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Don’t Let Brain Food Make You Fat

Don’t Let Brain Food Make You Fat

Before the 2008 Olympics, swimmer Michael Phelps ate up to 12,000 calories a day! His intense workout regimen let him consume what amounts, for most people, to five to six days’ worth of food every 24 hours. That’s the power of physical activity.

But brain workouts can be depleting too. Haven’t you noticed that after putting in hours of intense mental activity you crave calories? Well, there’s a reason for that. Scientists say when your brain works hard it feels depleted of the glucose it lives on. That triggers hunger signals…you’re thinking of something sweet maybe? Unfortunately, a bout of intense thinking doesn’t burn many calories. So when you get the brain-drain munchies, chances are you’re taking in excess, weight-gaining calories.

But you can win the Battle of the Brain-Bulge! A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that people who exercised, even briefly, after a brain workout ate 25 percent fewer calories than folks who had a similar mental work-out and then rested. (We gotta get movin’! Writing these columns is brain-challenging.)

The researchers think this is because physical exercise generates lactate, a potential source of energy for your brain. When the brain senses it’s getting needed nutrition, it no longer sends out “Feed-me!” commands. So the next time your brain is fried, try 15 minutes of exercise (walk around the block twice, get on the stationary bike, jump up and down 40 times) before you reach for a snack. You want a bigger brain, not a bigger waist.

Medically reviewed in June 2018.

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