Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) vs High Intensity Interval Training (HITT)

By: Rusty Traufee, Pro-Shop Diaries (Part 3)
Magazine 12 #3

"We brought our ummmm... friend from school," Grant begins, his brother nodding in agreement. He’ll be coming inside in a minute. He’’s doing some kind of walking lunge exercise to warm up for his treadmill workout.

"He’s a second-year Exercise Management student, David adds. He is an attendant in the weight room at school and has read just enough to be dangerous. Some of the stuff he tells people is just ridiculous."

Grant jumps in: "When we first met him we would try to share some of the things you taught us with him, but he would just laugh, claim our progress was just due to superior genetics, and quote nonsense from his textbooks."

Both brothers glance back towards the door in unison as their school-mate approaches and say, "We need you to do an intervention!"

THE CONFRONTATION

"So this is the gym you guys bragged about?" the pudgy-faced doughy-bodied kid says while wiping his nose with the back of his hand. Kind of retro. So where are the balance discs?"

I disliked him immediately.

"The what?" I barked out in disbelief.

"You know... air-filled discs about the size of a pizza, used for stabilization work."

"Yeah, I know what they are." I reply. "I just have never had anyone ask for them. I had some samples sent for free. I finally found a good use for them."

"For proprioceptive enriched balance work? Explosive core training? Motor pathway reeducation?" he asks, eyes lighting up, excited to talk exercise phys nerd shop.

"No, my aunt suffers from terrible hemorrhoids. She finds a few of those discs does the job every bit as effectively as the inflatable doughnut the doctor prescribed her for to sit on." I chuckle inside as I see the excitement draining from his eyes.

"Those things might have some limited benefits in athletic training, I continue. "For instance, with football players′ those would be excellent for anyone that plays football on a field that is littered with dozens of half-inflated beach balls."

"No offense, old timer, but things have progressed in exercise science since the days you were doing the continental clean-and-jerk with your globe barbells," the kid says, with a self-satisfied smirk on his face and feeling thankful he recently read the history of leisure and sport chapter in his Intro to Fitness class."

I turn to Grant and David to use them as examples and see that not only have they abandoned me to handle this chubby goofball but they are blissfully setting themselves up in the squat rack.

"Here’s the thing you don’t get, kid. We don’t learn how to lift and eat from exercise physiologists. They learn from us. That’s what exercise physiology is the study of how exercise and nutrition affect the metabolism. They are learning from us the bodybuilders, powerlifters and other strength athletes and the bad part is, the info in your text books is often at least a decade behind."

This revolutionary idea seems to stagger him, kind of like a kid learning where babies come from and never being able to look at his parents the same way again. "Let me give you an example, I say sliding onto the stool next to him at the pro shop juice bar and slide his training log over for inspection."

THE REALIZATION

"Take this for instance..." I say. "You’ve got this cardio workout all plotted out speed, distance, target heart rate but I’m sure you know what EPOC stands for?"

"Yeah, Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. This is a measure of the amount of extra oxygen the body uses for all of the metabolic needs caused by a workout." Increased EPOC is a great marker for an increase in the liberation of stored energy (bodyfat) being burned after a particular workout."

"Nicely memorized," I say, feeling sad that he mistakes the remark for a compliment. "But all of your carefully plotted cardio interval training doesn’t get you even close to the simple truth we were all applying back in the 60s – lift heavy and eat clean. That’s how we got lean back then and it still works now." Heavy weights build muscle. Heavy weight training cranks up the metabolism. Clean eating supports this and keeps you from hiding your muscle under a layer of flab."

He started to teeter for a second, the grip of traditional indoctrination wrestling with the overpowering undeniability of my words. "But according to this chart, my target heart rate..."

"Target schmarget," I cut in. "How many calories do you normally burn in one of your typical aerobic sessions?"

"300 to 350 calories."

"And what did you eat after work yesterday," I asked.

"One chicken breast, one half cup steamed rice and veggies," he replied, glancing off to the left as he spoke.

"No, really."

"Wendy’s Double with cheese, small fries and a medium Frosty," he volunteers with little coaxing.

"Well your cardio session burnt off your Frosty and about four of the French fries" I explain. "Hope you enjoyed it. We need better than that don’t you think? That’s where EPOC and strength training come in. If we looked at your metabolic levels after your cardio workout we would notice a weak little blip during and shortly after your time on the treadmill and an embarrassing 450-calorie caloric deficit."

