Does working out end with an insatiable appetite? This is for you.
If you’re trying to lose weight, chances are you’re doing a two-pronged approach – increasing the amount of calories you burn through exercise, while trying to eat ‘better’.
But even if you’re trying to be ‘good’, you may struggle to keep your weight down. After all, exercise can stimulate your appetite.
So if you’ve been slogging it out at the gym, you might end up ‘negating’ all that hard work by later scoffing down way more food than normal. Talk about frustrating.
Wouldn’t it be great if the exercise you do could help keep your hunger levels in check? New research shows it can.
The study analysed how participants’ appetites were affected by exercise of varying duration and intensity.
The research also involved blood tests, measuring the production of an appetite-related hormone (acylated ghrelin) in the participants after exercising.
The study found that exercise in general lowered the participants’ levels of hunger-related hormones (compared to when they sat still). Those effects were greater when the exercise had either been more intense, or longer in duration.
These findings don’t surprise exercise physiologist Andrew Daubney. He says there’s a well-established correlation between the influence of certain hormones produced by exercise (such as leptin and ghrelin), and appetite.
“The greater the intensity of exercise, the greater the [hormonal] response, and the greater the appetite suppression.”
However, Daubney says that effect changes from person to person, depending on how active you normally are. So if you’re just starting to exercise, he says doing 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week “may well be enough” to reduce your appetite to some extent.
“Whereas for other people, who perhaps have been training for a number of years, they would barely be getting started with that same stimulus.”
The more exercise you do, the more sensitive you become to those hormones and the greater their effect on reducing your hunger. But don’t expect an immediate effect, says Daubney, who cautions it takes time for that response to develop.
While this research showed that higher intensity and longer durations of exercise are best at blunting appetite, Daubney warns that high intensity exercises like CrossFit and F45 may, in fact, increase your appetite.
He says some people also end up hungrier in general when they exercise.
If you happen to be one of them, don’t be disheartened. Don’t give up your workouts, either, just because of their effect on your hunger levels.
Daubney reassures that the benefits of being active far outweigh having a stimulated appetite.
To keep your hunger levels in check, you could try working out for longer (Daubney recommends exercises like swimming and running), or pushing yourself a bit harder (but not too hard).
But even if you never manage to reduce your hunger through the hormonal effects of exercise, Daubney reassures you can still lose weight. The key, he says, is simply choosing the right foods to fill you up.
He recommends loading up on plenty of fresh vegies and eating a moderate amount of meat, fruit and nuts. At the same time, he advises cutting out processed foods, soft drinks and sugar-laden treats.
If you choose to satisfy your hunger with wise food choices, Daubney reassures you can still lose weight.
But if you happen to achieve that much-desired place – where the exercise you do helps keep your hunger in check – you may want to thank those lovely exercise-related hormones for getting you there.