How to Get the Best Results: Don’t Reward Yourself


Fat-Burning Labels and How they Affect Us

You’ve probably seen this before: “ULTIMATE FAT-BURNING WORKOUT” or “BURN FAT IN RECORD-BREAKING TIME!”. Exercise classes and programs like Purebarre, Soul-Cycle, Insanity, etc. advertise that they will help you burn fat quickly. A great deal of people who stick to such workouts and do them consistently will eventually see results. But what about those who don’t lose an ounce? A study conducted at the Department of Sport & Health Management in Munich, Germany shows that these fat-burning labels affect people’s post-exercise food intake. Many will think, “I just did a hardcore cardio vascular workout and burned a ton of fat. I can stand to eat 5 cookies tonight instead of just one.” We believe that we should be able to reward ourselves for enduring a tough exercise but end up consuming an excess of calories after our workout.

The Research

The Munich study asked 96 participants, all of which were around the age of 26 and about half were women, to complete a moderately intense twenty-minute ergometer bicycle ride. The participants were split into two groups: a) one group was led to believe that the workout was a “fat-burning” workout via a poster on the wall in front of them and on their bike screens and b) the second group was shown similar posters, except these ones said that it was for building endurance. After the workout, both groups were immediately allowed to have pretzels and water bottles. Guess what? The average course participant consumed an EXCESS of 41 calories in pretzels! What’s more is that it was the fat-burning group that perpetrated such excess the most.

The Behavior

The study looks even deeper than the label given to the workout. What to make of behavior of those who overate after getting their sweat on? Frenzl et al. prove that participants with low behavioral regulation and who force themselves to endure the workout were the most likely to consume excess fat afterward. On the other hand, results showed that those with high behavioral regulation and self-determination consumed significantly less. Very interesting.

The Takeaway

While reading the Munich study, I kept thinking, “Hey they’re talking about me! I’m one of the people who will inhale four donuts from Peter Pan bakery because I just burned a ton of fat at spin class.” I think the experiment speaks volumes about how we regulate our behavior and what motivates us. After working out, we need to be very careful about giving into that area of the brain that says “Come on, Buddy. You did a good job today. An extra slice of pizza won’t hurt.” In my experience, trying to live a healthy lifestyle is a constant push and pull between indulgence and obligation; I want to indulge in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream, but I feel that I’m obligated to avoid it and burn as many calories instead.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to do so by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Dimmock, James A., Kym J. Guelfi, Jessica S. West, Tasmiah Masih, and Ben Jackson. “Does Motivation for Exercise Influence Post-Exercise Snacking Behavior?” Nutrients. MDPI, 07 June 2015. Web. 03 Jan. 2017.


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