WORRIED ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT? HERE'S WHAT CARDIO DOES TO YOUR APPETITE

By Rhian
PHOTO: JAVIER DíEZ/STOCKSY

There’s a longstanding debate around how cardio actually affects your metabolism. While some people swear by it, others claim it spikes your appetite, makes you gain weight and even worse, prevents you from building lean muscle mass. So what does the science say?

A recent study from Loughborough University looked at the effect of cardiovascular exercise on Ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite (otherwise known as the hunger hormone). Individuals performed different intensities and durations of cardio exercise, and were compared against a control group who did no exercise. All groups were given standardised meals and both levels of Ghrelin and perceived hunger were measured. In all exercise groups from moderate to intense, Ghrelin was significantly suppressed compared to the groups who didn’t exercise. Interestingly, the longer and more intense the cardio sessions were, the more hunger was suppressed, both in terms of actual Ghrelin concentration and perceived appetite. The group that performed the more intense, 90 minute sessions had even longer lasting benefits than those who did the 45 minute sessions. Their Ghrelin remained suppressed 90 minutes after the session had finished, and they also claimed to feel less hungry.

So what if you aren't seeing the results? Your metabolism isn’t straightforward, nor is it dependent on one factor. Exercise is a critical piece to the puzzle, but it doesn't work in isolation - making sure the food you eat is actually nourishing your body is essential, as is the awareness of other lifestyle factors that have a significant impact your health.

When it Backfires…
  • Skipping meals: a lot of people think burn more + eat less = results, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Skipping your meal after a workout can majorly backfire. Not only can it prevent muscle recovery & repair (meaning less metabolically active tissue, thus less calories burned) but it can often throw out your hunger hormones for the rest of the day, which can lead to a ravenous appetite and over eating later on.
  • Too many justifications: although we ALL deserve a treat every now and then, exercise can backfire when we use it as an allowance to regularly eat the things we know we shouldn’t. We’ve all been there, but its a slippery slope! The more we use this as a motivator to train, the more likely it is that we’ll get into the habit of making unhealthy choices or relying on treats.
  • Insufficient protein: muscles need protein to recover, but a lot of people associate only associate this with weights or strength based workouts. Intense cardio workouts (like Psycle) have been shown to increase lean muscle mass, increase power output and increase VO2 max, but to get the best results it’s essential to refuel. If you need a little guidance on how to up your protein, check it out here.
  • Too much stress: this is a bit of a catch 22. Exercise (especially cardio) is one of the best things you can do for your mind when you're stressed, but it is also technically a stress on the body. Exercise also increases the hormone cortisol, which is the hormone that can get out of balance when you're stressed, which is why a lot of people jump to the conclusion that cardio should be the first thing that goes. So what's the deal? If you're mega stressed, it's even more important to make sure your nutrition is on point to help balance your pre workout hormones. Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed food and go for protein and slow release carbohydrates + veggies. Avoid coffee within an hour after your session has finished, as this will keep your cortisol spiked, prevent rehydration and impair muscle recovery. Focusing on improving your sleep quality, finding effective stress reduction techniques like mindfulness & reducing alcohol will have a positive impact on your hormones.



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