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Exercise and Appetite

Watch out: Adults experience a post-exercise rise in appetite.

Woman drinking a shake after exercise and appetite increase

Being aware of how exercise and appetite are linked may help people reach weight loss goals. A recent report in Nutrients examined the connection between physical activity and its impact on both how and what we eat.

For the study, 41 healthy adults—23 women and 18 men ages 19–29—were randomly assigned to either a 45-minute, moderate-intensity session of aerobic exercise or a 45-minute rest period. Participants switched assignments on their second visit. Using electronic questionnaires that participants filled out before and after each trial, the scientists discovered that exercise prompted people to eat larger amounts of food and increased the desire to eat, both immediately after working out and 30 minutes later.

It’s speculated that we take both psychological and physiological cues from exercise. The psychological cues involve the sense of seeking a “reward” for completing a workout. The physiological prompts derive from metabolic cues that tell your body it needs fuel to compensate for increased energy expenditure during exercise.

The problem arises when people consume more calories than necessary to recover from a sweat session. And that can prevent the scale from budging. Some people believe that because they are exercising, they can eat whatever they want. But a workout that burns 400 calories won’t make up for a “recovery” 500-calorie mega-muffin.

Some people may need some tough-love education for matching their workouts to a reasonable food intake. Planning a post-exercise snack or meal in advance could be a good way to sidestep the pitfalls of impulsiveness that arise from exercise and appetite.

See also: Appetite For Exercise, Not Food

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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