This Is How Your Body Burns Energy After Working Out

12 October, 2020
Did you know that your body can burn energy after a workout? Here you'll learn why this happens and what kind of exercises burn the most energy after you've finished doing them.

Although many might not know it, the body burns energy after working out. Especially when doing strength or interval exercises, muscles increase their caloric expenditure for a few hours after the activity ends.

But not all types of sports have a similar energy expenditure. It’s therefore important to know both the exercises that burn the most calories and those that increase basal energy expenditure when you’re at rest.

Here’s how much energy your body burns after working out.

Your body burns little energy after an aerobic workout

Endurance sports are characterized by low energy expenditure even if sustained for long periods of time. In this type of exercise, fat oxidation prevails over the use of carbohydrates as the main energy source.

With these are exercises you can achieve a calorie deficit, but only from long training sessions. However, improper nutrition can lead to muscle catabolism as a result of endurance activities for a sustained period of time.

To avoid this, which compromises resting energy expenditure, it’s essential to optimize protein intake. A study published by the PLoS One journal demonstrates that protein requirements are higher in endurance athletes to guarantee a positive nitrogen balance.

Nevertheless, the body is able to continue burning energy after the workout is over. This is because restoration of the hormonal system and DNA repair are processes that need the energy to take place.

Said energy consumption is greater the more intense the physical activity. For this reason, it’s more significant in anaerobic sports.

Three women doing aerobic training.

Anaerobic workouts increase basal metabolic rate

Anaerobic workouts influence hormonal processes by increasing muscular stress and mechanical tension. Strength exercises increase testosterone production, according to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Thus, doing intense squats and deadlifts with heavy weights increases anabolic hormone secretion, which affects energy expenditure after training.

In general, anaerobic exercises have a maximum strength component. Developing large amounts of mechanical stress increases the metabolic stress athletes are subjected to. Hormonal and nutritional compensations are higher and therefore, compared to aerobic sports, the energy expenditure after a workout session increases.

Building strength is usually an effective way to lose weight. In fact, the energy balance starts to “lean” more towards energy expenditure for two reasons: the caloric demand of the activity itself and that after the end of the activity.

In any case, it’s necessary to complement exercise with a proper diet in order to observe medium-term results in body composition.

Crossfit session with kettlebells so that the body burns energy after working out.

Not all exercises burn the same energy after training

As we’ve mentioned before, compared to endurance sports, anaerobic and strength exercises increase caloric expenditure after activity. This is because hormonal and metabolic adaptations are much greater. 

As the mechanical stress exerted increases, the production of anabolic hormones also increases. These have a direct impact on building muscle mass and energy requirements.

Endurance workouts demand more energy, especially if you’re doing them for several hours at a time. However, the energy expenditure per hour is significantly lower and so is the amount of energy that the body burns once the workout is over.

If your goal is losing weight, you could create your own aerobic and anaerobic training program, but you must pay attention to your diet as well. If calorie intake exceeds calorie expenditure, it’ll be impossible to reduce your body fat percentage. 

  • Kato H., Suzuki K., Bannai M., Moore DN., Protein requirements are elevated in endurance athletes after exercise as determined by the indicator amino acid oxidation method. PLoSS One, 2016.
  • Barnes MJ., Miller A., Reeve D., Stewart RJC., Acute neuromuscular and endocrine responses to two different compound exercises: squat vs deadlift. J Stregth Cond Res, 2019. 33 (9): 2381-2387.