Want to stick to weight loss goals? Plan your post-exercise meals beforehand - and stick to them

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  • Post-exercise meals can easily hurt your weight loss goals, if not properly planned
  • Scientists looked at the appetite worked up after exercise, and how much people wanted to eat
  • Properly plan meals before exercise, and then eating accordingly afterwards

According to the World Health Organization, in 2016 39% of the global adult population was overweight. While millions of people are focusing on diet, physical exercise is another option for achieving weight loss.

However, a common result of physical activity is higher calorie consumption, which can thwart one's efforts to lose weight. The Technical University of Munich and the University of Nebraska investigated how physical activity influences people's eating habits. 

The study

According to Professor Köhler, Professor of Exercise, Nutrition and Health at the Technical University of Munich, many people overindulge in food after physical activity. 

He and his team set out to investigate the tendency many people have to "reward" themselves after exercise through an experiment. The study investigated the influence of physical activity on hypothetical decisions relating to food intake, consumption, and timing.

The study involved 41 healthy participants, of whom 23 were women and 18 men. Their ages ranged from 19 to 29 and they had an average BMI of 23.7. The participants were randomly selected to either rest or be active for 45 minutes.

Hunger assessment 

Participants from the training group had to complete an electronic questionnaire relating to their subjective assessment of hunger and satiety levels, the amount of food they wanted to eat and their choice of food. Once participants completed their questionnaire, they engaged in 45 minutes of aerobics on a bicycle ergometer.

Immediately after completing the exercise, participants completed the questionnaire for a second time, and then for a third time after a 30-minute break. This process was identical for the non-training group, the only difference being that instead of exercising, they had a 45-minute resting period.


Comparing the questionnaires completed by the two groups, the researchers found that the active group showed a significant increase in the amount of food chosen, both immediately and 30 minutes after their stint on the bicycle. Results also showed a rise in their perceived need to eat, both immediately after completing the exercise and 30 minutes afterwards. 

Planning of meals before exercise

Based on these results, Professor Köhler carefully noted reactions like the "urgency" and quantity of food consumption as a result of physical exercise. He concluded that evidence from this study may be able to assist with future weight loss interventions. 

He added that planning your meals before working out and sticking to your decision could be a good strategy to prevent impulsive overeating.

"Since weight loss is a main motivation for exercising for many, and failure to achieve the desired weight loss makes it likely to quit exercising." 

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