How Estrogen Causes Insulin Resistance

As we discussed in our last entry: insulin causes you to store fat — regardless of how healthy your diet may be. It doesn’t matter how many calories you cut out of your daily eating habits: high insulin retain stubborn weight that won’t go away. And as we touched on: diet is not the only factor that affects your insulin. So why may someone with a healthy diet have high insulin, and consequently, stubborn weight that won’t go away?

Our years of lab-work have shown us that when estrogen is too high it stimulates ErbB receptors in the pancreas. ErbB receptors cause that pancreas to make more insulin. This clearly demonstrates that the more estrogen you have, the higher your insulin level. In a woman’s normal cycle there is a balance between estrogen and progesterone. In the beginning of the month estrogen levels are usually normal. Ovulation occurs around day 12 and increases progesterone production. If ovulation does not occur estrogen remains high throughout the month. And it is common for women to not ovulate.

When we have patients come in with high insulin, we test their estrogen and progesterone levels. And we test those levels after day 12, when most women should have begun ovulation. If we find high estrogen and low progesterone, we know we’re on the path to discovering the root of the problem. The next question is: how do we manage these abnormal hormone levels?

Remember the ErbB receptor in the pancreas? That receptor is modulated by progesterone. Giving a woman progesterone during the second half of her cycle calms down the ErbB receptor, and in turn the ErbB releases less insulin. Less insulin, means less stored fat. Our next step is to address dietary habits to help holistically treat insulin resistance caused by high estrogen. Everybody is unique, and every body is unique. That’s why we run in-depth labs, and consult with you on your diet. Together, we can get to the root insulin resistance, and solve stubborn weight-gain.

Why Insulin Resistance is Important to Understand

Insulin resistance is important to understand, but few people do understand it. There are three main points to digest, figuratively speaking. Those three points are: 1) Your body’s regulation of insulin has a lot to do with how you store fat. 2) Abnormally high insulin levels can cause stubborn weight gain. 3) Your insulin levels are regulated by other hormone cycles.

It’s crucial to understand that insulin is a hormone, and it is created in the pancreas. Insulin’s purpose is to help your body’s cells absorb glucose and use it for energy. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) clearly defines insulin’s role in blood glucose control:

  • Insulin helps muscle, fat, and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream, lowering blood glucose levels.
  • Insulin stimulates the liver and muscle tissue to store excess glucose. The stored form of glucose is called glycogen.
  • Insulin also lowers blood glucose levels by reducing glucose production in the liver.

A Women to Women article states, “Over 80 million Americans suffer from insulin resistance, and it appears to sit at the center of a web of related health problems. Women who are insulin resistant are at much greater risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, high cholesterol, breast cancer and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).”

At Protea we run extensive labs on our patients, and we find that some women who have healthy eating habits still can’t loose weight. The red flag we find most often is abnormally high insulin levels. Not only does high insulin result in weight gain that won’t go away, but the NIDDK states, “Some experts believe obesity, especially excess fat around the waist, is a primary cause of insulin resistance.” It’s clear to see that insulin and weight management are inextricably linked. It’s also important to understand your insulin levels are regulated by other hormone cycles.

Your body is a complex ecosystem, and it sends you signals that aren’t always easy to understand. The fact is: a woman with high insulin, who has a healthy diet, is going to store fat. If your insulin is high, and unable to be controlled, it doesn’t matter what you’re eating. So what’s going on here? That question is answered by dedicated lab work, the results of which we’ll discuss in our next entry: How Estrogen Causes Insulin Resistance.

Clear Up Your Oily Skin

Oily skin can be a cause of headaches for both men and women because it is hard to control – especially if you do not know what is causing it. One of the biggest contributors to the quality of your skin is your diet. There are foods you eat that will improve your skin and foods that you eat that do the opposite. There are even foods you can put ON your skin that can help it. Learn about adjusting your diet for oily skin in the article below.

Tired of having the shiniest face wherever you go? It’s not just the products you apply that can help ward off excess oils and the cosmetic complications they bring, but also the foods that you consume. By having more of certain foods and steering clear of some, oiliness should not take over your life.

