Want to choose a healthy post-workout snack? Decide early.

February 2, 2019 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News, Sports Nutrition and Exercise

Want to choose a healthy post-workout snack? Decide early.

You've just exercised for an hour, tracking the burned calories with a sense of satisfaction. Then comes a choice: munch on an apple or indulge in the chocolatey goodness of a brownie?

But the decision itself may depend on when you make it, according to a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The takeaway? Avoiding delay can keep temptation at bay.

The researchers conducted an experiment that asked two groups of participants to go about their normal workout routines while wearing motion-tracking accelerometers, supposedly to calibrate them.

Before exercising, members of one group decided whether they wanted an apple, brownie or no snack following the exercise session -- an offer framed as a reward for calibrating the accelerometers. Members of the other group were presented with the same choice after they had already exercised.

Roughly 74 percent of participants who were asked before the workout session chose an apple, compared with 55 percent of those asked afterward, making the latter about one-third less likely to favor the fruit.

While 14 percent of the pre-exercise group selected the brownie, about 20 percent of the post-workout group decided to indulge.

Commit to a healthy food choice in advance – you’re less likely to do so on the spot

The findings suggest that simply committing in advance to a post-exercise snack may increase the odds of eating more nutritiously.

If your goal is to lose weight, the findings support the idea that you're better off making your snack choice not when you're hungry after your workout, but instead before you go to the gym.

Prior studies have consistently shown that people are more willing to indulge when making immediate dietary decisions than when thinking ahead.

The study's design also put two other theories to the test. One, called compensatory eating, suggests that people eat more calorie-dense food after exercise to make up for calories burned during a workout. The other theory, exercise-induced anorexia, proposes that exercise can suppress appetite-related hormones and, as a result, lead people to eat less.

Most studies have found that right after exercise, you are less hungry.

In the current study, though modest, the 6-percent increase in brownie choice between the pre- and post-exercise groups supported the notion of compensatory eating. And the evidence for exercise-induced anorexia was clear: The 12-percent fraction that declined a snack in the pre-exercise condition rose to 25 percent in the post-exercise group.

Story Source: Nutrients, December 7, 2018.

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