Sprint Exercises Linked To Healthy Food Choices In New Study

Want To Make Healthier Food Choices? This Workout May Make It Easier

If you've ever struggled with making healthy food choices, first, know you're not alone. Second, researchers may have just found a way to make those choices a little easier—through a particular kind of workout.

In a new study from the University of Western Australia and James Cook University, researchers found that people who included sprints in their exercise regimen made healthier food decisions following their workout. (Sprints are defined as short bursts of full-intensity exercise—often running, but HIIT applies, as well.)

The team looked at 40 men and women who were not physically active and had them do either short running sprints with low-intensity breaks in between or distance cycling (which acted as a "moderate-intense" aerobic exercise). The workouts were adjusted to require the same amount of work despite the differences in length and intensity.

And the sprinters ended up eating less post-workout, because of the workout's effect on appetite.

Hacking the hunger hormone.

According to the researchers, it comes back to a hormone called "ghrelin," which is known to influence appetite and hunger. Ghrelin is released when the stomach is empty and stops when the stomach is stretched. It's also highest before eating and lowest an hour after eating.

After the participants worked out, ghrelin was notably lower in the sprinters than in the cyclers, which explains why that group went on to eat less food.

"What our research shows," says the study's lead author, Ph.D. candidate Natalya Beer, "is that if you're planning to exercise and you're also concerned about your diet, try to incorporate short sprints into your session—otherwise known as HIIT—as opposed to moderate-intensity continuous training."

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Social support doesn't hurt, either.

In addition to that, the research also looked into the effects of social support on hunger during these workouts, with participants either working out in a friendly, motivating environment or in a nonsocial environment.

Those sprinters who were in a supportive social environment, the study found, consumed less food after their workout than those in the nonsocial environment. As such, social environments and "surrounding yourself with friendly instructors and peers" are recommended if you're going to undertake a new sprints regimen, to really maximize the effects (although sprints done alone still help).

Of course, sometimes making the right dietary choices is easier said than done. Food cravings, busy schedules, and so much more can make it seem impossible to get it right. But thankfully, controlling those cravings post-workout could be as easy as getting some friends together for a quick HIIT workout.

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