If your face is constantly making people squint and look away, continue reading. Below you will find some diet do’s and don’ts that will surely go hand in hand with the daily skincare for oily skin that’s recommended by an expert.

Do Have Fiber-Rich Fruits and Veggies

Reducing toxins in the body can help save your skin, which is actually an organ of elimination, from overworking — leading to reduced oils! To flush out those impurities within, include more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet as they are excellent sources of fiber. As a bonus, they will also help clarify your complexion.

Don’t Eat Sugary Stuff

We all know that refined sugar is bad for the health. Did you know that it can also exacerbate skin oiliness? That’s because refined sugar causes inflammation and hormonal imbalance, both of which can make your face look like it’s out of a highly reflective material. Steer clear of sweets to avoid zits and shininess!

Do Eat Foods with Healthy Fats

In order to combat inflammation that can lead to excess oil production, consume foods containing healthy fats — in particular omega-3 fatty acids known to posses amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Some wonderful sources of omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, halibut and tuna.

Don’t Eat Refined Carbs

Consuming anything that’s refined is a complete no-no if you have oily skin. When shopping, steer clear of products out of refined grains because they can make your skin shinier than ever. Furthermore, these products can make your waistline expand, plus experts link their consumption to diabetes and heart disease.

Do Go for Whole Grain Food Products

If you’re trying to keep your face from oiliness and the complications associated with it, make sure to consume whole grains and other food products that are out of them. That’s because whole grains are rich in antioxidants and fiber. Brown rice, oats, quinoa, and pastas and baked goods out of whole grains are all great for your skin.

Don’t Consume Dairy

According to skincare experts, milk and dairy products are bad for your skin, most especially if yours is oily and prone to breakouts. It has something to do with the fact that dairy can cause increased levels of inflammation. Worried about not getting enough calcium? Relax — many green leafy veggies are packed with it!

Do Snack on Nuts and Seeds

Earlier, it was mentioned that healthy fats are good for warding off excess oils as they are excellent at suppressing inflammation. Aside from oily fish, other wonderful sources of those healthy fats are nuts and seeds, so snack on them or sprinkle them on your oats, yogurt or salad. However, remember to consume them in moderation.

Don’t Eat Junk Food and Fast Food

It’s plain to see that junk food and fast food are loaded with grease, and that’s why they can make your face look greasy. What’s more, there is no denying that these unhealthy treats are also bad for your figure and heart. Making smarter food choices can help save you from excess oils and so many different health problems.

Do Eat Foods Packed With Vitamin C

Everyone knows that vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system. Are you aware that it’s also good for combating various skin problems, including oiliness? As a bonus, eating vitamin C-rich foods can make you stay look young as vitamin C helps synthesize collagen, a type of protein that makes your skin supple and soft.

Don’t Consume Red Meat

Experts say that red meat contains hormones, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that eating it can cause imbalance in your own hormones — causing a bunch of problems including cosmetic ones such as excess skin oil production and acne. Dodge red meat to keep your face from looking like a greasy frying pan.


New Year, New You?

It is the time when people start thinking about their new year’s resolutions. One of the most common resolutions people make is to eat better and exercise more. However, often times that resolution fails because you find that you did not choose the right diet or workout and motivation is lost. Learn about the most common mistakes made with this resolution in the article below so you don’t make the same ones.

But we’re going to be real with you here, a super-restrictive diet can actually be a recipe for failure—no matter how much you ate over the holidays, says Brooke Alpert, R.D. “Following a diet that cuts out food groups and allows for zero wiggle room puts you in a worse situation that you started in,” she says. Alpert says that yo-yo dieting will damage your metabolism, putting you on track to rebound binge and then start yo-yo-ing again. “That means you’ll get stuck in that vicious dieting cycle,” she says.

