Can Exercise Sabotage Your Diet?

A couple exercises together at a gym.
(Image credit: Exercise photo via Shutterstock)

We've all heard the old expression about "working up an appetite," but what does that really mean? Can exercise actually sabotage your diet?

As the theory goes, we eat more food after exercising in order to replace the calories we burned. Not only does the old adage bring up a list of doubts about exercising as a means for weight loss, but it also offers an excuse to some lazy folks who choose to forgo exercise. Well, it's time for those lazies to listen up and take action, because a new study found that the old expression might be nothing more than a myth.

The Brigham Young University study showed that exercise won't cause an increased appetite, and it may even reduce food cravings. When participants didn't exercise, their brain waves suggested they responded to food images more strongly than when they were presented with the same images after 45 minutes of exercise.

This suggests that diet and exercise go hand-in-hand. Apparently, our bodies already know this. When we're taking steps toward health by exercising, not only do we gain muscle, but we also ditch some of those bothersome cravings. It's as if everything is working in harmony.

The women who participated in this study each took a brisk walk on a treadmill as exercise. Imagine what would happen if we kicked it up a notch. It's time to make a serious effort. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Hiking as an appetite suppressant: If you're the kind of person who loves the outdoors, hiking will barely feel like exercise. You may find the urge to eat after (or during) a long hike, but it's not the kind of binge eating that happens in front of the television after a long day of lounging around.
  2. Aerobic dancing to boost metabolism and curb cravings: If someone offered you a magic pill that promised an increased metabolism and appetite reduction, you'd jump at the chance to take it, right? Well, instead of jumping for a non-existent magic pill, jump for your goals. Get on the dance floor and shake things up. Forty-five minutes of aerobic dancing certainly counts as vigorous exercise.
  3. Kickboxing your way out of food addiction: Have you ever noticed that when you take a break from regular exercise, you're more likely to want to sit around and do nothing? Fight the urge to "fall off the wagon" by doing something you enjoy, like kicking butt at the gym. After some time, you'll notice that muscle is crowding out the fat, and cravings are falling by the wayside.

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.