Exercise may affect food motivation: study

September 12, 2012
BYU professors Michael Larson (left) James LeCheminant (right) measured neural responses to food after exercise. Credit: Mark Philbrick, BYU Photo

It is commonly assumed that you can "work up an appetite" with a vigorous workout. Turns out that theory may not be completely accurate – at least immediately following exercise.

New research out of BYU shows that 45 minutes of moderate-to- in the morning actually reduces a person's motivation for food.

Professors James LeCheminant and Michael Larson measured the of 35 women while they viewed food images, both following a morning of and a morning without exercise. They found their attentional response to the food pictures decreased after the brisk workout.

"This study provides evidence that exercise not only affects , but it also may affect how people respond to food cues," LeCheminant said.

The study, published online, ahead of print in the October issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, measured the food motivation of 18 normal-weight women and 17 clinically obese women over two separate days.

A BYU student wears an EEG recording device to demonstrate how researchers measured neural responses to food after exercise. Credit: Mark A. Philbrick, BYU Photo

On the first day, each woman briskly walked on a treadmill for 45 minutes and then, within the hour, had their brain waves measured. Electrodes were attached to each participant's scalp and an EEG machine then measured their neural activity while they looked at 240 images – 120 of plated food meals and 120 of flowers. (Flowers served as a control.)

The same experiment was conducted one week later on the same day of the week and at the same time of the morning, but omitted the exercise. Individuals also recorded their food consumption and physical activity on the experiment days.

The 45-minute exercise bout not only produced lower brain responses to the food images, but also resulted in an increase in total physical activity that day, regardless of body mass index.

"We wanted to see if obesity influenced food motivation, but it didn't," LeCheminant said. "However, it was clear that the exercise bout was playing a role in their neural responses to the pictures of food."

Interestingly, the women in the experiment did not eat more food on the exercise day to "make up" for the extra calories they burned in exercise. In fact, they ate approximately the same amount of food on the non-exercise day.

Larson said this is one of the first studies to look specifically at neurologically-determined food motivation in response to exercise and that researchers still need to determine how long the diminished food motivation lasts after exercise and to what extent it persists with consistent, long-term exercise.

"The subject of food and weight loss is so complex," Larson said. "There are many things that influence eating and exercise is just one element."

Bliss Hanlon, a former graduate student at BYU, was the lead author on the study and Bruce Bailey, an associate professor of exercise science, was a co-author on the study.

Explore further: Cyber partners help you go the distance

Related Stories

Cyber partners help you go the distance

May 16, 2012
A new study, testing the benefits of a virtual exercise partner, shows that the presence of a moderately more capable cycling partner boosts motivation to stick to an exercise program. The work by Brandon Irwin and colleagues, ...

Men and women respond differently to exercise advertisements

June 7, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A new University of Michigan study finds that overweight men and women responded differently to advertisements about the benefits from exercise.

Cyber exercise partners help you go the distance: Motivation gains can double

May 24, 2012
A new study testing the benefits of a virtual exercise partner shows the presence of a moderately more capable cycling partner can significantly boost the motivation – by as much as 100 percent – to stick to an ...

Effects of exercise on meal-related gut hormone signals

July 12, 2011
Research to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, finds that alterations ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.