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Hungry after a workout? You might want to skimp on the carbs

January 29, 2010 |  2:49 pm

You've just finished a serious workout and your stomach is rumbling. Figuring you should replace the carbohydrates you just burned, you reach for something carb-heavy. But is that the best thing to have?

Kummkfnc Researchers from the University of Michigan discovered that what you eat following a workout may trigger different metabolic responses. In a small study published last December in the Journal of Applied Physiology, nine healthy men went through four different sessions: In one they were sedentary and ate meals with a calorie equivalent of what they burned that day (this served as the control), and three in which they exercised for about 90 minutes at moderate intensity and then ate a meal.

After one of those three sessions they ate a carb-, fat- and protein-balanced meal that had the calorie equivalent of what they burned; after another they ate a low-carb meal with the calorie equivalent of what they burned; and after the third they ate a meal with a higher carb content to replace the carbs they burned during exercise, but the calorie content was below what they burned by about one-third.

The bouts of exercise all improved insulin sensitivity, but it was especially enhanced when the session included the low-carb meal. Having good insulin sensitivity means that the body can more easily take sugar from the bloodstream, allowing muscles to use it for fuel.

Among the sessions that included the low-calorie meal or the calorie-equivalent meals there were no discernible differences in improving insulin sensitivity. Researchers believe that although weight loss may be the goal of many who exercise, there still could be health benefits without cutting back on food.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Kirsten Luce / MCT