Finding the right balance between training hard and burning fat, while sparing lean muscle is a challenge every athlete and fitness enthusiast faces on a daily basis.
If you spend enough time in the gym, you’ve heard that long cardio sessions are no longer revered as the most effective way to burn fat. In fact, weight lifting and interval training are proving to be the most beneficial way to work out, both for cardiovascular health and increased EPOC.
What is EPOC?
EPOC stands for post-exercise oxygen consumption and as the name suggests, happens after you leave the gym. When we train hard, we put into motion a chain reaction of biological processes like muscle building and refueling that require a great amount of energy. While the body works hard to restore itself to a level of homeostasis, it continues to burn calories.
Research is showing that EPOC can last up to 37 to 48 hours after you work out.
Adapting your training to increase EPOC can be done in a number of simple ways:
- Reducing rest times between exercises places a greater demand on muscles.
- Lifting heavy weight and working within 75% or more of your 1RM.
- Changing your aerobic training to interval training to increase anaerobic activity.
Another way to increase EPOC is through diet and the consumption of monounsaturated fats like olive oil, an oleic acid. The Mediterranean Diet is rich in olive oil and is one of the most heart-healthy ways to eat.
In one research study published in the journal Metabolism, scientists out of the University of Texas found that people who followed diets rich in monounsaturated fats like olive oil had higher levels of EPOC than their counterparts whose diets favored saturated fats like palmitic acids, common saturated fats found in most fast foods.
To test this theory, the researchers placed subjects on a 28-day diet and split them into two groups:
- Group One ate a diet that consisted of 78.4% oleic acids
- Group Two ate a diet that consisted of 42.1% palmitic acid
At the end of the 28 days, subjects engaged in a cardio session of 80 minutes on a stationary bike, working at 60% of their maximum target heart.
The subjects were then tested for EPOC immediately afterwards. Group One continued to burn fat for up to 270 minutes after exercising and showed an increase of 9.7% in EPOC, while Group Two showed no visible increase at all.
This research focused soley on the effect of cardiovascular exercise. If the subjects had used weight lifting or interval training as their measure, imagine how much higher their EPOC would be.
Mark A. Samuel
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Borsheim E., Kien CL, Pearl WM. “Differential effects of dietary intake of palmitic acid and oleic acid on oxygen consumption during and after exercise.” Metabolism. 2006 Sep;55(9):1215-21.