This is part #4 of my answers for Allure Magazine's "Hunger Triggers" April, 2010 article.
The Exercise or "Gym Effect" or "How exercise can lead to overeating.
Exercise is great for us - it really is a "magic pill." We know that exercise burns calories, keeps our bodies healthy and fit, slows the aging process, and is extremely important during weight loss (to help keep metabolism and muscle mass high) and for weight maintenance (over 90% of people who *keep* weight off long term, exercise almost every day.) So given all these benefits, how could exercise work against us? The simple answer: if we do not plan carefully, exercise can lead to overeating.
How can exercise lead to overeating?
- People may give themselves permission to overeat after a gym workout, thinking they've "earned it." They forget that walking on a treadmill only burns about 70 calories a mile (a little more than one Oreo cookie.) Exercise machines at the gym are notorious for reporting that you've burned *more* calories than you actually have - don't believe them! To burn off 500 calories on the treadmill, you'd have to walk about 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 miles! People unfortunately often eat more than they've burned off, and don't realize it. Don't ruin a good workout with a bag of chips afterwards!
- Really intense workouts can lead to increased appetite, if you don't plan ahead. It is important to have a snack (containing protein and carbohydrates) within 1-4 hours *before* a workout, so you are not "starving." A snack will help prevent you from becoming "hypoglycemic" (having low blood sugar) during the workout, so you'll feel better, and have a more effective session.
Besides the muscle benefits, a balanced snack will also help calm your appetite later. If you skip it, you will feel ravenously hungry. But remember - watch the calories, so you don't eat too much of a good thing!