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Acronym check: How EPOC can help your workout

The question: I have heard that "EPOC" is important for weight loss. Can you explain what that is and why I should care?

The answer: EPOC stands for "excess post-exercise oxygen consumption," or in English, the amount of energy, or calories, needed to return your body to its resting state postworkout. Your body uses energy to replenish fuel stores, balance hormones and repair cellular damage. In essence, you're able to continue burning calories even after your workout is complete.

Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico compares EPOC to sorting out blender ingredients. Separating out two blender ingredients would take minimal work; sorting 10 ingredients would be more taxing. Think of the blender ingredients like the intensity of your workout. The more ingredients, or the higher the intensity, the more energy that is used in the process of returning to homeostasis. Basically, the more intense the workout, the higher the EPOC and the calorie-burn.

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So how can you increase your EPOC? Do one to two interval cardio sessions per week and strength-train. People often prioritize steady-state cardio because it can, depending on the intensity, burn more calories then weights, but weights usually result in a higher EPOC. Plus, strength-training changes your body's shape and makes you stronger and less susceptible to injury.

Trainer's tip: Intervals aren't just for advanced exercisers. If you are just starting out, a quick walk might be your "hard" interval. A leisurely walk might be your "regular" interval. To increase your EPOC, the trick is to mix up your intensity during cardio. Try doing a 10-minute warm-up followed by five sets of 30 seconds easy, 20 seconds moderate and 10 seconds hard. Recover for five minutes, then repeat the interval set before cooling down for 10 minutes.

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