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How To Get The Afterburn Effect

When most people think of losing weight and toning up, they tend to think of doing endless cardio and going on frustratingly strict diets. Where diet is indeed an important factor, these people usually focus on quantity of exercise, rather than the quality. If I told you that you could spend half the amount of time on the treadmill yet lose weight even faster, what would you say? Good news is, it can be done!

This is where the afterburn effect comes into play. (To put it simply, this is when your body continues to burn off calories at a higher rate after an exercise is finished) If you know how to get the afterburn effect correctly, you can get your body to burn off huge amounts of calories long AFTER you have finished your workout. This effect can last anywhere from 15 minutes, to a full 48 hours.

If you you are new to this exercise technique, please read What is the Afterburn Effect? first.

Exercise Without Oxygen – The Anaerobic Way


You should know that nearly all types of exercise will generate some form of afterburn effect, even if it lasts only a few minutes. However, in order to get the most out of this post-exercise calorie burn effect, a certain kind of exercise is required. This type of exercise is known as high intensity interval training (HIIT), which is basically very intense exercise carried out in sets of short bursts, with small rest intervals.

This high intensity interval exercise is generally anaerobic exercise (exercise without air) if done properly. Boxers and sprinters in particular train heavily in this kind of exercise, as they need to pump out a huge amount of movement in a very small amount of time, and without breathing. Have you ever seen a boxer or sprinter with a belly? I can’t say that I have..

Whenever you perform anaerobic exercise, your body builds up what is known as an ‘oxygen debt‘.  This basically means that your body needs to make up for the oxygen it didn’t get during the exercise. Think of any time you have sprinted your hardest and been forced to catch your breath afterwards.  Your body does this to:

  • Balance out hormone levels back to normal
  • Replenish your energy
  • Oxidise the lactic acid in your bloodstream, which builds up during the exercise

Overall, your body is taking in more oxygen than usual so that it can go back to it’s normal resting state. While you are repaying this ‘oxygen debt’ , your body is working in overdrive, which effectively increases your rate of calorie burning for as long as it lasts. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.

Afterburn Effect Workout Exercises

Remember that how to get the afterburn effect is by doing high intensity interval workouts. This is best done with appropriate forms of cardio such as sprinting or swimming, but can also can be applied to weight lifting. If you were to perform all your workouts this way, you can build up your oxygen debt in such a way that causes the afterburn effect to continue for up to 48 hours.

Weight Lifting:

When it comes to getting the afterburn effect from weight lifting, the intensity of the workouts are far more important than the duration. One popular way to increase the intensity of your weight training is by doing the following:

  • Lift heavier weights so that you hit your muscle fail point at 6 – 12 reps
  • Perform compound workouts (workouts that work on multiple muscle groups)
  • Do supersets (two or more different exercises that are performed back-to-back, with no rest in between)

Example of a superset workout for the chest:

Example of Superset Workout for the Chest

Doing your weight training in this way will rise your heart rate substantially more and for longer, and will also generate a larger oxygen debt. Heavy lifting in supersets also puts a lot more strain on the muscles, making your body work harder to repair the muscle tissue. These things combined will ensure that your metabolism (calorie burn rate) is kept higher for longer.

Cardio Workouts:

Cardio workouts (along with diet) have always been key to any weight loss program, but jogging for hours and hours per week gets extremely boring, very quickly. Here’s some good news; you can scrap those hour long jogging sessions in favour of much shorter sessions of high intensity interval training. Many forms of cardio can be turned into HIIT so long as you apply the following method:

  • Perform the cardio workout in a short burst at your maximum pace for 20-30 seconds
  • Take a short rest after one burst in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio
  • Repeat the first two steps for the desired amount of time

Women Running on Treadmills

Don’t forget that it is important to perform the cardio workout as anaerobic (without air) by being high intensity. This is to starve the body of oxygen, building up an oxygen debt which will force your body to work in overdrive once the workout is complete. Remember, if your body is still working hard to go back to normal, you are still burning calories at an accelerated rate.

Prepare Your Body

The exercise techniques mentioned in this article are incredibly stressful on the body, therefore you absolutely must prepare your body in advance. This is vitally important. DO NOT jump straight into high intensity interval training as it will do more harm than good.

A good way to get your body ready for HIIT is to do 2 weeks to 1 month of regular exercise. Make sure to do a mix of weight training and cardio and that you are increasing the amount of weight, reps and time spent on cardio workouts.  Do this and you will be better prepared, although it will feel tough at first. Stick with it though and you will soon see the drastic changes and benefits.

