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Sweating Out Unhealthy Cravings

Intense Workouts Are Food For Thought

Young, beautiful woman training by riding a bicycle in a gym and sweating

By John Salak –

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that intense exercise is a benefit to anyone looking to lose weight. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), for example, can burn 25 to 30 percent more calories than other forms of exercise. That sort of return on sweat (ROS) is a great way to trim pounds.

Healthline.com also reports that HIIT, which involves alternating high and low activity levels, can raise the metabolic rate for extended periods, generate muscle gain, improve oxygen consumption, reduce blood pressure and may even lower blood sugar levels.

HIIT, of course, is only one form of intense exercise. There are plenty of ways to ramp up activity levels to burn calories and generate other benefits. Now, however, researchers may have found another hidden weight-loss benefit to high-intensity exercise.

A full-steam-ahead workout may just help people resist cues for high-fat foods. If nothing else, the approach worked in a test run on chubby rats.  Washington State University researchers discovered that robust rodents who exercised intensely were better able to resist their favored, high-fat food pellets.

The university’s work was designed to examine something known as the “incubation of craving.” This concept focuses on the theory that the longer the desired substance is denied, the harder it is to ignore signals for it.

Intense exercise apparently is the key for rats and maybe for people as well. Yes, more research is needed, but Washington State researcher Travis Brown reported that a hard workout certainly shored up restraint in rats to their favored high-fat foods.

“A really important part of maintaining a diet is to have some brain power—the ability to say ‘no, I may be craving that, but I’m going to abstain,'” Brown explained. “Exercise could not only be beneficial physically for weight loss but also mentally to gain control over cravings for unhealthy foods.”

Evolving research will focus on how different levels of exercise impact cravings and exactly why intense workouts curb desires for unhealthy foods. Washington State’s work may also help answer the lingering question of whether certain foods can be addictive.

Ultimately, just being able to sidetrack urges for unhealthy foods may be enough of a reward for rats and people alike. So, breaking out in a high-intensity-inspired sweat may yield new benefits.

“Exercise is beneficial from a number of perspectives: it helps with cardiac disease, obesity and diabetes; it might also help with the ability to avoid some of these maladaptive foods,” Brown said. “We’re always looking for this magic pill in some ways, and exercise is right in front of us with all these benefits.”




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