What You Eat After Exercise MattersPosted on Feb 4th 2010 3:00PM by Ashley Neglia
Filed Under: Fitness
Grabbing a stick of celery or another very low-calorie snack after a workout is not the best way to enhance the health benefits of exercise. Also, insulin sensitivity gets a boost from your most recent aerobic exercise session, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
"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," said the study's senior author, Jeffrey F. Horowitz.
University of Michigan researchers, including Horowitz and his student, Sean A. Newsom, honed in on the effects of insulin sensitivity -- how easily body tissues like muscle absorb sugar from the blood stream -- after a 90-minute workout. After each cardio session, subjects ate either a meal low in calories, low in carbohydrates or a meal that balanced carbohydrates, fat and protein.
Eating low-carb meals after exercise produced the most improvement in insulin sensitivity, which is important for insulin-resistant people who are pre-diabetic. However, participants who consumed low-calorie meals did not show more of an enhancement compared to those who ate enough to match their calorie expenditure.
If losing weight isn't a concern for you, this research suggests that you can still glean the same health benefits after exercise even if you eat the amount of calories you just burned off.
"We know that each session of exercise can benefit blood sugar control, and what you eat is really important to truly understanding the gestalt of diet and exercise," Horowitz said.
Horowitz and his team of researchers are currently studying what the minimum amount of exercise an obese, pre-diabetic person needs to perform in order to increase blood sugar control. "Each session of exercise is important, but how long does it have to be? How hard do you have to go?" asked Horowitz. "What is it about these doses of exercise that are healthful?"