That being said, if you want to lose weight, there’s no shame in cleaning up your diet in hopes of a healthier 2017. But to successfully transition from two weeks of eggnog cocktails to 30 days of kale smoothies, make sure you’re not making these mistakes:

1. Eating Foods You Don’t Actually Like

If you think you’re suddenly going to become a fan of Brussels sprouts because it’s January 2nd and you haven’t eaten anything green in the past three

months weeks, you’re setting yourself up to fail. One reason why diets don’t work is that they force people to eat things they don’t like,” says Cassandra Suarez, R.D. “So if the kale smoothie isn’t working out for you, try sautéed kale, kale chips, or better yet, ditch the kale and try spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, or another vegetable.” Another key to eating healthy without hating life is to experiment with spices. “Don’t be afraid to try different seasonings or ways of cooking,” says Suarez. For example, pick up a Cajun spice blend or Chinese five-spice and sprinkle it on top of your veggies or chicken.

2. Expecting Immediate Results

The celebrating you did over the holidays is not going to be undone after a week—or even a month of getting your sh*t together (i.e. healthy eating). “The surest way to fall short of your goal or resolution is to make it unattainable,” says Rene Ficek, R.D., lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. “For instance, resolving to never eat your favorite takeout food again or aiming to lose 10 pounds in one month will backfire,” says Ficek. That’s because not allowing yourself the foods you enjoy leads to eventually bingeing on them when you can’t take the torture anymore. And trying to lose too much weight too fast will certainly lead to disappointment and a rebound bag of Dorritos.

The key is to set smaller goals that build up to your end goal, he says. That means you can try to avoid that takeout joint more often than you do now or aim to lose one to two pounds per week—until you eventually reach your goal, she says. (Start working towards your goals with these moves from Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)

3. Not Making Your Meals Ahead of Time

One of the reasons why we overeat around the holidays is that there’s an abundance of food out that’s easy to grab. When the celebrating is over, make it easy to choose healthy options by preparing healthy food ahead of time. That way you can get to it when you’re hungry, instead of making a game-time decision when you’re ravenous. “Meal preparation is key to eating a balanced diet,” says Lily Chen, R.D. “Cut up vegetables and make extra servings of a meal for the week ahead. This way, you can quickly put together dinner on a busy week night.”

You won’t believe some of the craziest things some people have done to lose weight:

4. Not Checking Labels at the Grocery Store

Being a bit more paticular about the foods you buy at the store can help you get back on track after eating everything without question. Read the food labels on the ingredients you’re using to make a more informed decision about whether or not it belongs in your diet. Chen says it especially improtant to pay close attention to serving sizes. “A bottle of juice may actually contain two servings,” she says. That means it contains twice the sugar and calories as what’s listed on the label. And since you’re probably not in the habit of only drinking half of a juice, that could keep you from losing weight, says Chen. Other important factors to consider are the amount of fiber and protein in your meals. Shoot for eight grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein in every meal to stay full and satisfied.

5. Not Having a Backup Plan for Moments of Weakness

Putting a plan in place to change your diet is great. But you’ve also got to plan for roadblocks, says Ficek. Take stress eating during a particularly annoying day, for example. If you know you’re tempted to make yourself feel better with the help of ice cream, find a backup plan, says Ficek. Maybe you decide to get a 20 minute massage massage at a nail salon, or blow off some steam in that candle light yoga class. “Both would be welcome changes to a healthy new lifestyle, and you will feel much better in the long run.”


Starting Your Day The Wrong Way Could Have Negative Effects

The way you start your day sets the tone for the remaining hours until you crawl back in under your sheets, so wouldn’t you want to start your day right? Especially if you have a wellness or weight loss goal in mind? It’s easy to be running late and take shortcuts in the morning, but now is the time to set your alarm a little earlier so you can avoid the mistakes this article brings up. Your body will be happy you did.

Here, we’ve got the common mistakes that can ruin more than just your morning, and how to adjust them.

