Burning Oxygen

Photo credit: livehealthy.chron.com

I read another “which type of exercise helps you lose weight article” at the MyFitnessPal Blog, but this one compared bodyweight to weighted exercises.

Click the link to read the whole story, but bottom line, weighted exercises have a slight advantage because you can increase your load beyond what your body weighs.

You boost your metabolic rate for hours after working out through a process called EPOC, or excess postexercise oxygen consumption. This is the case no matter whether you choose body-weight or weighted exercise.

But, with weighted exercises, the chances that you will build new muscle mass is higher, and this could then mean a higher resting metabolic rate forever, regardless of whether you just did a workout or not.

So for that reason, weighted exercises do get the slight edge when it comes to long-term weight loss and maintenance.

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is also called “afterburn” is a “measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity intended to erase the body’s ‘oxygen deficit.’ In historical context the term ‘oxygen debt’ was popularized to explain or perhaps attempt to quantify anaerobic energy expenditure…”

I decided to look into EPOC and found an article written by a Certified Professional Trainer named Pete McCall titled 7 Things To Know About Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.

It’s a nice, informative, in-a-nutshell explanation of what EPOC is and why it’s important to burning calories, particularly after your workout is over.

The first point simply describes what oxygen is used for immediately after your workout. The second point states, happily, that any exercise that consumes more oxygen, burns more calories:

The body expends approximately 5 calories of energy (a calorie is the amount of energy required to heat 1 liter of water 1 degree centigrade) to consume 1 liter of oxygen. Therefore, increasing the amount of oxygen consumed both during and after a workout, can increase the amount of net calories burned.

Photo credit: menshealth.com

Point three states that heavy resistance training with short rest intervals, increases the EPOC effect. Of course, the article doesn’t specify what a “short rest interval” is, but the idea is that strength training routines using compound, multijoint weightlifting or doing a weightlifting circuit alternating the upper and lower body parts, puts greater stress on the muscles involved, increasing oxygen demand.

Point four says that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is the single most effective way to stimulate EPOC. That doesn’t help me because, in my opinion, HIIT cardio sessions are a game for the young (or at least younger than me).

The fifth point says that EPOC is influenced mainly by intensity, not duration, so it’s how much of a workload you put on your body in a relatively short period of time that yields greater results relative to EPOC, not your total time working out in the gym.

Now, to address the cardio issue, point six states that resistance training provides a greater EPOC effect than running at a steady pace. So high intensity workouts such as heavy weightlifting or HIIT workouts on a cardio machine (or just running sprints outside) provide more of an EPOC effect than what you’d get through jogging or using a treadmill at a steady pace.

The seventh and last point was exciting. The EPOC effect from HIIT or strength training can add from 6 to 15 percent of the total energy cost of the exercise session. That is, you still burn most of your calories during exercise, but anywhere from 6 to 15 percent of the energy you burn will occur after you work out.

This is another you’ve backed the right horse with strength training moment.

Which is good, since over the past few weeks, my weight has crept up a bit. This morning, my official body weight was 194.4 pounds, which is 88.178357 kg or 13.885714 stone for those of you who don’t use imperial measurements.

For reference, I’m just slightly under 6’3″ tall, which is about 75 inches or 190.5 cm.

muscle vs fat
Image credit: stronglifts.com

For quite a while, I’d been losing weight on a more or less detectable downward slope, but for the past several months, I’ve been toggling between 190 and 194 (or so) pounds. The lightest I’ve been during this period was just a hair under 190, but I always rebound.

I have to take into consideration that I may have lost some fat in this time period and picked up some muscle mass, so my weight gain could, in part, be from increased muscle.

But I can tell that I’ve still got stuff around my middle that I’d like to get rid of. The trick is to maintain the intensity of my workouts while staying safe, both from injury and overworking my body. I’m under no illusions that I can endure the same level of intensity in a workout as a 20, 30, or even 40 year old. That probably means where ever I end up, I’m going to get there slower than a younger person.

I’ve been rather lax in my cardio and ab work, but returned to the gym this morning to do 40 minutes on the elliptical (which includes the five-minute cooldown at the end) and some weighted crunches. As you saw in the article, steady cardio work doesn’t produce as much of an EPOC effect as HIIT or heavy weightlifting, but my heart muscle benefits from it and it still is a good way to burn down some calories.

Also, it’s nice to alternate days of heavy (for me) weightlifting with easier cardio exercise. Although I was still dripping with sweat at the end of the 40 minutes this morning, this is actually a recommended recovery strategy as described in this article, also written by Pete McCall (see point number five).

But point four also seemed pretty important too:

Your body produces most of the T, GH and IGF-1 needed for tissue repair during the deep REM cycles of sleep. If you are planning a high-intensity workout, it’s important to get a full night’s sleep to allow your neuroendocrine system to play its role in the recovery process. If you have a busy period of work, travel or family obligations, adjust your exercise program accordingly and do low- to moderate-intensity workouts until you can return to your normal sleep patterns, which can support higher-intensity exercise stimulus. If you typically love hard-charging workouts, the short-term drop in intensity might not feel like you’re really exercising, but your body will appreciate the lower physical stress-load. Too much exercise without proper rest and recovery can lead to injury or illness, both of which could keep you out of the gym for lengthy periods of time.

dark gym
Photo credit: combatfitnesskids.com

I got roughly four to five hours of sleep last night as opposed to nearly zero hours the night before, so I call that a “win”. Still, I think McCall is suggesting a longer period of sleep, and particularly more periods of REM sleep, in order to repair and strengthen tissue.

On a side note, my son David just got a new job which will start later in the day. He’ll have to abandon his plan to rejoin me at the gym at the end of October (fast approaching) or early November since our schedules will no longer be compatible. Looks like I’m destined to be the lone wolf at the gym for the foreseeable future.

The two most important gifts you can give your children are roots and wings.

Lori Palatnik


2 thoughts on “Burning Oxygen

  1. Your sleep sucks, Dude! Are you napping during the day at least? The older we get the harder it is to get quality sleep. We can’t progress without it though.


    1. I sometimes take a nap in my car over the lunch hour or what’s left of it after I run errands. Pretty sure I got 15 or 20 minutes just now (woke myself up snoring).


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