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The post-workout snack rule

THE SCIENCE

You should always choose a post-workout snack pre-exercise, according to new findings published in the journal Nutrients.

For the study, researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offered people either an apple or a brownie to eat after a training session. Those who chose beforehand were more likely to pick the fruit, while those who did so afterward tended to opt for the dessert.

EXPERT INSIGHT

Humans have a natural drive to replenish the energy they use up to maintain their weight, a phenomenon called compensatory eating, says study co-author Karsten Koehler, Ph.D., assistant professor of sports and exercise nutrition. That could explain why you’d go the indulgent route after burning 500 calories on the treadmill or sweating through a PT session.

From a psychological perspective, people make decisions based on how immediate benefits (in this case, taste) stack up against the future payoffs (like health), explains co-author Christopher Gustafson, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioral economics and health disparities. “When you’re hungry, it may be difficult to keep long-term goals in mind.”

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Choose your post-workout snack before you head to the gym and bring it with you, Koehler says, to minimize the temptation to change your mind.