardio.

    I've noticed if I have a long layoff of weight training, the first few weeks back I'll feel a fair amount of muscle fatigue for days after training. An example is after squats, the next day I'll feel somewhat winded climbing the stairs. Is that a sign of afterburn? Are my muscles still working to replenish an oxygen deficiency?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @jesse - You have some interesting questions. First, regarding the afterburn effect for those not in great shape, I think there will be some calorie burn after exercise, but it simply won't be very substantial versus a sprint workout, or something higher intensity. The irony of course is that you have to be in shape in order to truly leverage the power of the afterburn effect. It's like a catch 22. Second, sore muscles is considered the lactic acid contribution of exercise. EPOC, or the oxygen debt is a separate component of the afterburn effect. For more detail, you can check out the summary of my interview with Dr. Christopher Scott (Afterburn Effect). Finally, I don't want to say the only way to burn fat and get lean is doing high intensity exercise, because that's not true. Simply walking, swimming, and even doing simple body weight exercises like push ups and pull ups while eating whole foods can help you get an awesome build. The efficiency of the afterburn effect type of training, the higher intensity training is what is compelling, but also doing it in a way that is sustainable. It doesn't take much time and you get a solid bang for your buck.

  • Alexander says:

    Hi Marc, I understand the afterburn effect is extremely beneficial for fat loss. Can doing intense weight training circuits and sprints also aid in muscle building? From what I've read from your website, muscle gain requires a consistent calorie surplus over a period of time, but the afterburn effect results in increased caloric expenditure. Will the increased caloric burn intefere with the need to achieve a calorie surplus or do I simply need to eat more to maintain the surplus?

  • Vusal says:

    Hi Marc

    My question is probably not related with the article above. However I would like to know how you define your "strength circuits"? Is it vertical circuit ( one set of every different type of exercise is performed before returning to an exercise for the second time) or horizontal (all sets of one exercise are performed before a person moves on to the next exercise)?


    Vusal S