Congrats on completing a tough sweat session! Care for a cookie?
Apparently the instinct to reach for something sweet after a workout isn’t abnormal. Exercise makes people crave dessert, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Health Psychology.
Researchers examined 88 college participants as they took an “approach avoidance task” test, which is basically a tool that measures an individual’s response to certain stimuli. The test contained images ranging from desserts to common household items. Each participant held a device during the test that measured their hand movements as they responded to each image. If a participant even subtly pulled the device toward them, that meant the image made them happy or was attractive to them.
Next, the participants were either assigned to exercise on a stationary bike or complete brain puzzles. After that, they were given the same test a second time.
Those who were in the workout group were more likely to be attracted to the photos of sweet treats than those in the brain puzzle or control group. The study authors theorize this has something to do with their bodies (and brains, really) trying to make up for the calories they expended during physical exertion, The Cut reports.
The results can offer some useful insight into post-workout habits ― even the ones you’re not necessarily aware of. Thanks to the hand-held device, the research measured the volunteers’ immediate reactions to food rather than their conscious reactions. It appears a person could be motivated to reach for dessert after working out thanks to human biology (i.e. a need to replenish calories), not just because they’ve consciously made a decision to do so (i.e. the cookie is appealing because they’ve “earned” it by burning calories).
There are some caveats to the study. Its sample size was small, for starters, so a definitive conclusion can’t be made. It’s also not clear if it was food the exercisers were craving, or sweets specifically, since the study used a dessert-based approach avoidance task.
Either way, heading for the cookie jar likely isn’t the best thing after the gym. We asked a few HuffPost Lifestyle editors to share their favorite post-exercise snacks to help you indulge without undoing your workout.
Take a look at the recommendations below:
FruitCreatas Images via Getty Images
Green Smoothiejenifoto via Getty Images
HummusALLEKO via Getty Images
Chocolate MilkVeselovaElena via Getty Images
What are your favorite post-workout snacks? Share them with us in the comments below!