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Interval training and weight control

Don’t have time for an hour and a half workout? Don’t sweat it. New studies suggest short bursts of intense cardio exercise with a short recovery time can offer a variety of benefits including improved aerobic fitness, lower blood pressure and reduced insulin sensitivity. Experts suggest the sessions, even if they are short, can be effective. For instance, you may see benefits with a series of four or seven minute workouts.

How does interval training affect my diet?

What is not clear to researchers yet is whether or not interval training can help an individual maintain their weight. In June, The International Journal of Obesity, researchers at the University of Western Australia in Perth and other institutions conducted a study to research the effects of interval training and people’s subsequent desire to eat.

In the study 17 overweight but otherwise healthy young men in their 20s or 30s were asked to come to the study after completing several different activities. For instance, one day they came to the lab after reading or resting for thirty minutes, the next day they rode a bike at a moderate pace for thirty minutes and the third day they came to the lab after doing 30 minutes of intervals, riding first for one minute at 100 percent of their endurance capacity, then spinning gently for 4 minutes.

Scientists took blood from the volunteers before and after the exercise and rest. The men were also given a liquid breakfast after each session. An hour and ten minutes after each session the men were allowed to smell and eat a variety of different foods, from the sweet to the bland, with the least enticing being a bowl of bland porridge. The goal of the researchers was to isolate the effects of pure appetite.

What did the researchers find out about interval training?

Men who had rested or who had performed moderate activities seemed to find the porridge most appetizing. Men who had participated in the most strenuous interval training work outs were the least likely to consume their porridge, eating significantly less than after resting or training moderately.

The men who had the most strenuous interval training work outs also had elevated levels of blood sugar and blood lactate, which decreases the desire to eat. The hormone ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite, however, was much lower. Interestingly, the study also notes that the effects of the work out may have also suppressed the participant’s appetites up to 24 hours after the workout, with the same group of men eating fewer calories the following day. Other similar studies have produced similar results.

Drawbacks of the Study

Researchers conclude that although intense interval workouts seem to “lead to a short-term suppression of food intake” it’s important to note the study was done with young men who were all slightly overweight for a very short duration. Researchers have not concluded whether intense interval training exercise is helpful for long-term weight management. Researchers are also not sure if the same strategy would be as useful for women, older men and people of either gender who are normal weight.

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