I point over to Grant and David; one sprawled out on the floor beside the power rack gasping for oxygen, while the other cranks his power belt one notch tighter and throws another big plate on each end of the bar. "Not only will their metabolism be cranked like a blast furnace for the next 12hours, but the muscle both of them have packed on over the past year has permanently jacked up their metabolisms. That’s why they can eat a Frosty or some pizza from time to time and just melt it right off."

"Okay, okay..." the kid conceded. "Regular weight training sessions are more important than cardio to boost the metabolism but doing some cardio work doesn’t really hurt, does it?"

I flip a few pages back through his journal and find exactly what I suspected. "Well in your case it obviously does. It shows here that you did cardio four times last week but only got in two strength training sessions well one and a half   this second one looks pretty skimpy. I suspect that the cardio sessions make you feel like you are doing something useful without all the exertion of a real workout but look at the evidence... you don’t seem to have lost any of your stubborn bodyfat!"

The kid looked at me like a broken man, realizing that I was right. It is hard to argue the scientific merits of a training program if it just plain didn’t work. "Okay, so I should do regular consistent strength training sessions and don’t worry about cardio. Will that do it for me?"

"Nutrition is important; equally as important as training. You will never become a FINE SPEC-I-MINE like me without training hard and eating a picture perfect diet. Wendy’s just won’t cut it!"

"Well normally I follow the basic guidelines of the American Dietetics Association. They recommend a very clean, low-fat, moderately high-carb diet.

I cut him off before he rambles any further. "If you think the scientific community was behind the times as far as exercise goes, their nutrition advice is downright imbecilic. They love to mock bodybuilders as though we are naive children being scammed by nutrition companies but I have never seen a clinical dietician get someone down to 4-6% bodyfat on a targeted day following their guidelines. Us muscleheads do it regularly, following the very methods they consider foolish."

I continue to educate my pudgy young disciple. "Science is catching up to us, validating what we already knew about the importance of quality protein, reduced carbs, fibrous veggies and properly chosen, healthy fats but the USDA and the American Dietetics Association just seem to want to refuse to admit that that they have been wrong for so long. They still push high carbs as though we were all marathon runners. They are probably worried that thousands of people will demand a refund from their nutritionist for wasting their time and money."

So what do you recommend I do?" the kid asks. "How should I eat to lose this spare tire and pack on some muscle?"

"The same way the champion bodybuilders eat. The same way David and Grant eat. The way that’s been proven time and time again," I say.

"Like all those athletes in the Beverly Nutrition?"

Anthony Bevilacqua researching

The kid surprises me. If he knew about Beverly and has seen copies of the No Nonsense Magazine why has he failed to reach his goals?

"I know what you are thinking," the kid says before I have a chance to cut in. "But in my nutrition classes they hammer home the fact that we don’t need supplements; everything we need can be found in natural foods if we have enough variety in our choices."

And your nutrition professor he or she no doubt has an impressive V-taper and ripped abs?

"Actually, he’s kind of a slob. The guy gets winded trying to clear off the chalkboard... I get your point."

"Well five to six meals a day, each containing a healthy dose of quality protein in each meal is a start. You can do it with whole foods like chicken, steak, fish and eggs but that will require a lot of time and money. Protein shakes made with Muscle Provider and Ultimate Muscle Protein makes doing this a lot simpler."

"David let me try one of his cookies-and-creme flavored shakes. I have to admit it tasted better than a Wendy’s Frosty."

"With the obvious difference that the quality of the protein in Beverly’s shakes is top notch and you don’t have the hypoglycemic blood sugar drops you get from junk food. Their shakes contain easily absorbed protein factions that decrease muscle breakdown and encourage muscle growth. "

"Well, if I decided to do the shakes, when would I drink them?" the kid asks,

"I recommend two or three shakes a day, there’s a lot of different ways to do them. Basically, design it so that it fits easily into your schedule." I consider for a moment what a college students schedule would be like. "Maybe you should try having a shake at every other meal alternating whole food proteins and protein shakes. You should also plan it so that you drink as shake as soon as possible after your workout, with this one being rich in Muscle Provider whey protein. Your body will soak it up like a sponge. That’s another example of research proving that we’ve been doing the right things all along."

"I’ve seen some of those studies. What about all the other stuff I see David and Grant taking?"

