Eating after exercise

Theme Diet and physical activity

Workstream Population diet and physical activity

Status: This project is complete

The aim of this project is to explore how we can help people reduce their food intake after exercise.

People sometimes eat after being physically active because they see food as a form of reward or think they need to replace the energy they used while exercising. We want to develop an intervention to reduce the amount they eat as this could help them maintain a healthy weight.

Many people believe things about hunger and eating that do not match up with scientific evidence. For example, they report needing to eat between meals as a way of keeping their energy levels up. Our previous research indicates that this could stand in the way of people achieving a healthy weight and maintaining it.

Many people also overestimate the energy they use while physically active. Some might even see exercising as a ‘licence’ to eat additional food or use food as a reward for being active. This is why eating after exercise can potentially undermine the benefits of physical activity for healthy weight maintenance.

Our preliminary work already shows that one way to reduce post-exercise food intake is to use immersive technologies (e.g., virtual reality), which increases the enjoyment of physical activity. We suspect that that this could reduce the ‘licence’ people give themselves to eat more after exercising.

We are planning a series of studies to address this issue. Firstly, we will carry out a scoping review to inform future work. Building on this evidence, we plan to design and pilot an intervention that limits the psychological licencing of food intake to maximise the potential benefits of physical activity for healthy weight maintenance.