Predictors of post-exercise energy intake differ between men and women

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OBJECTIVE: Energy intake in response to exercise is highly variable. While some individuals show reduced energy intake post-exercise, allowing for an exercise-induced energy deficit, others show increased energy intake, (over-) compensating the expended energy. In an exploratory analysis, we aimed to identify biological and behavioral predictors of ad libitum food intake following a one-time aerobic exercise session. METHODS: After an overnight fast and a standardized breakfast, 57 healthy participants (21.7±2.5 years; 23.7±2.3 kg/m2, 54% female) completed a 45-min exercise session (60% VO2peak) on a bike ergometer followed by an ad libitum single-item (cheese pizza) food intake test. We used simple linear regression analyses to assess the associations between biological and behavioral baseline characteristics and energy intake (kcal). RESULTS: On average, participants expended 343±85 kcal during the exercise session and consumed 867±411 kcal during the subsequent test meal. We found an inverse association between participants’ habitual exercise behavior (on average 246±181 min/week, via self-report) and energy intake during the test meal (β=−0.29, P=0.03) and a positive association between fasting concentrations of peptide YY (PYY) and energy intake (β=0.35, P=0.03). Results also differed by sex (P=0.02): PYY (β=0.82, P<0.01) and additionally adiponectin (β=0.61, P=0.01) were significant predictors of energy intake only in men, while habitual exercise (β=−0.44, P=0.02) was a significant predictor of post-exercise energy intake only in women. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest sex differences in predictors of post-exercise energy intake – in women, greater amounts of habitual exercise seem to protect from compensatory eating, while in men appetite-regulating hormones are predictive of post-exercise energy intake. These findings may help explain why some individuals compensate the energy expended via exercise and others do not.

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