Maximize Afterburn with These Cardio Workouts

Jeh Lekhi

August 31, 2022

Most people think they lose weight only when exercising. Though you need to exercise to burn calories, you can lose some extra calories without actually working hard for them. Also, this is what happens during the afterburn effect. You lose calories as a result of the workout you have already done. There are various ways to maximise the loss of calories from afterburn. Cardio exercises are an excellent way to maximise benefits from afterburn. The article looks into afterburn, how it takes place in your body, and the various cardio exercises that can help you maximise it.

Understanding Cardio Exercises

Cardiovascular exercises are physical movements that make your heart pump more. This increases your heart rate. Cardiovascular exercises are also commonly known as aerobic exercises. Cardiovascular exercises mainly rely on your ability to use the oxygen in your body. This is the primary factor that differentiates cardio from other forms of exercise. Three factors play a role in deciding how effectively you use the oxygen in your body. They are:

  • Genes: Your genes play a role in determining your cardio ability. Research has shown that genes can affect your cardio ability by 20 to 40 per cent.
  • Sex: There is a significant difference in the cardio capacity of males and females. Females have about 25 per cent lower cardio capacity than males. 
  • Age: Cardio ability generally tends to decrease with age. Adolescents are more capable of using oxygen than people in their sixties.

Exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, cycling and so on are the most common cardiovascular exercises. However, simple body movements like mopping and dusting that you routinely do in your house can also qualify as cardiovascular exercises.

Depending on your goal, endurance and current fitness level, your cardio routine and the time you spend doing cardio may differ from other people. For example, research suggests that 150 minutes of cardio workout per week is necessary for people of all ages, including the elderly. However, that is just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Moreover, you can split these 30 minutes into three sessions of 10 minutes each or two sessions of 15 minutes, depending on your endurance.

Understanding the Afterburn Effect

The term afterburn does not precisely explain the meaning. Turning to another name for the same phenomenon will make it easier to understand its exact meaning. The afterburn effect has a rather complicated name in the scientific community. It is called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). EPOC refers to the amount of oxygen your body needs after a workout to return to its pre-exercise stage.

Every physical movement triggers a variety of responses in your body. After a workout session, the metabolism of your body goes up. However, it does not return to  normal as soon as you finish your workout. Instead, your body takes time to return to its pre-exercise levels. As a result, you burn many calories over this period.

Some research suggests that the afterburn effect accounts for about 6 to 15% of calorie expenditure per workout. Let’s consider the number of calories burnt in an average workout session. Some estimates suggest that the calorie loss from afterburn can be as high as 18-45 calories per workout. That amounts to losing anywhere between 2 to 5 pounds of fat annually. And the best part is that you do not have to work out for the loss of this extra fat. It is just the added benefit of the workout you have already done.

When afterburn results after a session of cardio, various factors affect the amount of afterburn you generate. They have been listed below in brief:

  • Gender: There is a significant difference between the after-burn generated by males and females after a cardio session. As per a study, at 70% VO2 max, EPOC for males was 140.5 calories, and that for females was 121.5 calories. 
  • Structure of workout: Shorter bursts of high-intensity cardio workouts yield better after burn than a long continuous session.
  • Current fitness level: A lot also depends on where you stand in your fitness journey. If you are a newbie, your body takes more time to return to the pre-exercise state. As a result, afterburn lasts longer, and you lose more calories. However, your body becomes more efficient with time, and the number of calories lost from afterburn keeps declining.

The HealthifyMe Note

Afterburn is the calories you burn after a workout to bring the body back to its pre-exercise metabolic rate. It is scientifically termed as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). EPOC refers to the amount of oxygen your body needs after a workout to return to its pre-exercise stage.

4 Cardio Exercises to Maximise Afterburn

Various exercises can help you increase your afterburn. Of course, cardio is an  excellent way to get the benefits of the afterburn effect. You can do some simple cardio exercises that, if done in a structured way, can provide enormous benefits. We have mentioned some of these below:


Besides being an environment-friendly option, cycling can benefit your physical and mental health. Substantial research has proven that cycling can benefit your heart, legs and mental health. You can also modify your cycling routine to maximise afterburn from it. We recommend the following structure:

Time (in minutes)Activity
0-10Warm-up. Cycle at a comfortable pace on a flat road.
10-12Cycle standing up. Increase resistance and ride at about 75% effort.
12-14Cycle sitting down. Decrease resistance and ride at about 60% effort.
14-18Sprint. Sprint all out for 30 seconds. Then take a rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle four times.
18-19Recover. Cycle on a flat road at a comfortable pace.
19-22Alternate between cycling, standing up and sitting down. Keep cycling at about 75% effort.
22-24Sprint. Sprint all out for 30 seconds. Then take a rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle two times.
24-30Cool down: Cycle at a comfortable pace on a flat road.

Tabata Training

Tabata training is a form of HIIT. It engages your body in extremely demanding physical activity for short periods alternated with shorter rest periods. You can do it with one or two movements. However, taking a 10-second break between each set (repetition) is vital as the exercises are very tiring. Also, after each Tabata workout, ensure that you take a 2-3 minute break.

