The phenomena of afterburn promises to continue burning calories even after you’ve left the gym and hit the couch, but is it real? Is it really possible to work out efficiently enough to keep your internal body working after you’ve physically completed exercise? Research is divided on whether afterburn is real, but you can still follow these simple steps to promote an efficient and strong body both at the gym and in your everyday life.

The theory of afterburn depends on Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). In simple terms, EPOC is your body’s recovery system post workout. After a challenging workout, your body has to work harder to restore itself on a cellular level with an increased demand for oxygen, energy, and calories. The harder you worked while exercising, the more energy or calories will be burned to complete the reparation your body requires post-workout. The amount of calories actually burned during this process is debated by researchers, with the percentage of continued calorie burn ranging from 15-38% of initial burn and the time frame spanning anywhere from 2 to 36 hours. The huge disparities in research have lead to afterburn being overhyped by enthusiasts, but the concept still has potential worth investigating.

The key to tapping into the benefits of afterburn is to focus on what’s happening during your workout, not afterwards. In order to promote post exercise calorie burn, you need to increase lean, metabolic muscle and lactic acid production. Increasing the amount of lean muscle tissue in your body supports higher calorie burn 24/7 due to the metabolically active nature of muscle cells! During effective resistance training, including anything from free weight exercises to push ups, tiny tears are created in your muscle fibers as they are stressed. You burn calories while exercising your muscles and then again during the process to repair those tears afterwards. Think of it as a cellular level workout in addition to the direct work required to move your body during exercise.

When performing a more intense workout, like High Intensity Interval Training, your body experiences a spike in lactic acid production as well. This increase encourages your body to burn off stored fats and sugars for the immediate energy needed to fuel your workout. This also leads to an increase in the release of fat burning hormones like growth hormone and testosterone. According to a statement from the Journal of Metabolism in 1994, High Intensity Interval Training, like FieldFit’s circuit program, burns nine times more fat than low intensity cardio, and could be related to the amount of lactic acid produced during resistance training.

The lack of concrete conclusions in research suggests that afterburn should not be the main focus of your workout. While EPOC and the increased metabolic rate of muscle tissue does encourage continued calorie burn post workout, the real fat burning happens while stressing your muscles to increase strength and endurance. Having a strong muscle frame will allow you to incorporate more density into your regular workout and as a result, more calories and fat will be burned. Having a higher percentage of lean muscle tissue will directly increase your stamina and endurance both in the gym and during everyday activities, leading to more calorie burn throughout the entire day. While the true impact of afterburn is still unknown, the reality of increased lean, metabolic muscle on overall calorie burn is clear. Incorporate a strength based workout, like FieldFit’s dynamic 30 minute circuit workout, three to four times a week, and start burning more fat and calories both in and out of the gym.