EPOC: Cycling Afterburn… Should We Really Care?

Two questions for you.

  • Do you care about the number of calories you expend due while cycling?
  • Have you heard a coach or trainer promote the benefits of cardiovascular exercise afterburn?

If you answered YES to either of these questions, please read on!

EPOC stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption and is commonly referred to as exercise afterburn. The typical reference during a fitness session is to inform you that you will be burning extra calories due to exercise for hours after you stop! How flipping cool is that?!?!

And guess what? EPOC is a real thing! Data from numerous studies demonstrate that oxygen consumption is greater during rest after exercise than before exercise. The reason for the larger cost is that the body is resetting, restoring and adapting in response to the training load. In short you are burning more calories post activity. EPOC is greatest immediately after exercise and following high intensity training.

But this is where the whoo-hoo (not Wahoo) about EPOC ends. The same research that shows EPOC exists also reveals that it is an extremely small portion of your total calorie burn in a day. So, the exciting claims from your coach or trainer about exercise afterburn should unfortunately be ignored.

The number of extra calories burned is only about 6-15% of the energy expended during the exercise session, does not consider resting metabolic rate, and the response varies dramatically between individuals. It depends on sex, age, muscle mass, fitness level, nutrition, sleep, and stress.

Here is an example based upon previous studies to illustrate the actual calories count.

woman, 30 years, trains 6 hours per week

resting metabolic rate = 1680 kcal/day = 70 kcal/hour

example 1

EXERCISE CALORIES = 350 kcal for 60 minutes moderate intensity cycling



EPOC CALORIES = 5 kcal (75-70)

example 2

EXERCISE CALORIES = 275 kcal for 30 minutes high intensity plyometric intervals



EPOC CALORIES = 20 kcal (90-70)

The significant energy expenditure and therefore calorie burn is due to the exercise sessions, not the excess post-exercise expenditure. This example demonstrates that you could consume an additional 10 raisins or 1 triscuit cracker or .75 ounce of wine.

Should we really care about EPOC? Nah. Instead, we can focus on the numerous benefits of cycling aside from a few extra calories afterward.


Beau et al. EPOC comparison between isocaloric bouts of steady-state aerobic, intermittent aerobic, and resistance training. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 86, (2015): 190–195.

Jung et al. Effect of interval exercise versus continuous exercise on excess post- exercise oxygen consumption during energy-homogenized exercise on a cycle ergometer. J Exercise Nutrition Biochemistry 23, (2019): 45-50.

Laforgia et al. Comparison of energy expenditure elevations after submaximal and supramaximal running. J Applied Physiology 82, (1997): 661-666.

Laforgia, et al. Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Sports Sciences 24, (2006): 1247-1264.

Mann et al. Effect of exercise intensity on post‐exercise oxygen consumption and heart rate recovery. European J Applied Physiology 114, (2014): 1809-1820.

Tucker et al. Excess postexercise oxygen consumption after high-intensity and sprint interval exercise, and continuous steady-state exercise. J Strength Conditioning Research 30, (2016): 3090-3097.


Well thanks, I was hoping to find an excuse to eat a few more cookies…


Isn’t EPOC what Garmin uses to underpin all their training stats?

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Say what you want Doc but imma still have the post workout scone, cake, donut, pizza etc etc

Seriously though, thanks for the update. I never thought that the amount of afterburn calories would amount to much either and now we’ve got some research to prove it. Also seriously, imma still enjoy a post workout treat (at least after a group ride).


Sorry @TrapMeSuf - but cookies give me a burst of serotonin which is well worth the calories!!!


YAY @Glen.Coutts ! Me too!!! And you named many of my favorites!


Wahooligans- Do you have any GO TO post ride recovery foods or beverages? Do you try to follow any macro-nutrient ratios or grams? Do you try to eat within a certain time frame of finishing your training sessions?

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In all serious seriousness I do try to get a cup of chocolate milk in within the first 15 minutes. Never really paid much attention to macronutrients. But I’m just a regular guy who likes to do longish rides, often solo, and don’t really race either in or outdoors.


Most of my training is for fun so most of my recovery is also for fun.

I have a diluted sports drink while training and there’s often some left over when I’m done, so I’ll drink the rest of that.

Then I like to eat a couple of ölkorv (beer sausage? Like a salami stick, I suppose) - fats, salts and proteins :grinning: - and drink some milk straight from the fridge.

I’m very much a “eat what I want, when I want” type of person, so I don’t really worry about details like macronutrients. I try to maintain a healthy balance but I imagine I tend to lean slightly towards the “bad” side :grinning:


I ride most of my indoor ride just after lunch, so tea or coffee and cookies after training is generally the way to go. Outside rides I usually do as early as possible, so post-ride food is often a late (second) breakfast. Scrambled eggs on home-made sourdough is my favourite.

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I used to chug a huge chocolate milk down post ride. In NZ we get an utterly glorious one by Lewis Rd Creamery…which is gorgeous organic full fat with melted in milk chocolate form a local chocolate company. Delicious.

But more recently, I caramalise onions with tomato and some brocolli and then break in a couple of eggs and some salt. And eat that thrown over a basic green leafy salad. Hits the spot SOOOOOO well.


udderly glorious :wink:


@coach.jinger.g When I work out in the AM I usually just have my oatmeal ready to go and add all sorts of berries, spices, walnuts and apple for some post workout recovery. Otherwise I might have a bar or shake if I don’t have a meal ready. I don’t focus on macros. I definitely try to eat quickly after working out.

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@Glen.Coutts Chocolate milk is actually one of the best post-training recovery drinks! Excellent ratio of protein-fat-carbs!

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@titanicus There is definitely benefit in listening to your body! And it sounds like you have a realistic view of a healthy balance-

@DameLisa WOW!!! That sounds delicious! I am totally going to try it out!

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@TrapMeSuf You cannot go wrong with eggs and sourdough- I also throw on a piece of cheese and some spinach! Yummy!

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I am with you @JSampson! After my morning run I eat almost the same oatmeal combo but with almonds in place of walnuts.

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Better book your ticket to New Zealand then. Bring your gravel bike! :grin::ok_hand:


I’m on a reduced calorie plan, so I either take a SwissRX recovery drink (210 cal) or a kale/fruit/protein smoothie (480 cal) after a long or hard ride. After a short or easy ride, I might just have a piece of fruit. But … if I don’t fuel properly while on the bike, my appetite goes rogue and I can graze for hours afterwards, wrecking that day’s diet numbers.

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