You do not need any equipment except a timer for it. We recommend the following structure:

Time (in minutes)Activity
0-4Warm-up. Do the following body movements:Torso Twist: Stand with your feet facing forward, as wide as your shoulders. Hold your arms by your sides, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Then, twist your torso from one side to the other, moving through your trunk.Straight Leg Kicks: Raise your left leg with your knee slightly bent. Use your right hand to touch the toe of the raised leg. Repeat the same for the other leg.Calf Raises: Start in a standing position. Then, lift up on your tiptoes. Hold for a while, and come back to a standing position.Leg Swings: Stand on one leg. Then, use a slow and controlled motion to swing the other leg in front and behind you. Finally, move back and forth through your complete range of motion.
4-8Do the following body movements in alteration for 20 seconds each:High knee jogs: Jog in one place bringing the knees to the hip level every time. Try to do as many repetitions as possible.Jumping jacks: Jump your feet out while circling your arms overhead. Jump back,  feet close and your arms on the side. Try to do as many repetitions as possible.
8-12Do the following body movements in alteration for 20 seconds each. Take a break between each set.Squat: Keep your feet at hip distance and squat. Try to do as many repetitions as possible.Plyo-lunges: Start with your feet together. Jump and lunge with the right leg forward and the left leg at the back. Jump and switch the legs in the air. Try to do as many repetitions as possible.
12-16Do the following body movements in alteration for 20 seconds each. Take a break between each set.Ski hops: With your feet together, jump as far to the right as possible. Now jump left as far as possible.Speed skaters: Start with your feet together. Jump right and land on your right foot, keeping the left one in the air. Touch the right foot with the left hand. Repeat the same for the left jump.
16-20Cool down. Give yourself a good stretch.

Sprint Intervals

Running in a structured way can help you maximise afterburn. We recommend the following structure:

Time (in minutes)Activity
0-5 Warmup. Jog at a comfortable pace.
5-6 Sprint for 30 seconds.
6-7 Recover. Take some rest and slowly jog.
7-21 Repeat the above two more times.


Swimming is another low-impact cardio workout that can improve your afterburn. We recommend the following structure:

Time (in minutes)Activity
5-7 Freestyle sprint.
7-8 Recover.
8-10Backstroke sprint.
10-11 Recover.
11-13Breaststroke sprint.
13-14 Recover.
14-16Freestyle sprint.
16-17 Recover.
17-20Cool down.

Other Benefits of Cardio

Maximising the afterburn is just one of the benefits of including cardio in your exercise regimen. There are various other benefits of cardio that you will experience once you start doing it regularly. The benefits are so huge that even most professional bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have a cardio day weekly in their workout routine. Some of these benefits have been mentioned below in brief:

Healthy for Your Heart

Cardio exercises help in effectively pumping blood to all muscles of the body. To do this, the heart rate increases and the heart has to work harder. When done regularly, cardio exercises can also play a key role in maximising good and bad cholesterol levels. In addition, it can also help in dealing with high blood pressure. Research suggests that just 40 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity 3 to 4 times a week can bring immense benefits to the heart.

Helpful in Dealing with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is any pain that lasts beyond the average healing time of tissues (typically 12 weeks). Some low-impact cardio exercises may also help you deal with chronic pain. 

A study has substantiated this claim. The results of the study showed improved physical function, enhanced psychological well-being and reduced severity of pain. Also, the study reported minimal adverse effects.  It would be best to structure your cardio workout wisely to reap the potential benefits.

Helps Sleep Well

Cardio exercises may also play a key role in improving sleep quality. A study showed that this was the case with its subjects. The most probable reason for this effect is that good sleep helps your muscles recover faster. However, it is necessary that you carefully set the time for your cardio workout. The study reported that a cardio workout just before sleep had exacerbated sleep quality. Hence, we recommend you do your cardio workout well before bedtime. 

Helps Lose Weight

This is perhaps the most obvious benefit of regular cardiovascular exercise. A cardio workout helps you burn calories. Various studies have shown this. You can combine your cardio routine with a proper diet if you want to lose weight faster. You can eat a balanced diet and altogether avoid foods containing saturated fats. It will help you keep your body in a calorie deficit, which will eventually shed excess weight.

Improves Mental Health

Cardio exercises can help in improving your mental health. Several research studies also show the same. Research also shows that aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and dancing reduce  feelings of anxiety and depression. Physical movement stimulates the brain to secrete oxytocin, a hormone associated with lowering stress.

Enhance Cognitive Function

A less obvious benefit of a  cardiovascular workout (in fact, of most forms of physical activity) is better cognitive functioning. The effect is both direct and indirect. You improve your memory as exercise reduces inflammation and promotes the health and growth of new blood vessels and cells in the brain. Indirectly, a cardiovascular workout enhances sleep quality and mental health, a lack of which is associated with poor cognitive health. Research has shown that regular exercise helps prevent neurodegeneration. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Cardio exercises are extremely beneficial. Besides helping you lose weight, they also help improve cognitive functioning, heart health and sleep quality. As a result, cardio exercises are a vital part of any fitness routine. Anybody can do these exercises. However, it is crucial to do them under the guidance of a fitness expert.


The afterburn effect is the calorie loss in your body after you finish your workout. It takes place as your body adjusts itself to the post-workout condition. The number of calories lost depends on several factors. You can do various exercises to maximise the effect of afterburn. A well-structured cardio routine can help you lose some extra weight with minimal effort.

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