Healthy living * Weight loss

What you eat after exercising matters

what you eat after exercise is important Health benefits linked to food type

The health benefits of exercise are linked to the nature of the foods eaten afterwards, according to a new study.

The study also found that the positive effects of exercise on health are caused by the most recent sessions, rather than any long term increase in fitness overall.

One of the major changes in the body produced by exercise is enhanced insulin sensitivity, particularly when meals eaten after the exercise session contained relatively low carbohydrate content. This means that the body is better able to take up sugar from the blood stream into tissues like muscles, where it can be stored or used as fuel.

But reduced insulin sensitivity is a hallmark of type II diabetes, and a major factor in other conditions such as heart disease.

So it seems that exercising and then eating low carbohydrate food could help provide protection against these and other health risks.

Interestingly, the effect was the same regardless of whether the foods were high or low calorie, which suggests that exercise can provide health benefits even when it does not contribute to weight loss.

Jeffrey F. Horowitz, who led the study, said: "Although weight loss is important for improving metabolic health in overweight and obese people, these results suggests that people can still reap some important health benefits from exercise without under-eating or losing weight."

"Many of the improvements in metabolic health associated with exercise stem largely from the most recent session of exercise, rather than from an increase in 'fitness' per se," Dr Horowitz said.

"But exercise doesn't occur in a vacuum, and it is very important to look at both the effects of exercise and what you're eating after exercise" he added.

It should be noted that this was a small study of only nine people, so further work is needed.

The results of the study, which was carried out at the University of Michigan, are published in Journal of Applied Physiology.

This article was published on Fri 29 January 2010

Image © Marco Cappalunga -

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