Re-Thinking Your Post-Open Celebratory Meal:
How Many Calories Do You REALLY Burn During the Open Workout?
So we are four weeks into the Open and we can all attest to the fact that the Open brings out another intensity level. The Friday Night Lights, or the Saturday Showdowns where you are head to head with all the other athletes in the gym and people are cheering, your judge is watching, your legs are burning, and your heart is beating out of your chest.
And unlike the day to day class workouts, we find ourselves laid out on the floor post-WOD gasping for air like we’ve never been before. It takes A LOT out of us; our stress levels are high, our gut is all kinds of messed up, and 1-2 hours later we are STARVING. So we go out with our friends for a celebratory burger, fries, and beers, and then wonder why we are feeling heavier vs. lighter by the end of these 5 weeks. We just died during that workout – we had to have burned like 800-1000 calories because that rowing and those wall balls destroyed me!
First off – there is nothing wrong with burgers and beers with friends, BUT if you are in the boat of thinking that your 8 minute or 15 minute Open workout burned through enough calories to ‘earn’ that meal – we are grossly misjudging our output. Obviously we need to understand as a side note that if we burn 300 calories during a workout, it isn’t as simple as eating 300 calories to ‘replace’ what we’ve burned. The body utilizes calories differently based off of where they are needed most, the types of calories we provide it, and the timing of those calories. But for simplicity’s sake, we are going to look at calories in vs. calories out in this blog’s comparison.
How Many Calories Are We Really Burning?
So on average, high intensity exercise (HR > 85% of max) burns around 12-15 calories per minute (note that everyone’s body is different and will burn at a different level, but this is a general average). So if we working at that intense of a level for these two Open workouts, we’d only be burning around:
15 Minute AMRAP of Wall Balls/Rowing: ~225 calories
8 Minutes of TTB/DU/Cleans – 20 Minutes: ~120-300 calories
But What About the “After-Burn Effect”?
So we also have what is known as the EPOC effect, or the ‘after-burn’ effect as many people know it as. This is the Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption, which is easiest explained by the analogy of a car engine. If you go on a road trip, or even a 15 minute drive, when you turn off the engine – it is still hot, and will stay warm for a little while as it gradually cools to a resting temperature. Our bodies do the same thing post-exercise. This happens because our body is in ‘energy and oxygen debt’ and EPOC measures the amount of oxygen needed to restore your body to its normal, resting metabolic function.
Higher intensity workouts (aka the Open) require more energy from the anaerobic pathways and in turn, generate a higher EPOC effect. The studies vary on how much is actually burned, and for how long, during the EPOC time-frame, but most studies give the same range:
EPOC effect from high-intensity strength-training can add 6-15% of total energy cost of exercise session(LaForgia, Withers and Gore, 2006).
So this would mean for 19.2 – we are burning, at most, an additional 35-40 calories post workout.
So with the combined workout + EPOC impact, we are really only burning around 300 or so calories. And sadly, the EPOC effect gets less and less the more fit you get.
So How Much Is That “Celebratory Meal”?
Again, like I mentioned, we never want you to deprive yourself of foods that you enjoy, but we simply want you to be mindful of the fact that we could very well be killing our progress on the weekends with that one meal we feel we ‘earned’ with that Open workout.
So I’ll compare my favorite meal (burger and sweet potato fries), and my husband’s favorite meal (pizza). Obviously these will vary, but here is a general estimation:
5 Guys Burger and Fries –
A regular cheeseburger – 840 calories
A small (little) fry – 525 calories
Total – 1365 Calories
Aurelio’s Sausage Pizza (6 small squares) + 1 Revolution Anti-Hero IPA Beer
6 Small Squares (which is conservative, I know most people can put away about ½ of a pizza in a sitting) – 684 calories
1 Beer (again, conservative) – 195 calories
Total – 879 Calories
So What Is The Conclusion??
Although extremely taxing, the Open workouts unfortunately just don’t burn the level of calories we feellike they do, and if keeping our weight maintained and/or leaning out is a goal of ours, we may want to reconsider that post-workout meal and what it entails.
High intensity exercise HAS shown to be the most effective for obtaining the highest level of the EPOC effect, but unfortunately the duration of the Open workouts are just too short to really provide a huge caloric deficit for the day.
So if you want to go out for that celebratory meal, by all means – enjoy!! Maybe just order a side salad instead of the French fries and a grilled chicken patty instead of that big fatty burger if you’re trying to keep the macronutrients in check for the day.
LaForgia, J., Withers, R. and Gore, C. (2006). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Sport Sciences, 24, 12, 1247-1264.