We’ve all been there: You’re on deadline and all you can think about is getting home to that pint of ice cream waiting for you in the freezer. But before going home to binge on comfort food, you might want to make a 15-minute pit stop at the gym.
A new study from the University of Alabama Birmingham found that, contrary to popular belief, a hard workout might leave you feeling less hungry than before.
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For the study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers gathered 38 students, split them into two groups, and asked them to complete a graduate-level entrance exam. Following the exam, one group was allotted 15 minutes of rest, while the second group performed 15 minutes of high-intensity interval training.
Afterwards, all participants were offered all-you-can-eat pizza. Here’s the kicker: Those who were sedentary post-exam ate more than those who got their sweat on.
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The study's lead author, William H. Neumeier, Ph.D., says that these results are likely due to the fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin caused by sedentary mental work. “These fluctuations may be signaling to the brain that it needs more energy, so we eat more following a period of mental work,” says Neumeier. Exercise, on the other hand, provides energy to the brain in the form of glucose and lactate, he says.
Neumeier adds that exercise impacts hunger and satiety hormones, which can reduce appetite. Plus, working up a sweat might refresh you after a period of mental work, he says.
The study authors note that the research was performed using a relatively small group of students and only utilised one test food. (And we all know how students love pizza.) It's possible that the results would have been different if there was a veggie tray and a pizza offered.
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Nonetheless, add this to your list of reasons why you should hit the gym after work tonight. You’ll burn calories, feel less stressed, and eat less—triple score.