Don’t Exercise to Eat More

The intensity of your workouts can affect the intensity of your appetite.

What’s the best part about a hard workout? Earning the right to eat a giant snack afterward – right? Well, no, it turns out that’s not exactly true – especially if you’re a woman. According to research, women in particular have to be vigilant about their eating habits while exercising. Why?

Researchers found that premenopausal women who exercised intensely made up for the extra calories burned by eating more. Exercising vigorously seems to stimulate the body to want to eat. This may be in part due to the fact that women’s bodies are designed to hold onto fat – possibly as protection for childbearing. Examples of intense activity include: walking very fast (4.5 mph) or jogging (5 mph) or biking (more than 10 mph).

If your motivation to go to the gym just took a giant nosedive after reading that news, take heart: exercise still does wonders for your body, and it does burn calories. Just stay mindful of how you feed your appetite. Don’t justify the strenuous workouts with excess food. Instead focus on additional hydration, as your body might actually be clamoring for extra fluids (namely water) rather than calories.

In addition, this same aforementioned research also found that women engaging in lower intensity exercise did not eat more to offset what they burned off. Examples of lower intensity exercise include: brisk walking (3.5 mph), gardening and yard work (30 to 45 minutes), biking (less than 10 mph), and golfing (providing you walk the course and carry your clubs instead of riding a cart).

The most important consideration when it comes to exercise (and this applies to men as well) is keeping it consistent. Some ways to ensure it happens daily are:

  • Choose an activity you like to do – that way you are more likely to do it.
  • Enlist support – a workout companion, perhaps.
  • Keep an exercise log – which helps you to see when and what you did (or didn’t do).
  • Have an alternative available for inclement weather, if you can’t be outdoors.
  • Set up a consistent exercise appointment with yourself. Plan for the same time of day each and every day.
  • Vary things – differ your activities or try new walking routes.

The bottom line when it comes to managing your weight is that regular physical activity – whether it’s moderate or vigorous – is best. This, combined with healthy eating – with reasonable portions and avoidance of calorie-laden items – can help you shed unwanted pounds or maintain your current weight.

So, go ahead and have that snack after your workout – just don’t make it a super-sized treat.

This article was adapted from content on the Brigham and Women’s Health-e-Weight website.

– Linda A, Linda W

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