The Effect of Exercise on Nutritional Choices

After you train what is your plan for nutrition? For some, they don’t want to think about eating anything for a while. Their heart is still pumping. Their temperature is up a bit. And there may be a bead of sweat on their brow.

All of these may result in the individual not having a huge appetite post-training.

A recent study looked to see how exercise influences our nutritional choices. The timing of this study is interesting as with COVID more gyms are closed and therefore more of us are more sedentary and consequently have put on a few pounds as a result.

For this study researchers had 41 individuals made up of 23 women and 18 men divided into one of two groups. The subjects ranged from 18-29 years and had an average BMI of 23.7. A BMI of 25 is considered overweight.

One group would perform 45 minutes of exercise and the other group would rest. For the following visit the two groups would switch and do the other condition i.e. rest or exercise.

Before the visit the participants would fill out questionnaires asking them how hungry or full they were, the preferred amount of food they would want to eat and how long they would wait until they ate.

What they found is that exercise resulted in a greater amount of food to be eaten post-exercise, both immediately and 30 minutes post exercise. As well, after exercise there was an increased preference for immediate consumption of food.

Takeaways from this study:

  • None of the subjects were above 30 years. How closely would the results match for a study with subjects over 30?
  • The exercise in the study was 45 minutes on a stationary bike at 60% of VO2max. Would the same results be expected for exercise of different duration, intensity or type?
  • Would similar results be expected for overweight or obese individuals as this study didn’t include these populations?
  • This study tells us we will tend to eat more and sooner after exercise. This means if a caloric deficit is a goal we need to be aware of how exercise plays a role in influencing how much we choose to eat and how soon.
  • Have a plan in place prior to exercise to control both the quantity and quality of the post-workout meal.

Koehler, K., Beckford, S. E., Thayer, E., Martin, A. R., Boron, J. B., & Stevens, J. R. (2021). Exercise Shifts Hypothetical Food Choices toward Greater Amounts and More Immediate Consumption. Nutrients13(2), 347.

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