EPOC—The Secret to Fat Destruction

TAGS: oxygen intake, training regimen, traditional cardio, cardio equipment, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, EPOC, jump rope, Prowlers, Mark Dugdale, lose fat, cardio, kettlebell

A couple months into 2015 and thousands bolstered their New Year’s Resolutions by doling out cash for gym memberships and trainers. Some even bought new training shoes. The problem, according to university research detailed in a recent Forbes article I read, only 8% succeed. That’s a massive failure rate. No wonder anti-depressants are considered the number two most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. If you set out to shed some pounds this year and are the 8% who succeeded, then pat yourself on the back and feel free to move on. This article is for the other 92%. Here’s my take on the best ways to incinerate fat.

Kiss Traditional Cardio Equipment Goodbye

I dream of owning my own gym someday. I know it’s not a lucrative business endeavor. I enjoy fantasizing about outfitting a warehouse with all my favorite pieces of equipment. The best part would be the section designated CARDIO. It would be void of ellipticals, treadmills, and stationary bikes. Why? I lean towards other equipment for achieving improved body composition. Case in point: the person whose training regimen consists exclusively of traditional cardio equipment and they physically look the exact same today as they did three years ago. Steady state cardio in particular is my least favorite.

EPOC Explained

Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)  is a measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity. A number of studies sought to measure this effect coupled with an increased metabolic rate. Some found measurable effects existed up to 38 hours post-exercise. Furthermore, a correlation existed between the form and intensity of the exercise and the amount in which EPOC was elevated.

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EPOC is fascinating to me, particularly in light of the way in which fat is expelled from the body.  Excess dietary consumption is stored as triglycerides in the body, therefore when trying to lose fat you’re essentially seeking to metabolize triglycerides.  Triglycerides are comprised of three atoms: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.  Triglyceride molecules must uncouple in order to break down, or in other words go through a process of oxidation. Researchers followed the path in which these atoms left the body and discovered 84% were converted and excreted as carbon dioxide via the lungs while the other 16% became H2O and were excreted as sweat or urine. Want to oxidize more fat?  Then you need to inhale more oxygen; thus my fascination with EPOC.

Ignite the Fire

What leads to a bunch of oxygen inhalation, carbon dioxide exhalation, and perspiration?  Enter my favorite “cardio” exercises:

Prowler

No, I’m not talking about that odd looking Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler convertible from the early 2000’s. Enter "prowler" into the new search bar on elitefts.com.  This thing provides a nasty quad pump, a ton of blood pumping, and heart rate elevation. I love it because it’s an eccentric-less exercise allowing for minimal joint stress and low central nervous system stimulation.

In terms of methodology, the load can be increased or decreased based on your specific goals. You can push forward or backwards. I personally tend to rotate between all four: forward, backward, slow/heavy loads and explosive/light loads. Any way you cut it, the best approach necessitates moving the Prowler 30 yards or so, rest for 60-90 seconds, and repeat. I prefer at least four rounds, but suggest adding rounds and/or cutting the 60-90 second rest break as your cardiovascular capacity increases. Gasping for air is a good thing — think fat oxidation and EPOC. Check out some of the lower cost dragging sleds if the Prowler is outside your budget.

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Kettlebells

Not something traditionally associated with bodybuilding; Kettlebells provide an excellent conditioning tool. I personally prefer the standard kettlebell swing.  Once again you can increase or decrease the load and or the time between rounds of swings to ramp up the intensity. I suggest starting with 10 swings followed by 30 second rest periods performed for a total of 10 rounds. My preference is a lighter weight kettlebell that you can swing with explosiveness for more reps and/or shorter rest breaks. Once again, this non-traditional cardiovascular exercise will get your heart rate up in a hurry. Kettlebells are inexpensive and fairly portable if your gym doesn’t make them available.  A heart-pounding workout can easily be done at home.

Jump Rope

I remember learning to skip rope in elementary school and thinking it was for girls. That all changed when I watched Rockyeven if I didn't pick up a jump rope again until 2009. Admittedly, I ascribed to the typical bodybuilder mentality for the first four years of my professional career: lift weights four days/week and perform steady state cardio on the off days. That changed in 2009 while preparing for the then 202-pound Olympia in which I placed fourth. Jumping rope played a major role in my cardio. I often rotated between kettlebell swings, jump rope, and 60 second rest periods. Weighted ropes and/or handles are an option, but really any standard jump rope will work. Jump 60 times as fast as possible, rest 30-60 seconds, and repeat 4-6 times. The number of jumps per round and the length of rest break can be altered to vary the intensity.

Conclusion

The beauty of the aforementioned three forms of conditioning/cardio—Prowler, Kettlebell, and Jump Rope—is that you work hard for a short period of time. This is why they work great as finishers to standard workouts without adding a ton of time to your training session. They ramp up EPOC which aids a favorable shift in fat oxidation for hours afterward. Just remember the greatest EPOC response correlates with the degree of the intensity in which you train. Go hard. Go intermittently. Go home in less than 10-15 minutes of non-traditional cardio!

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