Moderate indoor cycling sessions can burn lots of calories. But did you know that increasing your exercise bike workout intensity results in calorie afterburn or further energy expenditure post-workout? There are several ways to help boost the calorie afterburn effect with exercise bike workouts.
Read on to learn about afterburn, its benefits, and how to apply this concept to your exercise bike routine.
What is the Calorie Afterburn Effect?
Exercise can trigger several bodily reactions like elevated heart rate, increased metabolism, and muscle repair. All these require oxygen and energy to work.
You’ve probably noticed that you take longer than usual to return to a pre-exercise state after a hard workout.
Even after exercising for several minutes, your heart rate remains slightly high, and you continue to sweat, too. These are clear indicators of the afterburn effect or what experts call post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Some also call this oxygen debt since afterburn refers to the oxygen needed by the body to return to a resting state.
In a 2002 study, researchers concluded that the afterburn effect is highest right after exercise. Elevated EPOC levels could persist for up to 38 hours.
Another research in 2006 also found that workout intensity has a more significant effect on EPOC. The more intense your workout, the higher your EPOC, and the more calories you burn.
An extended and intense workout session also increases EPOC. However, workout duration alone has no considerable impact on the afterburn effect.
What are the benefits of calorie afterburn?
The main advantage of inducing the afterburn effect is increased caloric expenditure.
It’s a huge plus for individuals aiming for effective and faster weight loss. The American Council on Exercise said EPOC boosts caloric burn by 6-15%. To visualise this, let’s use vigorous stationary cycling as an example.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, an 84-kg person (185 lbs) can burn around 441 calories with this exercise. With EPOC taken into account, this activity can burn up to 66 calories more post-workout.
Burning extra calories at rest can speed up your weight loss progress. Body measurement reductions will be faster, and physical changes will appear sooner, which boosts motivation.
People will likely continue with and stick to their weight loss programs when they see results immediately.
What are the downsides of calorie afterburn?
Boosting your calorie afterburn through exercise bike workouts or other physical activities is not exactly a magic pill for instant weight loss.
It is not an excuse to eat more, either. Even if you burn extra calories through EPOC, eating a healthy diet in controlled portions is still necessary.
Calorie afterburn only happens with intense exercises. A person with an average fitness level may find high-intensity activities too challenging.
Moreover, you can only perform high-intensity workouts and induce afterburn 2 to 3 days a week. After all, your body needs to recover after an intense activity.
So, while you can lose extra calories with afterburn, performing regular exercises is still your top energy output source.
How Can You Enhance Calorie Afterburn with Exercise Bike Workouts?
Indoor cycling is an excellent activity for boosting EPOC.
With the adjustable resistance levels of your exercise bike, you can easily switch to challenging workouts and continue burning calories after your session.
Cycling is also a combination of lower-body resistance training and cardio endurance work. If you add cycling speed, resistance, and duration into this combo, you can maximise the calories you burn during and after exercise.
Here are more specific ways to ensure you stimulate EPOC during your cycling session.
1. Do high-intensity interval training.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best technique to boost oxygen debt while allowing your body to recover.
We cannot sustain long periods of intense exercise. We’ll run out of energy and oxygen before we can complete one session. Moreover, continuous exercise at higher intensities will be too exhausting and risky.
With HIIT, you push your body to its limits for a short period, then shift to equally brief recovery periods before kicking into high gear again. If we apply HIIT to indoor cycling, we can describe it as biking at maximum effort, on and off, for less than 30 minutes.
The idea of this type of training is to encourage your body to use more oxygen and keep your metabolic rate up. After your workout, you continue to catch your breath (or draw in more oxygen). Meanwhile, your body continues torching calories to bring your state back to normal.
Researchers have also linked the impact of HIIT exercise bike workouts to calorie afterburn. For instance, in a 2011 study, vigorous cycling for 45 minutes led to significantly elevated EPOC for 14 hours.
A more recent study in 2023 also found a relation between cycling-based HIIT and overall reductions in body fat percentage and fat mass and improvement in fat-free mass.
You can check out this article for other benefits of HIIT cycling. Also, this step-by-step guide might help you incorporate interval training in your next cycling session.
2. Split up your cycling sessions.
One study in 1998 concluded that EPOC level is slightly higher when you divide your workouts into two sets rather than do one continuous session.
In this research, one set of participants had a 30-minute straight workout, while the other group had two 15-minute sessions with a 6-hour break in between. The researchers then measured EPOC 40 minutes after the 30-minute workout and 20 minutes after each 15-minute session.
From here, they found that the total EPOC rate from the split session was a little higher.
Currently, there are no further studies supporting this finding.
Still, I see no harm in splitting your exercise bike workouts to enhance calorie afterburn. It’s also safe to assume that shorter but intense workouts are generally better as these will give your body time to recharge.
You’ll likely perform at your best throughout shorter sessions than longer ones. This research finding also explains why HIIT workouts should be shorter and less frequent.
It’s pointless to tire yourself out to burn additional calories only to skip other workout days and allow your body to recover.
3. Use an air assault bike.
Boosting the calorie afterburn is all about increasing your workout intensity. This is why working out with an air bike is the best equipment for this goal.
An air bike has a large fan wheel that rotates as you pedal. Compared with other exercise bike types with fixed tension levels, an air bike has infinite resistance. That means you can continue increasing your cycling resistance as you pedal faster and harder.
Using an air bike for HIIT is also more seamless. Rather than fiddle with the resistance level button of your exercise bike, you only need to pedal harder to adjust your workout intensity.
In addition, air bikes have moveable handlebars, like an elliptical machine. This unique feature lets you exercise your upper and lower body muscles while pedalling. The more muscles you activate, the more calories you burn.
Final Words on Enhancing Calorie Afterburn with Exercise Bikes
For those aiming to lose weight, every calorie counts. So, the thought of losing extra calories from afterburn after a high-intensity exercise bike workout is very appealing.
However, keep in mind that EPOC happens by increasing your workout intensity. This shift may be too drastic for beginners and inexperienced cyclists. Calorie afterburn does not lead to instant weight loss, either.
To best apply this concept, take the gradual route. Start with cycling workouts that match your fitness capacity. Once you’ve gained enough stamina, give HIIT cycling a go.
Split it into shorter sessions, if you like, to ensure a 100% workout performance throughout. Then, consider getting an air bike to activate several muscles and burn even more calories. And don’t forget to eat healthily as well.
More Questions About Calorie Burn
1. How long does calorie afterburn last?
There is no definite duration for calorie afterburn, but a safe estimate would be a few hours to 48 hours. A 2003 report correlated afterburn duration to a person’s fitness level. The fitter the person, the faster the body can return to normal, shortening the afterburn effect. Regardless of your fitness level, this finding only emphasises that you should not do intense workouts back-to-back as recovery time varies from person to person.
2. How can I maximise calorie burn on a stationary bike?
You can optimise your exercise bike sessions by maintaining the proper cycling form, adjusting exercise intensity and speed, and practising workout diversity. You should also work within your heart rate zone and observe a regular fitness routine.
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