Those guys have been doing this for awhile, I explain. They have made great progress and are entering the advanced stage. And they don’t take all the extras all year-round. Protein shakes should be the first thing you add. After that, you can ensure your basic muscle-building needs are being met with EFA Gold to provide yourself with healthy fats and a Super-Pak multi-vitamin/mineral. These will provide the core components of a solid nutritional program.

"But everyone raves about the aminos and desiccated liver?" he asks with a puzzled look on his face.

Those are great products but you should add them in when and if your budget allows as a second stage of your nutritional program. They definitely will bump up the quality of your nutrition, increase your energy levels and help you pack on some extra muscle, but they are not essential at this stage.

Brian Strock bench press

Now I could see the kid was becoming a believer, but there still was a scared look of hesitation on his face. "Here’s the thing," he adds, heading down in a penitent pose. "Back at the college weight room, the guys all think of me as the alpha male but the truth is that I can’t seem to take much hard training. I get shaky legs and hand tremors about halfway into a regular workout. If I really push it, I get sick easily. I’ve been trying some of the low-volume Mentzer type workouts but haven’t seen much in the way of results. I guess I’m just a hard-gainer."

My initial response to laugh at the notion that he thought of himself as the alpha male of his college weight pit drained out of me when I saw the sadness of his plight. His was a common problem from those, the majority of us that start lifting but were not blessed with the cast-iron constitution and growth-prone genetics of an elite lifter. Fortunately for him, he was pleading his case before a preeminent guru of growth-enhancement and I was finding myself in a charitable mood.

"There is a solution to your problem" I walk and turn in a tight circle allowing the drama of my statement to fully kick in. "Mike Mentzer, Arthur Jones and the High Intensity Training proponents did us a great service." They made us aware of the role of recuperation in the muscle and strength building process. They are correct in that many lifters do overtrain. The limits of our ability to withstand exercise should be respected."

Where they fumbled the ball is in two areas: NUMEROUS studies have shown pretty conclusively that High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) doesn’t work as well as multiple sets. [Athletes who benifit from HITT listed below] I think it is pretty accepted that he concocted the whole thing to make money, in which he succeeded hugely. One all-out set can never activated all muscle fibers in a targeted bodypart. Multiple sets activate more (still not all) of the muscle fibers.  Increases in volume are an important thing when trying to increase muscle size and strength.

More about HITT:

Linda Reho I incorporate the Beverly HITT cardio sessions

Learn from these master bodybuilders My most recent is a combination of HITT cardio and a method of weight training called the Advanced GH Workout.

Dave Payne Technique that is very useful in maximizing cardio is using High Intensity Cardio.

Secondly, the Mentzer crew speaks of our exercise tolerance as if it is carved in stone. Louie Simmons (of powerlifting’s Westside Barbell club) has enlightened the weight world to the concept of General Physical Preparedness (GPP). GPP refers to the ability of an athlete to withstand training, sometimes referred to simply as conditioning. According to Simmons, this is a trait that be increased if we are to meet our strength potential. I’ve heard of GPP in textbooks, the kid says. But they never seems to define how to improve it.

"Simmons has his powerlifters add extra sessions to their basic four strength training sessions. These extra workouts include light high-rep extra work (such as Triceps Extensions) to get blood into a bodypart and improve recuperation and other things like sled dragging to work the seldom-trained muscles of the hips, core, legs and calves." I can see the kid is paying close attention now. "Rather being LIMITED by their exercise tolerance threshold, Westside lifters strive to increase their tolerance to exercise."

"If you follow the articles on the Beverly website, look at their Double Whammy article by that Steve Colescott guy. He talks about the value of extra feeder workouts." If a ninety-minute workout is more than you can handle, then do a heavy low rep half–hour workout followed by a short lower intensity feeder workout for that bodypart a few days later. Systematically increasing your work capacity and restorative workouts similar to what Westside does will be the next frontier for real-world bodybuilders."

As we finish our conversation, David and Grant walk up, wiped sweat from their foreheads and begin drinking their post-workout Muscle Provider shakes. "Plus" David chimes in, "there’s that whole post-workout window of opportunity thing in which your body absorbs nutrients better. Short additional workouts also allow more opportunities for growth and increased nitrogen retention. "

Uncharacteristically, I let the kid get in the last word. "And that’s something that both the textbooks and real-world athletes can validate the benefits of!"


  Pro Shop Diaries part 1

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