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39 Responses to “How To Get The Afterburn Effect”

  1. Jeff Rubin says:

    Hi Karl :I’ve been loosley following Mike Chang’s version of Afterburn Training with weights on my own. I’ve lost 28 lbs, in 11 weeks, doing this, and loosely following the Zone diet. I’ve been doing the Afterburn training on an empty stomach, thinking it will exhaust my muscles’ glycogen storeage and lead to fat burning; but I’m not sure if I should be doing it on an empty stomach to maximize FAT BURNING, or should I have either a pre-workout Zone bar, or a protein/good carb/ good fat snack????
    I can’t afford Mike’s program, so I am asking a little help from YOU to get me back to good health. I am still an obese 2621bs, but I’ve been working out with weights for many years and want to preserve any muscle I worked so hard for.
    I would appreciate your help on this matter – thanks, and take care – Jeff rubin

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      My apologies for the very late reply, I have been away for a long time and have been unable to manage this site.

      I would seriously not recommend doing any exercise on an empty stomach. This will do nothing more than cause muscle fatigue. You should be eating a moderate amount of carbohydrate foods 2+ hours before a workout.

      Carbs can be found in fruits and vegetables, bread, grain based cereals and other grains, milk and dairy products. You need carbs because they are what give your body fuel/energy.

      Eat protein AFTER your workout to repair muscle tissue.

      I see no reason why you should stop doing weights, weight training actually boosts your metabolism. Just make sure to add high intensity interval training to your routine.

      Sprinting is one option, but you can also try a tabata workout.

      I have put together a load of afterburn inducing cardio and weight training exercises, you should check them out.

      Again I apologize for the super-late reply, and I hope you are doing well with your weight loss!

  2. Sang says:

    so is it to not breathe while sprinting for 20-30 sec ??

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      When you sprint flat-out your breath will naturally be reduced. You should not attempt to hold your breath, just breathe as best you can.

  3. shaurya says:

    karl peach u r doing an excellent work plz keep it up
    i need to prepare my body for afterburn training so can u plz suggest me some exercise,diet,workout which will prepare my body for afterburn training

    • shaurya says:

      and how can i check that my body is prepared for afterburn training and how much time will it take

      • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

        The only way is to “test the water”, so to speak. Try a tabata workout and see how your body responds to it. Only do as much as you feel comfortable with so you don’t injure yourself. How long it takes will depend on your current fitness level, and how much time and effort you put into improving it! Good luck!

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      Thanks shaurya! I think the best way to start with afterburn training would be with tabata training as it doesn’t require any equipment. You can do it in your living room, and it only takes 4 minutes. As for diet, you should be eating high carb foods at least 2 hours before a workout, and then high protein foods 2+ hours after in order to refuel your muscles. I wrote a short article about afterburn diet that you should check out.

  4. shaurya says:

    sir 1 more question does afterburn exercise works for our belly fat only or it also help us to make muscles,biceps,chest,triceps.this is very important question for me because im slim and lean just wants to make muscle

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      Afterburn effect training is mainly used to burn off fat (by boosting your metabolism). However, there are some weight training methods that are good for both losing weight, and packing on muscle. One particular method is known as “compound lifting“. I have compiled together a bunch of great instructional videos for weight training here. There are videos for each body part. Hope it helps!

  5. Adam Raw says:

    Great article but what you said about exercise on an empty stomach is misleading. Exercising in this way is extremely beneficial if done correctly. Of course if it is midday then to be on an empty stomach would mean to have not eaten yet, which is an issue. What I mean is a fast workout and I would like you to research it if you do have time. It would mean to go to bed then get up around 4am and workout, then return home and eat. Bodybuilders do this (from experience) to burn calories and if u take 10g of BCAAs you will not have muscle atrophy but take advantage of the early morning testosterone boost to build muscle which is thermogenic and will also help with additional weight loss.

    Here is a link so u can start your research.

    PS. im not claiming to know everything but if you are going to give advice you need to know what you are talking about, especially when it comes to such a life impacting topic. But hey, if I am wrong I will gladly change the way I train and the way I train others. But this way is proven and been done for decades. Anyways, cheers and happy Easter

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      Well that was an interesting read, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m always happy to learn and apply new exercise methods. The methods that I go over in this article are typical for afterburn training specifically, but I am intrigued as to how fasted training would add to it.

      I will definitely do more research on fasted training and will update this article (or write a new one) once I understand it better.

      Happy Easter buddy, and thanks!

  6. Trey says:

    Could swimming laps for 20-30 seconds be a replacement for sprinting? I just think it would be a little more enjoyable for my preference.

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      I will always advise people to do exercise that they enjoy over the most efficient. Saying that, swimming works the entire body hard, making it very intense and absolutely great for gaining an afterburn effect. In fact, swimming quick laps is better than sprinting.

  7. HARSHAL says:

    I do most of the running and push ups and abs etc. before lifting weights as warm up exercises.
    can you tell me which one will be effective way for after burn workout
    Before weightlifting or after weightlifting.??

