Acute compensatory eating following exercise is associated with implicit hedonic wanting for food

Physiol Behav. 2009 Apr 20;97(1):62-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.02.002. Epub 2009 Feb 7.


The efficacy of exercise to promote weight loss could potentially be undermined by its influence on explicit or implicit processes of liking and wanting for food which in turn alter food preference. The present study was designed to examine hedonic and homeostatic mechanisms involved in the acute effects of exercise on food intake. 24 healthy female subjects were recruited to take part in two counterbalanced activity sessions; 50 min of high intensity (70% max heart rate) exercise (Ex) or no exercise (NEx). Subjective appetite sensations, explicit and implicit hedonic processes, food preference and energy intake (EI) were measured immediately before and after each activity session and an ad libitum test meal. Two groups of subjects were identified in which exercise exerted different effects on compensatory EI and food preference. After exercise, compensators (C) increased their EI, rated the food to be more palatable, and demonstrated increased implicit wanting. Compensators also showed a preference for high-fat sweet food compared with non-compensators (NC), independent of the exercise intervention. Exercise-induced changes in the hedonic response to food could be an important consideration in the efficacy of using exercise as a means to lose weight. An enhanced implicit wanting for food after exercise may help to explain why some people overcompensate during acute eating episodes. Some individuals could be resistant to the beneficial effects of exercise due to a predisposition to compensate for exercise-induced energy expenditure as a result of implicit changes in food preferences.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Appetite*
  • Eating*
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Time Factors