If you're trying to lose weight, exercising and eating right is the way to go. However, the fact that exercise by nature burns energy may make you feel like eating anything and everything as soon as you're done working out — making balancing exercise with eating right difficult. A few studies have found that feeling famished after a normal workout may not just be about replenishing calories burned, but is tied to how the food-reward system of the brain reacts to exercise and how fit you already are.
One small study monitored the brain waves of 30 fit volunteers who were shown a series of food pictures after they had been sitting for an hour, and again after they exercised for an hour. When shown greasy and sugary foods, most of the volunteers' brain reward centers lit up more after they'd been sitting for an hour vs. when they'd been exercising. These results are not across the board: other studies (especially those involving less-fit individuals) have found that certain people's reward centers respond to food the most after exercising, causing them to want to eat more.
Read on for why exercise can make you eat more.
So why do some people want to eat more after working out than others? One researcher involved in the study, Todd A. Hagobian, says that the difference can be explained by how fit you already are; study participants who exercised regularly seemed to not be as interested in the food cues than those who were less fit. It also can depend on how you are wired; a separate study of more-sedentary individuals showed their reward centers to respond even more after exercise. To fix this, it may all be in finding the right type and length of workout for you, which researchers hope to figure out. Making workouts routine, Hagobian says, can help change your brain's reaction to food so you can control your appetite (he recommends that the workouts last an hour and be strenuous enough to make you sweat).
In any case, fueling your body after a workout is important for recharging and building strong muscles, so don't skip out on food after you exercise. Here are 10 low-calorie and filling post-workout snacks to try.