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      Well there’s no definite answer, but generally you probably want to do cardio AFTER weightlifting. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why, which you can find out about here. Oh and ab workouts are essentially strength training, so you can do those as part of or after your weights session.

      I would also suggest to just do stretches first. Then weights. Then finish off with cardio.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Johnny says:

    How Many Sets Do I Have To Do For Chest And Biceps
    Afterburn Workout ?

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      That depends on your current fitness level. The best thing to do is test for yourself. See how many sets you can do and how you feel the next day. Start off small to get a feel for it, and increase the number of sets as needed. If I was pressed to give an actual number, I would say to aim for about 4-6 sets.

      Edit: One last thing I should mention. If you can do 6 sets easily you should increase the weights rather than the amount of sets.

  9. Sofia says:

    Hi! I’m just thinking that how many times do I have to repeat the two steps of cardio workout… Is it like 5 times or more like 10 times?

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      Hey Sofia! That’s a tricky question to answer fully as it depends largely on how fit you currently are. I would say to aim for about 5 sets and see how you feel after. If you are absolutely exhausted by this point, you’ve probably done plenty. If you still feel comfortable, try a little more.

      You may even find that 5 is too much. Just do what feels comfortable, then do that little bit more!

  10. James says:

    Hi Karl,
    I am 17 and I have been trying to lose weight and gain muscle. I am 244 lbs as of now and 6 feet tall. I have a thick body type and I would like to burn off most of my thigh and belly fat and replace it with toned muscle.

    For the past month, I have been running at a steady pace for 3-4 miles a day with upper body workouts afterwards; and I am wondering if this afterburn HIIT workout style would be better for me. I have lost 20 lbs doing the workouts I have been doing for this last month but most of that (I believe) is water weight. I also would like to know if this afterburn HIIT workout style will help me burn fat faster. If you could reply to me as soon as possible, that would be fantastic! I am trying to tone up before school starts in a month.

    Thank you,

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      Hey James! So I wrote a fairly long reply to your comment a few days ago, and just as I was finishing my power was cut due to a lightning strike. I’ve been very busy since then and only just had chance to reply, my apologies! Anyway..

      Running is always a good thing to work on, as it increases your stamina. However it’s obviously low intensity exercise which doesn’t fully utilize the afterburn effect. (Losing 20lbs in a month is great by the way! Good job!).

      My suggestion would be to test the waters. Try out a HIIT routine for 2-4 weeks to see if there’s an improvement. I notice that you specifically do upper body workouts, rather than upper and lower. Did you know that your biggest muscles are in your legs? And that by working bigger muscles your body requires more repair time (calories)?

      In all honesty, I’m a lazy git and I hate cardio. Worst thing ever. But this lead me to find out that I can lose loads of weight (and get bulky) just by doing weight training. HOWEVER! If you do some HIIT cardio (tabata workouts are fantastic) along with full body weight training, I think you will see some great results.

      I use this method annually to remove my beer gut, and I end up losing a tonne (not literally) of weight and also gaining muscle. Everyone is different of course, but I recommend you at least try it.

      To directly answer your questions;

      1. Being bigger is advantageous for the triggering an afterburn effect. Your size will mean that your body has more muscle tissue to repair than a shorter, less built person would. You could easily turn whatever mass you have into some serious muscle. I recommend afterburn weight training in particular for you.

      2. The HIIT method has already been proven by actual science to increase your post exercise calorie burn rate.

      Here are some more links you might find useful:

      Tabata workouts – The first 2 are tabata (#1 is my personal favourite).
      Afterburn Weight training – A selection of my favourite weight training exercises. Most of them require minimal equipment (like dumbbells)

      I would like to add that if you decide to take the weight training route, you may find that the scales say you are gaining weight even though you are looking healthier. This is normal. Muscle tissue is proportionally heavier than fat.

      I hope this helps and you get the results you want! But if not, keep trying! You’re already doing great by the sounds of it. Sorry again for the delayed response! Burn on!

  11. James says:

    I would also like to know how you find out if you have triggered the afterburn effect.

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      This almost had me stumped, but then I realized how simple it is.

      The afterburn effect is triggered by both regular exercise and HIIT. However, it has been scientifically proven that HIIT greatly increases this effect.

      So how can you tell if you triggered the afterburn effect? Well you do with all exercise. HIIT merely boosts this effect beyond the norm!

  12. Phil says:

    Hi Karl,

    I was wondering exactly how long should i warm up for, how long should the short burst be with weight training and how long should i have a brief rest and should i repeat this?

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      Hey there Phil, and welcome!

      5 – 10 minutes will be plenty enough for warm up. Make sure to warm up the entire body with stretches and finish with a light jog on the spot.

      With weight training it depends on the workout you are performing. I personally always do either super-sets or a full body workout

      An example of a super-set:

      10 reps bicep curls
      NO REST
      10 reps tricep extensions
      Followed by 20-30 seconds rest, and repeat.
      Repeat 3-5 times. If you can get to set 5 too easily, increase the weight.

