Doctors and scientists have known for years that regular exercise can help us lose weight.
Unfortunately though, it’s not a sure thing. Many people exercise regularly, but still struggle to get the weight off and keep it off.
So what’s going on?
Moderate Exercise Stimulates Appetite
It turns out that exercise, especially moderate exercise, such as walking, light jogging or swimming, can actually make it more difficult to lose weight.
Moderate exercise does burn calories, but it also stimulates the appetite, and can lull you into a false sense of security, causing you to eat more calories than you’ve just burned.
It seems that most people tend to overestimate the amount of calories they’ve burned after exercising, eating more than is necessary afterwards.
In one Canadian study, subjects completed a brisk walk which burned a total of 200 calories. When asked to estimate the number of calories they burned, however, they averaged a whopping 825 calories.
This disconnect between estimated calories burned, and actual calories burned, can easily lead to eating more than necessary after exercise, nullifying some of the effects of your hard work.
There is some good news, however.
High Intensity Exercise Curbs Appetite
Intense exercise, that is, exercise where you are breathing hard enough to make conversation difficult, can reduce levels of ghrelin, while raising levels of peptide YY.
Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite, while peptide YY lowers appetite.
The end effect is that after completing an intense exercise session, most people don’t feel like eating for a while.
Regular exercise also increases the sensitivity of the neurons in your brain, which control the feeling of satiety.
So, consistent exercise sessions can help bring you more in tune with your hunger signals over time.
The more accurately you can sense your hunger, the more accurately you can eat in amounts that reflect your calorie needs.
Of course, regular exercise has very significant health benefits, apart from hunger regulation.
It boosts your mood, builds muscle tone, improves your oxygen uptake, and keeps your muscles and joints strong and able to function efficiently, amongst other things.
Exercise, especially high intensity exercise, also contributes to what is known as the ‘afterburn effect’.
After an intense workout, your metabolism stays elevated for a period of time. Your heart and respiration rates take a while to return to normal, and the muscle tissue which have been broken down during the workout, need to be repaired.
These processes require energy, which has to come from your body’s glycogen or fat stores.
This effect can burn up to about 100 extra calories, in addition to the energy used from your workout.
Just be careful you don’t use this as an excuse to eat more. 100 calories is roughly the amount of calories in half a chocolate bar.
So to sum it up, intense exercise can reduce your appetite in the hour or so immediately following your workout. And, consistent exercise, can refine your sense of hunger, giving you more accurate feedback regarding your true energy needs.
Just be careful that you don’t use exercise as an excuse to overeat. It is very easy to find yourself consuming more calories than you burn.
The bottom line:
Skip the cool-down nibble. Doing that five times a week will saves you up to 500 calories. That’s the equivalent of the spin class you don’t actually take!
What do you like to eat after a workout? Let us know in the comments below.