Fitness fads come, and go. I’ve seen a lot! Lately, I’ve been seeing another one that promotes special workout programs that get you “training in the orange zone.” This is referring to training at a heart rate above 84% of your maximum so that your metabolism remains elevated after the exercise session is over, (essentially, you accumulate so much metabolism byproduct—acid—during an intense workout that your body has to work harder for the next 4 to 24 hours to process it and recover, which will burn even more fat over that period of time than if you hadn’t built up those byproducts).
This sounds really “science-y” and cool. It’s like next-level exercise programming, right?
Well, no. It’s not. It’s just good marketing…
“Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” (EPOC), the elevated metabolism after exercise, is simply your body’s way of cooling down and recovering after a tough workout. It’s as common to exercise as sweat.
You’ve probably felt the “burn” in your muscles and an increased breathing rate from tough exercise, or a steep hike, or even walking up a flight of stairs. That’s lactic acid building in your system. It’s the byproduct of the extra “quick” energy needed to power your muscles in that moment. When your muscles produce this acid, it has to be processed and removed for normal health, which requires work from your body, and hence an elevated metabolism. EPOC is the “science-y” term we exercise nerds use for this temporary elevated metabolism. And though your metabolism can be elevated for as much as 24 hours after a workout, EPOC metabolism is relatively small compared to your metabolism during the workout. It’s good to have for some extra fat burn, but it’s not the ‘make or break’ part of exercise. Of course, these marketers make it sound like it’s THE crucial part, and you can only get fitness results if you buy their gym membership or product, which comes with “EPOC.” It’s like the old Ginsu knife infomercials… “but wait, there’s more! We’ll give you EPOC when you buy now!!…” Haha!