Fact or Fiction: Increased Calorie Burn After Exercise

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Is it really true that we burn more calories throughout the day if we exercise?

Written by: Linzay Logan

It is likely you have heard the claim that after a workout calorie burn remains at high rate and thus by exercising we can burn more calories throughout the day. But is this really true? According to nearly every study conducted on this subject the answer has been mixed and in most studies there is almost no increase in calorie burn after exercise in comparison to calorie burn after a sedentary period. However, a recent study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise is saying otherwise The New York Times reports.

In this study lead by Amy A. Knab of Appalachian State University, participants were studied over two different scenarios in a metabolic chamber, measuring their calorie burn. One day the participants were almost completely sedentary and two days later they were sedentary except for 45 minutes in which they rode a stationary bike at high intensity, or 70 percent of VO2 max.

In the second scenario the participants recorded an extra 190 calories burned in comparison to the first sedentary day. Additionally, in two other investigations of post-exercise calorie burn the results showed an increase in calorie burn after exercising at 70 to 75 percent of VO2 max. This data would suggest that calorie burn is higher after exercise.

Although in a similar study, the results showed otherwise. The participants were also studied in a metabolic chamber and instructed to ride a stationary bike, but this time at a lower intensity—50 percent of VO2 max. In this situation calorie burn was no higher after exercise than in a sedentary state with no exercise.

These findings show that intensity may be the determining factor in the afterburn effect.  In light of these studies’ findings it is clear that there is an after effect of calorie burn following exercise as long as the exercise performed is at a high intensity or at least 70 percent of VO2 max. The easiest way to ensure you are working at a high enough intensity to reap the afterburn benefit is to work out vigorously enough that you cannot maintain a conversation.

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