There is a bit of truth to the old saying “worked up an appetite.” When you burn a lot of calories, whether it is through a long workout or a busy day running around town, your body is going to need sustenance to keep going. When you are focusing on weight loss, you want to cut down those calories so that you lose weight by making healthy food choices.
While making healthy food decisions takes conscious efforts, there are a number of neurological factors that influence your desire for foods as well. The food-reward system in our brains is made up of regions called the insula, putamen and rolandic operculum, and these regions actually control what foods we like and when we want to eat them. According to one recent study, exercise may actually affect the way your brain perceives food; neurologically decreasing your body’s desire to eat.
How Working Out can Change your Mind about Food
In this particular study, participants were instructed to either work out or sit and relax for a period of one hour before being shown images of both high-fat and healthy, nutritious food choices, before switching activities and repeating the process for a second session. The participants were evaluated with functional MRI coils which permitted researchers to evaluate brain activity following the active and sedentary periods.
Following the sedentary phase the food-reward system of the brain was stimulated when the participants were presented images of high-fat, sugary items like cheeseburgers, ice cream sundaes and cookies.
In contrast, after exercising for one hour the participant’s did not show much interest in food at all. The brain scans revealed minor stimulation, remaining relatively quiet despite the participant’s previous interest in food following the alternate session.
For this study, participants were asked to cycle vigorously for 60 minutes, but there are other ways that you can get in a 60 minute workout, such as:
- Running or walking
- Rock climbing
Get Moving for Weight Loss
If heading to the gym and cycling in place for an hour isn’t your idea of a good time, try taking your bike outside, or finding a nice place to hike!
This study provides more incentive to those who are having trouble becoming motivated to exercise more. Instead of going for a high-calorie meal, take an hour to head to the gym. There is a chance that your workout may just inspire you to eat less!