      The fully body workout link above explains everything for that particular method.

      Hope this helps! Get burning!

      • Phil says:

        Thanks for the reply,
        Last question how many days should i do the tabata workout in a week ?

        • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

          No problem!

          You could do a tabata workout everyday of the week if you wanted. That does get seriously dull though, so it might be better to mix it up. Or at least try different tabata workouts. 3-5 times a week is usual for me though.

          • Phil says:

            LOL another question but if the tabata workout gets easier can i change the exercise part from 20 secs to 30 secs and keep the rest at 10 secs ?

          • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

            Haha question away good sir! And it’s a very good question.

            Increasing the time is definitely what you want to be doing. You could also add resistance using weights for applicable exercises, such as just holding barbells in your hands when doing high knees. It would also be a good idea to mix up the exercises you do in the workout.

            You might want to slightly to increase the rest time by the way. The preferred ratio is 2/1, so 30 seconds of exercise would mean 15 seconds rest.

  13. Joseph Hayek says:

    Hi James how do you make the afterburn effect last longer?

  14. James says:

    Hi again! Thank you for the information! I just wanted to confirm if this is a good daily routine:
    -The full body workout (As linked in Phil’s response)
    -A tabata workout (As linked in my response)
    -Highly intense interval sprinting (A tabata workout except with sprinting in all of the intervals)
    All in all this would take around a half an hour and make me very tired by the end of it.
    Also, I am having trouble preforming all of my cardio in the anaerobic style. I find that if I don’t breathe I get extremely tired very quickly, is that supposed to happen? Is it really that important to do the cardio without breathing?

    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      That routine sounds very similar to mine. The only difference is that I mix up the sprinting (on a treadmill) with this Wii boxing game I have. Makes working out a little less tedious. So yes, that is a perfectly fine routine.

      As for the anaerobic style; you’re not meant to purposely stop breathing. You absolutely can and should breathe. The only difference is that the intensity of anaerobic exercise will shorten/reduce your breaths. Which is why you should be performing such workouts in intervals.

      If you have any further questions you might find it easier to leave a message on the facebook page.

  15. Saagar says:

    Hi Karl,
    I am very intrigued by the afterburn effect and how it loses body fat. I just have a couple of questions to maximize the amount of the afterburn effect. How often in a week or day should I exercise and for how long (I am 18 years old and way out of shape by the way). Or are there any specific exercises for starters? Lastly, I am a vegetarian so do you have any suggestions on what my diet should look like before and after working out as I do not eat any meat which is a big source of protein. Or what can replace meat. Sorry if that was to many questions but thanks for your time!


    • Karl Peach Karl Peach says:

      Hey there Saagar! Glad to gear you’ve taken an interest in this training method.

      There is no definitive amount of time that you should be doing this type of exercise, however a pretty solid guideline would be 4-6 days a week (you should have 1 rest day). I would recommend this regardless of your current fitness level.

      You should first spend a week or 2 just doing some basic cardio (jogging, swimming etc) in preparation.

      When you start afterburn effect exercises, you will want to take it very easy at first. You can still employ the same exercises suggested on this site, but seriously reduce the amount of reps, time and weight that you do. I call this ‘testing the water’.

      For the first week (maybe even 2), you will want to just get a feel for the exercises, rather than putting your all into them. You can then slowly build up over the next 3-6 weeks (less or more, you need to judge yourself).

      Never try to jump into the deep end with exercise.

      Unfortunately I am not a dietitian and I focus my own diets around meat. However, the main use of protein in a diet is to help restore muscle tissue when trying to build your muscles. As you are aiming to lose weight, being a vegetarian isn’t too much of a problem. There are however some vegetarian foods that you can get a decent amount of protein from. These are:

      • Green peas
      • Quinoa
      • Kidney beans
      • Chickpeas
      • Tofu
      • Seitan – Apprently very popular

      There are more but those are perhaps the best (more protein per portions).

      And please, ask away. I made this website specifically to help people, so I’m always happy to answer questions.

      I hope all this helps you on your way buddy. Good luck!

  16. fernando says:

    Hey karl excellent program but whats the best workout to burn fat belly?? And how do you know youre doing it correctly, i mean how does it feel when youve done it??

    • Workout twice a day for 30 intense minutes. 30mins compound resistance training until you can go 30mins straight supersets of compound moves, 5mins x 6 sprints on pick a cardio machine until you can go 15 and 15. Promise your stomach will vanish.
      once you get up to 1 hr lifting and 1 hr cardio. You can eat damn near anything you want!!!

      Gain all the benes of the afterburn effect. afterburn is about keeping the gyroscope spinning..

  17. Sahar says:

    For maximize the afterburn effect how many sets i have to do every day ?

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