What is Orangetheory Fitness?

Up until 2 weeks ago, I had never heard of this. Don’t get me wrong, I know what an orange is (fruit?…) and I know what theory means (didn’t Einstein have one…or two?).

I’d just never heard of them used together with fitness. I only learnt about it through someone who was doing it, which is kinda bad…I thought I was up to date about the latest fitness trends (~ 7 yrs old). Now, the caption is a little bit misleading, Orangetheory has nothing to do with looking like a Cheeto. Read on…

 

What is Orangetheory fitness? It is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout started by Ellen Latham, out of  Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Incidentally she has a M.S. in Exercise Physiology. Okay, pretty good credentials. The aim of the workout (which can incorporate various exercises) is to keep your heart rate in the orange zone (explains a few things…okay one thing) which is 84-91% of your maximal heart rate (220-age beats/min). This is done by wearing heart monitors and observing your real time readings as displayed on a screen. Workouts are 1 hr long and broken up into cardio and strength training. They are designed to have you work through 5 zones with 12 to 20 mins training at 84 % or higher of the maximal heart rate (zone’s 4 and 5). All of this is done in an a room or studio, probably decorated by Chester, the Cheetos Cheetah (tons of orange).

 

Claims The workout causes you to go into a state of “excess post oxygen consumption” (EPOC) which results in an after burn, where your metabolism is elevated for 24 to 36 hours afterwards. Typical calorie burn during the class can be anywhere from 500-1000 calories. On the website  it doesn’t actually say how much the after burn accounts for. Just a confusing “when combining the amazing workout with EPOC, our clients burn an average of 500 to 1000 calories”. I’m still assuming the 500-1000 is just in the class and not with the after burn included.

 

Truth Studies have shown that there is an after burn [1, 2, 3] when doing HIIT activities or training above 70 % of the maximal heart rate. The length of the after burn varied anywhere from 3-24 hrs following a HIIT workout. Seems promising…so what’s the problem? Yeah, well, you still didn’t quantify how much calories that translates into. One website claims that according to Ellen Latham, the caloric after burn can be from 200-400 more calories than the workout. This is supposed to equate to 40%. So if I burn 1000 calories in the class, then that’s a total of 1400 calories…total. I have never come across the supposed 40 %, in any search for published studies. Trust me I’ve gone through way more published studies than I mention in this post. I really don’t know where this 40 % comes from. A review (examined multiple studies over many years) found that EPOC only accounted for about 6-15 % of the total oxygen cost [1]. In comparison to steady state low intensity exercise, EPOC could be 13-14% for HIIT  vs 7% for the low intensity exercises. So, you say  double, that’s a lot?…right? Well, if you burn 1000 calories  in a workout, then that works out to be an extra 140 calories for HIIT and 70 for low intensity training (140 still < 200-400). Doesn’t really seem like much for either when compared to the number of calories consumed in the actual workout. Also, it is well-known that the EPOC tends to be greater for beginners than for someone who is athletic and accustomed to high intensity exercise. Most people aren’t going to get anywhere near 1000 calories in a workout anyway, unless you’re very athletic to begin with.

 

Conclusion There is an after burn due to HIIT workouts like Orangetheory…no arguments here. However, it isn’t as great as you might think. I’m not bashing HIIT or Orangetheory in any way. There are many benefits of high intensity exercises on athletic performance and overall cardiovascular health…no doubt. Any extra caloric burn is a bonus…great it will help, but some claims in terms of fat loss and amount of calories burnt are exaggerated. Don’t get carried away and feel as though you can eat what you want and  then go to your Orangetheory class and all will be okay. The battle of the bulge is won or lost in the kitchen. You can’t bike, row or kettle bell away a bad diet. Yes, exercise for health and as an aid to fat loss, but focus on eating a healthy diet, free of simple carbs and sugars, if you intend to win the battle. Hey, if you like this post don’t forget to share.

 

P.S. The Healthy Goat was last seen being escorted out of an Orangetheory fitness studio. He mistakenly thought he was at a Cheetos convention (because of all the orange) and kept yelling “It’s not easy being cheesy” (As much as a goat can yell… or talk).

 

Photo by Jeff Kern under a CC BY-2.0 license

 

 

17 comments on “What is Orangetheory Fitness?
  1. Linda Owen says:

    I have heard that doing a workout of combining strength training and cardio is the best for fat burning. Orange therapy sound like it is only for the athletic fit type of people. Sounds very extreme if you need to wear heart monitors. It is good to know that you researched and found that the after burn is 3-24 hrs and not 24-36 hrs. I agree with you that a person should focus more on a healthy diet. The majority of people will give up on exercise, but a healthy diet can become a way of life.