1. You Oversleep

We’ve all heard that a lack of shut-eye may cause weight gain, thanks to elevated levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone cortisol in the body. But turns out the opposite—getting too much sleep—might not be much better for you. One study in the journal PLOS One found that sleeping more than 10 hours a night also upped the risk of having a higher BMI compared to those who got seven to nine hours a night. So, hit that sleep sweet spot of seven to nine hours on the reg, and you’ll be in good shape. (Get after your weight-loss goals with Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)

2. You Get Ready in the Dark

If you keep the blinds closed after you wake up, you could be missing out on the weight-loss benefits of the sun, according to another study published in the journal PLOS One.

The study authors suggest that people who got some sun in the early morning had significantly lower BMIs than those who didn’t, regardless of how much they ate. According to the study, just 20 to 30 minutes of daylight is enough to affect BMI, even when it’s overcast. That’s because your body syncs up your internal clock—including your calorie-torching metabolism—using the blue light waves from the early morning sun as a guide.

3. You Don’t Make Your Bed

A National Sleep Foundation survey found that bed-makers were 19 percent more likely to report getting a good night’s sleep compared to those who didn’t make their beds. And since sleeping soundly has been liked to a lower BMI, why wouldn’t you pick this habit back up? This may sound silly, but Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, writes in his book that putting your bed back together in the morning can spawn other good behaviors, like packing a healthy lunch, perhaps. At the same time, Duhigg also writes that those who make their beds regularly are better at sticking to budgets—a demonstration of willpower that may carry over to keeping your calorie count in check.

4. You Skip the Scale

When Cornell University researchers tracked 162 overweight women and men for two years, they found that those who weighed themselves every day were more successful when it came to losing weight and keeping it off. And the best time to step to it is first thing in the a.m., when your weight is at its lowest, says Lisa Jones, R.D., spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Not only will the measurement be more accurate (after a night of metabolizing, you’ll be carrying less water weight), you’ll be able to make adjustments if the number’s a bit higher than you expect.

5. You Skimp at Breakfast  

Researchers from Tel Aviv University found that low-cal dieters who ate a balanced breakfast that contained 600 calories of lean protein, carbohydrates, and a little something sweet reported less hunger and fewer cravings the rest of the day compared to those that ate a low-carb 300-calorie breakfast. They were also better at sticking to their calorie limits. What’s more, they had lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin after their meals. The researchers suggest that it’s possible that satisfying your cravings first thing in the morning may help keep you from feeling deprived and going hog-wild later in the day. Check out these five healthy breakfasts your sweet tooth will die for.


Too Much Good Cholesterol?

There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). LDLs are considered bad cholesterol because they can clog your arteries while HDLs are considered good because they help clear out LDLs. Since that is the case you would think that keeping LDL levels low and HDL levels high would be a good thing for your health. However this article from Men’s Health explains why you might not want your HDL levels too high.

Related: The Better Man Project From Men’s Health—2,000+ Awesome Tips On How to Live Your Healthiest Life

Researchers tracked more than 1.7 million men for nearly a decade. They found that those with HDL levels above 50 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) were significantly more likely to die during the study than those with levels between 25 to 50 mg/dL.

(Guys with levels below 25 mg/dL were also more likely to die than those in the middle range.)

The National Institutes for Health (NIH) says that anything above 59 mg/dL protects you from heart disease. So these findings seem to be challenging some long-held beliefs.

HDL is considered “good” because it prevents LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from building up in your arteries and narrowing them, which can lead to clots and subsequent heart attacks and strokes.

Related: What You Need to Know If You’re Taking Statins to Lower Your Cholesterol

So why did the high-HDL men die sooner in the study? The researchers aren’t sure, but that group of men also had higher levels of inflammation, says lead researcher Ziyad Al-Aly, M.D., of the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System.

Chronic inflammation can be killer, contributing to deadly conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Still, the scientists don’t know if high HDL somehow causes inflammation. More research is needed to figure out what—if anything—is going on.

Because this data is so new and uncertain, it doesn’t change the HDL guidelines laid out by the NIH, says Prediman Krishan Shah, M.D., Men’s Health cardiology advisor.

But it’s a good reminder that you can’t rely too much on any one number to determine your health.

