Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size
A
A
A

What You Eat After Working Out Matters

Carbohydrates in What You Eat After Exercise Affects Health Benefits
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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 exercise.

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.

Impaired insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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.”

Eating Affects Health Benefits of 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.

  1. The first meal consisted of a balanced meal with a carbohydrate, fat, protein, and calorie content that matched their calorie expenditure during the exercise session.
  2. 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).
  3. 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 weight.

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
Teen girl jogging
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article