  2. Summerly says:

    Interesting workout. I hadn’t heard of this one before. It does sound promising, the after burn, for up to 36 hours. That sounds great and all, but like you said, stats for the workout seem exaggerated. I can’t see how you could burn that many calories that it claims you can. Good thing you reviewed this workout. I’m sure it does work, just not to the degree that it says it does.

  3. Chris P says:

    I’m a certified Insanity Live instructor at a local Gold’s Gym, so this post strikes some curiosity… Do you know any more details about this Orangetheory training? In other words, the workouts are composed of cardio and strength blocks…. what makes up each section? In Insanity, for example, the different blocks are composed of endurance, strength, and agility moves (squats, lunges, push-ups, burpees, etc.).

    Thanks for the insight!

    • The Healthy Goat says:

      An example of a workout posted by one person is row 100 m, 10 dumbbell squats + shoulder press, row 200 m, 10 dumbbell squats + shoulder press, row 300 m, 10 dumbbell squats + shoulder press, row 400 m, 10 dumbbell squats + shoulder press. This was 1 of 3 intervals. Exercises vary by gym.

  4. Clare says:

    Very interesting to read about the Orangetheory fitness. I have heard of plenty of HIIT based workouts but not this particular one.
    I’m glad to see you’ve debunked the claims about EPOC, as there is no doubt that HIIT can produce EPOC. However, each person’s idea of “high intensity” will vary. To some, it’s all out, serious intensity. To others, a three minute jog feels like “high intensity”.
    I would agree with you that there will be few people actually burning 1,000 calories during this session. An hour of HIIT seems like a lot of overkill. A lot of recovery would be needed after that.
    I think I’m going to steer clear of this particular branch of killing yourself in the gym! Thank you for a good solid review.

    • The Healthy Goat says:

      Hi Clare,

      Well, they go for the HIIT part of it for 12-20 mins, not the full hour. Some people might like it. It’s up to the individual to choose what’s best for them, given the information provided.

  5. Ben says:

    Hi

    This is a great post, I love the honesty. At the end of the day we are all looking for unbiased opinions not people talking it up no matter what.

    I have been working on health and fitness for over 10 years and I have also never heard of orange theory. It sounds interesting and I would like to give it a go just to see how it feels and if it works for me.

  6. Nasrat Star says:

    This is a good read. I was looking for a cardio health exercise but I was not sure which was a good fit. From your recommendation Orange Theory Fitness will not do enough.
    I am in my 50 and recently had a angiogram done. I have some minor blocks and was also diagnosis for high cholesterol levels.
    Doctors advice me to do some light exercise. I am also slightly over weight. I have not exercise the last 10 yeras due to back problems. I have managed to reduce my back pain but I am still vary that I might just hurt it back due to strenuous activities. What would you recommend me for simple yet effective cardiovascular health?

    • The Healthy Goat says:

      Hi Nasrat,

      Let’s be careful here. Orange theory and other HIIT activity all have their place. They offer many benefits for cardiovascular health, which are not discussed, nor was the point of the post. I was looking at the claims of Orangetheory, mainly in regards to the highly touted after burn and fat loss. Honestly, if your doctor recommends light exercise, you should consult with him and ask what he/she means and provide recommendations.

      But a good place to start might just be taking a brisk walk and gradually improving fitness levels. You should also find out what high cholesterol means. High HDL or high LDL. If you want to lower cholesterol, diet is the key. Cut out the your carbs and sugars to reduce inflammation. In your case consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.

  7. Tebatso Kekana says:

    Thank you for this awesome and way informative article post Dave! Overcoming chronic unfitness and belly fat can really feel scary especially when its your first time deciding to go fit and take care of your self. The Orange Theory fitness is definitely the way to burn away a lot of calories in just a single workout

    I definitely recommend this article to anybody who is having a touch time figuring out how to burn away as many calories in just a single day, Thanks again Dave!

    • The Healthy Goat says:

      You’re welcome. You have to define a lot. You can burn anywhere from 500-1000 calories. This really depends on how hard you work. This could be a complement to a healthy diet. There are cardiovascular benefits to HIIT activity, but the key to fat loss is in the kitchen.

  8. EllieCommunicates says:

    I like eating and that is why I always have a few pounds to lose.
    At the moment I am a big fan of HIIT training – losing calories in no time.
    Have you tried this Orangetheory and what results did you achieve?
    How often do you need to do the exercises?
    But still 1hour is a long time to exercise every day.

    • The Healthy Goat says:

      I haven’t done it. I came across it talking to someone and did research on it and also EPOC and some of the claims made. I wouldn’t recommend doing this everyday. Maybe 2 or 3 times as a complement to other workouts and a healthy eating habit. I have done HIIT training and still do…not everyday though. I depend mainly on eating less simple carbs and sugar and more protein and healthy fats.

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