Assistant Professorship of Exercise, Nutrition and Health publishes paper on compensatory eating after exercise in the journal "Nutrients"

According to statistics from the German Obesity Society, around two thirds (67 percent) of men and half (53 percent) of women in Germany are overweight. Accordingly, they have a body mass index (BMI) of over 25. The BMI is the most common formula for calculating weight. It is calculated by squaring the ratio of body weight in kilograms and height in meters. Values between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered normal weight.

The aim of the randomized crossover study was to investigate the influence of exercise on hypothetical decisions regarding the amount and timing of food intake. For this purpose, 41 healthy participants (23 women, 18 men) aged between 19 and 29 years with an average BMI of 23.7 were randomly assigned to either a 45-minute exercise session or a rest period of equal duration at the first visit and completed the other study condition at the second visit.

In each case, the training group answered an electronic questionnaire before the physical activity about their subjective assessment of hunger and satiety, preferred amount of food to eat, and choice between foods that differed in timing of consumption. Subjects indicated their food quantity preferences by listing their desired portion size of each food. Preferences were obtained for both immediate and later consumption of the food after four hours.

In addition, according to the Consumption and Media Analysis 2020, around 7.17 million people in Germany want to lose weight. If you want to lose weight, you have to consume more energy than you eat. Physical exercise also plays an important role in this. After all, more calories are consumed through sport than when sitting, standing or lying down.

But what influence does sport have on (in)direct nutritional behavior? This question has now been investigated for the first time by Prof. Dr. Karsten Köhler's Assistant Professorship of Exercise, Nutrition and Health. The results of a study on this were published in the journal "Nutrients" under the title "Exercise Shifts Hypothetical Food Choices toward Greater Amounts and More Immediate Consumption". The journal has an impact factor of 4.546.

"In the sports context, we have the phenomenon of people overeating after physical activity," Prof. Köhler said. "People want to reward themselves and their bodies for being active. So we wanted to use a hypothetical experiment to find out why people eat more after exercise compared to when they don't exercise."

After answering the first questionnaire, participants performed 45 minutes of aerobic exercise on a bicycle ergometer. Immediately afterwards, they completed the electronic questionnaire a second time and then a third time after a 30-minute break. The procedure for the group without training was identical; instead of 45 minutes of physical activity, these participants had a rest break.

Compared to the rest break, exercise provided a greater increase in the amount of food chosen, both immediately after exercise and 30 minutes afterwards. Physical activity also resulted in a greater increase in preference for immediate food consumption both immediately after exercise and 30 minutes afterwards.

"Based on this study, we were able to show for the first time that certain characteristics, such as the amount and 'urgency' with which a person wants to eat, change over the course of physical exertion," said Prof. Köhler, classifying the results. "These findings help us develop new interventions to optimize weight loss through exercise."

The present results suggest that compensatory increases in food intake after exercise are the result of an increased preference for food quantity combined with an increased tendency for more immediate food intake. The fact that changes in food choice occur during and following exercise emphasizes the importance of the timing of food choice in the context of exercise.

"Considering that weight loss is a primary motive for exercising for many, and failure to achieve desired weight loss makes quitting exercise likely, our findings could improve long-term adherence to exercise programs and contribute to favorable health outcomes via weight loss," Prof. Köhler said. "Ultimately, of course, you have to find the right balance. But sport should definitely not be used as an excuse to eat more!"

To the publication „Exercise Shifts Hypothetical Food Choices toward Greater Amounts and More Immediate Consumption“ in the journal „Nutrients“

To the homepage of the Assistant Professorship of Exercise, Nutrition and Health


Prof. Dr. Karsten Köhler
Assistant Professorship of Exercise, Nutrition and Health
Georg-Brauchle-Ring 60/62
80992 München

phone: 089 289 24488
e-mail: karsten.koehler(at)

Text: Romy Schwaiger
Photos: „Nutrients“/private