The goal of the study was to determine whether the label given to an exercise bout affects immediate post-exercise food intake. The authors hypothesized that explicitly labeling an exercise bout 'fat-burning' (vs. labeling an exercise bout 'endurance' exercise) would increase post-exercise food intake in individuals who self-impose physical activity, because they are more likely to see the label as signal of activated fat metabolism and license to reward oneself. No such effect was expected for individuals who do not self-impose physical activity but consider exercise enjoyable. Ninety-six participants took part in an experiment manipulating the label given to an exercise bout (fat-burning exercise or endurance exercise) between participants. They cycled on an ergometer for 20 minutes at a consistent work rate (55-65% of predicted VO2 max) and were offered ad libitum food (i.e., pretzel pieces) after the exercise bout. The results showed that self-imposed exercisers, that is, individuals with low behavioral regulation and individuals with high psychological distress, high fatigue levels, and low positive well-being when exercising, ate more food after exercise when the bout was labeled fat-burning exercise rather than endurance exercise. The results help develop health interventions, indicating that the tendency to compensate for energy expended following physical activity depends on both the label given to the exercise bout and the degree to which individuals self-impose physical activity.
Keywords: Exercise; Food intake; Labeling; Motivation; Physical activity; Self-imposed goals.
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