Victor: EPOC is epic for weight loss

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photoBill Victor, Vancouver fitness consultant.

The human body is an amazing machine of unbelievable complexity. Even cells that don't have "brains" exhibit patterns and behaviors that make one wonder just how they know when, where and how to perform specific activities that allow our body to function most efficiently.

One of the common misunderstandings about working out is that our time actively performing aerobic-based movements -- whether it be running, walking, rowing, working out on an elliptical device or stair-climbing -- will play the greatest role in burning calories. The term "aerobic" is defined as the body's ability to meet the oxygen demands of the muscles and heart.

It's only natural to assume that because we are sweating and moving, our body is burning the maximal number of calories available, right? Wrong. One of the most important aspects of weight loss and increasing the metabolic demands on our body is to create the greatest "stress" (a good thing in this instance) we can during our training session. By doing so, the recovery stage of our day, defined as that period of time after our workout, will remain elevated. The term "homeostasis" (or "staying the same") involves the countless chemical, hormonal and physiologic and respiratory functions our body takes to achieve its pre-exercise condition.

Also referred to as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Demand, or EPOC, science has coined this recovery period to describe the time it takes for our body to return to its resting state and identified those exercises that place the greatest recovery demands for this process to occur.

Research has demonstrated that EPOC is the greatest as a result of resistance training and interval training. Interval training is best defined as an exercise of such great intensity that oxygen supply cannot meet muscular and cardiovascular demands.

One of the more popular methods of fitness training for weight loss is to capitalize on interval training through high-intensity interval training. Although technical in terms of its effect on the body, it is a terrific method of training to keep the body's metabolic demands elevated long after working out. In fact, contrary to popular belief, it is not running at intervals that keeps EPOC elevated the longest, but weight training.

Generally speaking, the prolonged elevation of the body's demands and increased metabolism after weight training can last as much as three hours once time in the gym is completed. It is important to note that weight-loss success is determined by how effectively we can raise our passive metabolism (versus counting our active exercise time as the weight-loss period) since the longer our passive metabolism is revved, the more calories we will expend.

It is for this reason that EPOC demands will always be the greatest when we lift heavier weights at lower repetitions as both the active demands placed on muscle to perform the work, and the body's demands to "repair" the muscle after the workout, will keep the body busy.

For those more faint at heart, it is important to keep in mind that lifting lighter weights at higher repetitions will still create an EPOC effect, though it won't keep the body working and recovering as long after the work-out.

Make the most of your time and efforts and keep your metabolism boosted post workout by the strategies you use for weight loss during your workout. Undoubtedly for weight-loss, EPOC is epic.

Bill Victor can be reached at victorfitsystems@gmail.com and online at theflashpoint.org and VictorFitnessSystems.com.