• Emily Stynes

Can Exercise Influence Our Food Choices?

Updated: Feb 13

The role of physical activity in the regulation of food intake is an area that has received great interest due to the widespread and increased rates of obesity and sedentary behaviours.

Physical activity not only plays a role in energy expenditure ie burning calories during physical activity but also in non-exercise induced activities and energy intake.

An interesting phenomenon that I learned about when researching for my thesis was that following a strenuous bout of exercise, a short-term suppression of appetite known as 'exercise-induced anorexia’ can occur (1). This often explains why some people do not feel immediately hungry after working out. However, this mechanism in our bodies is often short-lived as following roughly 30-40mins our appetite returns and we begin to feel a strong desire to consume food after we have exercised (2).

The impact of physical activity on our satiety and appetite control is associated with changes in the leptin hormone which is produced by our bodies fat cells and plays a role in the long-term regulation of energy balance (3), suppressing food intake and therefore potentially inducing weight loss. Interestingly, leptin also known as the ‘satiety or starvation hormone’ primarily targets receptors in the brain, particularly in the area of the hypothalamus where we control hunger as well as body temperature, thirst, fatigue, sleep, circadian rhythms and emotional aspects too (4). On the other hand, ghrelin also known as the hunger hormone plays a role in meal initiation (4).

I also found it interesting to learn about the concept that a lack of down-regulation of energy intake and decreasing our levels of physical activity can put sedentary individuals at risk of weight gain (5). In contrast, increasing physical activity can actually enhance the regulation and control of our appetite ensuring we do not consume more energy than our bodies require.

Lastly, as well as the physiological and metabolic processes that have been shown to occur in the body due to physical activity, there are also psychological and behavioural factors to be considered. Interestingly, overweight and obese individuals were put on the same, carefully controlled, 12-week diet and exercise program (6), however, the amount and rate weight loss was not between all participants in the study?

It has been suggested that some people may be classified as ‘compensators’ ie they compensate with higher energy intakes for the amount of physical activity they have done, resulting in a maintenance or increase in body weight. Why this is exactly has yet to be explored but it most likely is in relation to psychological aspects of eating behaviour and suggests that further studies in the area of weight management and physical activity are needed.


  1. Dorling, J., Broom, D. R., Burns, S. F., Clayton, D. J., Deighton, K., James, L. J., King, J. A., Miyashita, M., Thackray, A. E., Batterham, R. L., & Stensel, D. J. (2018). Acute and Chronic Effects of Exercise on Appetite, Energy Intake, and Appetite-Related Hormones: The Modulating Effect of Adiposity, Sex, and Habitual Physical Activity.Nutrients,10(9), 1140. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091140.

  2. King NA, Burley VJ, Blundell JE et al., Exercise-induced suppression of appetite: effects on food 1062 intake and implications for energy balance. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1994;48(10):715-24.

  3. Martins C, Morgan LM, Bloom SR et al., Effects of exercise on gut peptides, energy intake and 1064 appetite. The Journal of endocrinology. 2007;193(2):251-8.

  4. Klok MD, Jakobsdottir S, Drent ML. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review.Obes Rev. 2007;8(1):21-34. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00270.x

  5. Blundell JE, Stubbs RJ, Hughes DA et al, Cross talk between physical activity and appetite control: 1066 does physical activity stimulate appetite? The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2003;62(3):651-6

  6. King NA, Horner K, Hills AP, et al., Exercise, appetite and weight management: understanding the 1070 compensatory responses in eating behaviour and how they contribute to variability in exercise-induced weight 1071 loss. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012;46(5):315-2

6 views0 comments