Jan. 29, 2010 -- What you eat after working out makes a difference, but it
doesn't mean you have to starve yourself to reap the health benefits of
A new study shows that eating a low-carbohydrate meal after aerobic exercise
enhances insulin sensitivity. Increased insulin sensitivity makes it easier for
the body to take up sugar from the bloodstream and store it in muscles and
other tissues where it can be used for fuel.
Researchers say the results support a growing body of research that shows
many of the health benefits of exercise come from the most recent exercise
session rather than weeks or months of training.
“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,” researcher Jeffrey F. Horowitz of the University of
Michigan says in a news release. “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.”
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, looked at
the effects of three different meals on the body's metabolism after 90 minutes
of moderate exercise on a treadmill and stationary bicycle compared with
resting metabolism in nine healthy men.
The first meal consisted of a balanced meal with a carbohydrate, fat,
protein, and calorie content that matched their calorie expenditure during the
The second meal matched the calorie count of their exercise expenditure but
contained about 200 grams of carbohydrates (less than half the carbohydrate of
the balanced meal).
The third meal contained fewer calories than those burned during the
aerobic workout (about one-third less than the other two meals) and a
relatively high carbohydrate content.
In all three exercise sessions, researchers say there was a trend for an
increase in insulin sensitivity. But when the participants ate the
low-carbohydrate meal following exercise, it increased their insulin
sensitivity even more.
Researchers say the results show that people can reap important health
benefits from exercise without starving themselves after exercise or losing