Getting motivated to exercise when you’re losing weight can be tough. But new research suggests that an aerobic workout in the morning not only burns calories, it helps you control your appetite throughout the day. Adding weight training for muscle mass can boost your metabolism to keep the pounds away.
Fight cravings with exercise
It’s easy to assume that because exercise burns calories, working out makes you want to eat more. But according to researchers at Brigham Young University, if you’re having trouble fighting your cravings, a brisk workout could help you curb your appetite.
The BYU study, published online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that 45 minutes of aerobic exercise in the morning actually reduces a person’s motivation for food.
Train the body and the brain
The researchers recruited 18 normal-weight women and 17 clinically obese women for the two-day experiment. On the first day, the women walked on a treadmill for 45 minutes and had their brain waves measured afterwards. Electrodes were attached to each participant’s scalp and an EEG machine measured their neural activity while they looked at images of food and as a control, images of flowers.
Their brain waves were measured again a week later without the morning workout. With no exercise session, the women’s brains reacted more strongly to the food images. What’s more, when the women had a morning workout, they tended to be more physically active throughout the day, regardless of body mass index. They also had less food motivation, feeling no need to replace the extra calories they burned in exercise.
Similar results with men
A separate exercise/appetite study conducted in Australia achieved similar results with men. Instead of brain waves, researchers measured appetite hormones. The men were divided in to three groups. One group was assigned to aerobic workouts. A second group lifted weights. A third group was sedentary. After 12 weeks, the aerobic group ate less of a controlled meal and reported feeling more full than the other groups. The aerobic group also had higher levels of leptin, an appetite hormone that signals the body it has had enough to eat.
Weight training and weight maintenance
The BYU researchers said they have yet to determine how long the reduced food motivation lasts after exercise and to what extent it persists with consistent, long-term exercise. If you’re trying this at home, mixing in weight training a few times a week along with daily aerobic exercise could help you control your weight in the long term.
Every pound of muscle in your body burns 35 calories a day, while each pound of fat burns just 2 calories. A 45-minute aerobic exercise session burns more calories than 45 minutes of weight training, but because muscle burns more calories than fat, weight training has a longer-lasting effect on boosting metabolism.
Plus, having extra muscle means it’s likely you can eat more and still keep shedding the fat. But with that morning workout, you may not feel like it.