What is EPOC – A guide to Excess Post Oxygen Consumption

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What is EPOC – Excess Post Oxygen Consumption

EPOC stands for Excess Post Oxygen Consumption. This takes place after exercise has occurred and is the process in which the body continues to have an elevated breathing rate to replenish oxygen in the body.

In return for this increased rate of Oxygen, the body is able to replenish phosphate and myoglobin stores and begin to remove lactic acid/lactate in the body.

Why is it important for coaches and athletes to know about EPOC?

During exercise, the body needs oxygen to replenish ATP stores. Our post on the different energy systems discusses how the body replenishes ATP and why ATP is important. 

If the body is unable to replenish Oxygen at the rate of consumption, the body becomes ‘in debt’ and is unable to replenish the body with enough oxygen. This is known at the lacatic energy system and produces lactic acid (Read more here).

After exercise, the body needs to replenish the body with Oxygen and this is known as Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). 

Coaches and athletes needs to be aware of why it is important to recovery correctly after exercise. This can have a positive effect on performance is planned for and correctly applied. For example, cyclist coaches constantly monitor their athletes heart rate to determine their training zones. If during a hill climb, they can determine the extent of the lactic acid build up and then plan for this at the finish line via the recovery cool down.

If done correctly, the athlete will be in a better position for the next days racing and have a higher performance than if they did not plan for this.

Understanding EPOC and the energy systems can also benefit coaches with their planning and monitoring of performance.

Why does the body need to continue to replenish oxygen after exercise?

If EPOC did not occur, the body would be less efficient at removing lactic cid/lactate from the body and this would slow down the recovery period.

What are the recovery processes post exercise?

There are two main types of recovery processes after exercise:

  • Alactacid Recovery Process
  • Lactacid Recovery Process

What is the Alactacid Debt recovery stage?

The Alactacid stage is the first and shortest stage of the recovery process. The main purposes of the Alactacid stage is to restore phosphates and replenish Myoglobin stores. The Alactacid recovery process continues to elevate breathing post exercise to continue to resynthesie ATP and PC stores. 

Research suggests the Alactacid stage takes roughly three minutes to fully recover and about 75% of total recovery within sixty seconds.

Energy systems Explained - What are the three energy systems in sport

What is the Lactacid Debt Recovery Stage?

The Lactacid Debt Recovery stage is the longest stage of recovery and takes place after the Alactacid recovery stage. The main aim of the Lactacid recovery stage is to remove lactic acid.

After the body has replenished the Myoglobin and Phosphate stores, the body needs to remove lactic acid. The body does this by continuing to replenish oxygen used up during exercise (although breathing will gradually reduce) and this is called Excess Post-Exercise Consumption.

Cardiac Output remains high to continue to provide the body with oxygen and remove lactic acid. The length of the recovery depends on a number of factors such as the athletes level of fitness, the intensity and duration of the exercise and whether the athlete completed a full warm up and cool down.


This brief guide on EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption) should give you a summary of what EPOC is, the two main types of recovery stages after exercise and why EPOC occurs.

To summarise, the two main types of recovery process after exercise are:

  • Alactacid Recovery Process
  • Lactacid Recovery Process

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