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Not Hungry After Your Workout? Researchers Reveal Why


You’ve just finished a good workout and figure it’s time for some food, but, on closer inspection, you realize that you’re not actually hungry.

Familiar with this phenomenon? It may seem counterintuitive, but for most people, our appetites are relatively low in the time after completing a workout.

Now, new research has produced insight into why that may be the case, and in the process, could offer some interesting ideas for weight loss strategies of the future.

New Study Investigates Why You May Not Feel Hungry After Exercising

Intuitively, it would make sense that exercise — and therefore, the expenditure of energy — would lead to an increase in appetite as a means of replenishing that used energy. And while that may be the case in the long run, most people find that their appetites are decreased — at least in the short term — after completing a workout.

Past studies have supported this commonality, as research has shown that all different types of aerobic exercise do in fact decrease our appetite by impacting the levels of our hormones that drive hunger. So, while we’ve had some handle on this somewhat strange inverse relationship for some time, the biological underpinnings that produce this effect have remained somewhat mysterious.

Recently however, new research out of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, and published in the journal PLOS Biology, has investigated this relationship with interesting results. The lead researcher, Dr. Young-Hwan Jo, tested his hypothesis that an increase in bodily heat during exercise may be instrumental in signaling the brain to reduce appetite by using a mouse model study. (Interestingly, this effect is often caused by eating very spicy foods too.)

More precisely, the researchers exposed specific brain cells that coordinate appetite suppression to both heat and a chili pepper compound, finding that about two thirds of these cells responded to the two different heat stimuli, thus indicating appetite suppression. Taking the study further, the scientists found that the mice who were exposed exhibited a tendency to eat less food over the following 12 hours as compared to a control group.

Is This the Future of Weight Loss?

To be clear, we’re still at the beginning of the road to better understanding this relationship, and a great deal of research is still required to make any conclusions. However, this new study has unearthed a very interesting principle that might one day be used as a weight loss strategy. It could be that exposing targeted brain cells to suppress hunger is a viable method of appetite suppression in humans.

If scientists are one day able to capture these principles and reproduce them in our bodies, perhaps we could find a natural basis for reducing our appetites. Until that day — which is unlikely to be any time soon — our best strategy remains the tried and true method of eating a healthy, balanced diet, pursuing regular physical activity, and maintaining healthy patterns of behaviors, stress management and sleep hygiene.

Derek is a researcher, presenter and community liaison at the Behavioral Health & Wellness Program at the University of Colorado, specializing in promoting health systems change and combating health disparities. With his background as a technical writer and editor, he has over 15 years of experience working in the health care field. His experience includes serving as a contributing author on several textbooks in the medical field, running a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and writing a variety of other pieces ranging from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal passion for health and wellness by playing multiple sports, hiking and running marathons, and travels extensively, having visited or lived in over 60 countries.

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