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Study: Intense workouts linked to lower caloric intake for 24 hours after

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We’ve all heard it before. Maybe from a friend, family member, or even ourselves: “I can’t lose weight because I’m always hungry.” 

Despite getting regular exercise and eating nutritious foods, some people really can’t make the scale budge because of their insatiable appetites. According to a recent study, there is a realistic and healthy way to suppress your appetite and possibly shed pounds: just up your workout intensity.

The study specifics

For the study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, a group of overweight, sedentary men participate in four sessions. In one session, they rested. In the other three sessions, they rode a stationary bicycle – either at a steady, moderate pace, a high intensity pace with intervals, or a very high intensity pace with intervals.

Immediately following the sessions, the men were served a standard meal. Seventy minutes afterwards, they were given as much oatmeal as they wanted to eat.

The high and very high intensity groups ate significantly less than the other groups during these meals – and for the 24 hours afterwards, too. The men ate an average of 764 calories after the resting session compared to 594 calories after the high intensity workout session. Leading researchers to conclude the more intense of a workout you do, the fewer calories you’ll eat that day.

Some experts believe the difference in caloric intake between the groups would have been even more significant had the study participants run instead of biked. This is because most people find that running suppresses their appetite more than cycling.

The possible implications

This probably comes as no surprise to many runners out there. I know I’m usually hungrier the day after a race, long run, or tempo run than I am the day of. In actuality, I tend to be ravenous the next day and eat every single thing in sight.

Which brings us to the two potential problems of appetite suppression after tough workouts. Athletes need to make sure they do the following:

  • Eat enough in the hours after a hard run for proper recovery. Refueling with the right foods after intense exercise can help your body recover better, so you’ll feel stronger during your next workout. Eating within the right window of time after a run (within 30 minutes to one hour after finishing) helps to boost athletic performance and energy levels by replenishing glycogen stores and repairing muscles. The more intense and longer your workout session, the more calories you need to adequately refuel. So, it’s crucial that you eat enough following a tough workout even if you’re not very hungry.
  • Don’t overcompensate by eating too much the next day. Be careful not to “make up” for your missed calories and overdo it the day after the race. Doing so could thwart any weight loss efforts, and leave you feeling sluggish during your next exercise session.

What are your thoughts on this study? Do you usually lose your appetite after a hard run or race?

Written by Jen Matz.