How to Control Post-Exercise Snacking

July 28, 2014

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You just had a killer workout. You went the extra mile, increased your weight, or bumped your walk to a jog. Pat yourself on the back. You’re awesome! But if you stick your nose in the pantry or fridge first thing when you get home, you aren’t doing yourself as much good as you may think.

Sure, you worked up an appetite, but a bag of potato chips won’t quell your hunger pangs. In fact, those hunger pangs are probably in your head.

A Cornell Food and Brand Lab study found perception plays a big role in your post-exercise snacking choices. If you think of exercise as fun, say, a fun run or scenic bicycle ride, you will eat less after you work out than if you think of it as a fitness workout. Study participants were led on a 2 kilometer walk. Some participants were told it was a scenic walk while other participants were told it was an exercise walk. Those who were told they were taking an exercise walk ate twice and many M&Ms after exercising—206 calories worth of the chocolate treat—than those who were told they were going on a fun run.

Why?

Researchers believe we reward ourselves after we work out. So, if you think of your exercise as a fun activity, you are less likely to overeat after. We tend to overestimate our workout intensity and the calories burned, leading many to think they need to eat more to refuel. After one hour of moderate intensity exercise, you should refuel with a high-protein snack about 100 to 200 calories. Greek yogurt or a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter should be enough to keep you satisfied.

Thinking of exercise as fun has benefits beyond limiting the amount you snack post workout. My patients who incorporate physical activity into their daily routines are more successful long term. You don’t have to become a gym rat to successfully lose weight. It works for some people, and it doesn’t work for others. Just taking a 30-minute scenic walk in a nearby park at lunch can get your heart rate up without even putting gym clothes on. Fitness is about figuring out what works best for you, which is where a CMWL provider can help by personalizing a weight loss program to your needs.

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