EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption) refers to the oxygen you need to consume after a workout in order to bring your body back to homeostasis. It’s how exercise scientists measure the intensity of a workout. While working out, oxygen is used to fuel activity and once the activity is over, oxygen stores need to be replenished. The level of training intensity is a direct correlation of the amount of oxygen that will be required to bring the body back to normal. The higher the intensity, the more oxygen required for the body to fully recover.
The concept of EPOC shows the importance of breathing for recovery. Our breathing techniques directly affect how much oxygen we consume with each breath. For example, people who are shallow breathers dump a lot of carbon dioxide but don’t bring much oxygen in. We want to make sure that we get the most oxygen in with each breath to allow our body to return to homeostasis post-workout.
The EPOC Effect & Maximizing Training
EPOC is also known as the after burn effect. The more intense your workout, the bigger the oxygen deficit, and the harder your body has to work to bring itself back into balance. This requires calories. So the more oxygen you deplete during a workout, the more calories your body is going to need to use to get back to normal. Research shows that HIIT and high intensity strength training result in a greater EPOC effect than steady training. EPOC is influenced by the intensity of exercise, not the duration.
Breathing Technique Tips
Not sure how to enhance your breathing and oxygen intake? Brian Mackenzie has some tips for you. Try this breathing technique: 1 second inhale, 4 second breath hold, 2 second exhale. This ratio (1:4:2) can be adjusted as needed. For instance, as you work your way up do a 5 second inhale, 20 second breath hold, and 10 second exhale. Doing this technique shouldn’t be stressful, as the goal is to cause down regulation (lower heart rate and higher oxygen consumption), but to get the most benefit, try to increase the ratio as high as you comfortably can. As the technique becomes easier, continue to increase duration.
In this video, Brian Mackenzie explains the importance of breathing for recovery and demonstrates his favorite breathing technique for maximum oxygen consumption.