A new study suggests the kind of exercise you do matters when it comes to lowering cravings for high-fat foods. (Photo by Getty Images)
Sure, you may know all the usual tips and tricks for eating healthfully: Use smaller plates to help with portion sizes, keep your snacks hidden in the pantry so you’re less likely to eat them just because they’re there, the list goes on. But there’s a trick you may not know, but should: Adding resistance exercises to your workout routine may make fatty foods less desirous.
A recent study in the journal Appetite found that people are less likely to crave high-fat foods after doing resistance exercises than after doing aerobics or not exercising at all.
For the study, Canadian researchers had 16 men and women with an average age of 22 do two separate workout routines: resistance and aerobics. They also had them come in for a third control routine, when they were instructed to read a book. Rather than asking the participants to do each exercise routine for an allotted amount of time, though, researchers asked them to continue exercising until they burned the same amount of calories during each session. As a result, it took the participants 24 minutes, on average, to do the aerobic exercises, and 85 minutes to do the resistance exercises. And finally, after each session, the scientists tracked the participants’ perceived exercise exertion and their food cravings, and gave them lunch to eat.
So, what happened? For starters, the participants reported higher perceived exertion after the resistance routine than after the aerobics one and the control session. That’s likely because unlike cardio workouts, resistance moves stick with you after the fact — you continue to feel it for hours and even days — so your body may think it worked harder, the study authors suggest.
But perhaps more importantly, the participants reported less of a desire for high-fat foods after doing the exercises than when they were doing the control reading activity. And when comparing the two exercises, participants reported less desire for high-fat foods after doing the resistance exercises than the aerobic exercises. (However, the researchers did not find that the type of exercise made a difference in the amount of calories consumed during the lunch afterward.)
The researchers believe it boils down to perceived exertion. When you think you just worked really hard, you’re less likely want to indulge in fatty foods because you don’t want to “blow” what you’ve just worked so hard to achieve, they explain. In other words, you feel like you’re on a roll — so you want to keep it going!
It’s important to note that the study size was small, and that researchers did not prove a cause and effect relationship in their findings. But still, it can’t hurt to add some easy resistance moves into your routine, considering resistance exercise has a host of other health benefits. We asked fitness expert Greg Justice, an exercise physiologist at AYC Health & Fitness in Kansas City, to share his top four favorite resistance moves with Yahoo Health— two for when you’re at the gym, and two for when you’re at home. Your mission: Try incorporating these killer moves into your workout routine, and you may just end up craving a delicious kale salad.
At the gym:
Squats. You probably know how to do these already, but here’s a smart refresher: Grab a weight bar and put it on your shoulders. Make sure your knees are in line with your feet. Then — keeping your head up, your hips and shoulders back, and your weight on your heels — bend your knees without letting them go beyond your toes. Drive up through your heels, and back to the starting position. Do this 12 more times.
Pull-ups. Justice swears these are great for overall upper body strength and endurance. Do them like so: Place your palms face-forward, with a grip on a bar slightly wider than your shoulders. Hang with this grip, and then pull your body straight up until your chin is just over the bar. Hold for one second before lowering your body back to the starting position. Easier said than done, of course, but try to do it — and then do it 12 more times.
Split squats. These are great for balance, as well as for all the muscles of the lower body, Justice explains. First, put your hands on your hips or by your side. Then, put one foot forward and your other food behind, making sure both feet point in the same direction throughout the movement. Next, squat down by bending the knee and hip of your front leg. Allow the heel of your rear foot to come off the ground, and bend your rear knee slightly until it nearly touches the floor. Then, return to your original position and repeat 12 times.
Dynamic pillar planks. Upgraded planks are a great way to strengthen your upper body and core muscles, Justice explains. It starts with a regular push-up, and then lower yourself down one arm at a time to your elbows. Rise back up one arm at a time, until you’re back into the push-up position. That entire series is one rep, so repeat 12 more times.
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