In fact, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recently changed their recommendations for statin therapy for high cholesterol away from a certain number in favor of a multi-faceted approach that takes into account your 10-year risk of developing heart disease.

Related: What Your Cholesterol Test Really Means—and When You Should Get It 

So while the scientists sort everything out, stick to the current targets and try these 30 Proven Ways to Save Your Heart Today.


Trying to Lose a Few Pounds? Don’t Make These Mistakes

If you are trying to shed some pounds through diet and exercise it is easy to believe certain myths that will help the weight come off fast. But the fact is that they are myths because they simply do not work. This article from Women’s Health explains why the four common mistakes brought to attention will not help you lose weight.

With that in mind, we spoke with experts to find out what mealtime hangups could be keeping you from your #absgoals. Once you find out where you’re going wrong, it’s time to start tackling each habit, one at a time, says Jennifer McDaniel, R.D., of St. Louis University.

“Target just one or two of these behaviors at first—ones that you can make the most difference by changing,” says Jennifer McDaniel, R.D., of St. Louis University.

That’s because recent studies show that we have only so much willpower, which can make trying to break several bad habits at once overwhelming, says McDaniel. By following the slow and steady approach, you’ll increase your odds of sculpting a thinner, fitter physique—and keeping it for life, she says.

Let’s get started!

1. You Skip Meals or Snacks

Not eating can mess with your body’s ability to control your appetite. But it also destroys willpower, which is just as damaging. “Regulating yourself is a brain activity, and your brain runs on glucose,” says Kathleen Martin Ginis, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University. If you skip breakfast or a healthy snack, your brain doesn’t have the energy to say no to the inevitable chow fest.

So skipping a feed turns us into gluttons at night. Your starving brain “just doesn’t have the fuel it needs to keep you on track, monitoring your diet,” says Martin Ginis.

Break it:  Change your mindset, says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Think, “I’m going to start a new routine,” not “I’m going to restrict myself,” she says. Restriction leads to overeating.

2. You’re Always Speed-Eating

You’re not denying yourself food, you’re just eating it slower, allowing your body time to digest so you don’t keep eating when you’re full. In an experiment published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 17 healthy men ate one-and-a-quarter cups of ice cream. They either scarfed it in five minutes or took half an hour to savor it. According to study’s author Alexander Kokkinos, M.D., Ph.D., levels of fullness hormones (called PYY and GLP-1), which signal the brain to stop eating, were higher among the 30-minute men. That means the guys who ate quickly didn’t feel as full as the dudes who took their time.

Break it: Your body is trying to tell you something, so give it a chance, says Kokkinos. Put away the newspaper, turn off the TV, and try this breathing trick from The Yoga Body Diet: Inhale while slowly counting to five, then exhale for the same amount of time. Repeat this three to five times before eating to start your meal in a mindful place.

3. You Pig Out on Weekends

For a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers used rats to examine the effects of palmitic acid, found in saturated fat, on leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. “We found that within three days, the saturated fat blunts or blocks the ability of leptin to regulate food intake and body weight,” says study author Deborah Clegg, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern medical center. That can prime your brain to overeat on Monday, says Clegg.

Break it: You don’t have to go cold turkey (though turkey on whole-wheat is always smart). McDaniel says that your reward for a healthy week should be one cheat meal, not an entire weekend of them. After all, having an all-you-can-eat weekend is like eating poorly for nearly 30 percent of your week.

4. You Drink Often

Here’s an exercise to start tonight: Write down how much beer, wine, and other drinks you consume in a week. (Use that cocktail napkin.) You may surprise yourself. Calculate the calories and expect another surprise. A reasonable-sounding two beers a night can mean more than 2,000 calories a week—roughly an extra day’s worth. Besides the empty calories, booze undermines your willpower, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. That leads to impulse orders of, say, Buffalo wings.

Break it: Try quitting—for just a week. Check your weight, how your pants fit, and see if you can live on less. When you do drink, switch to lower-carb dry red wine (about four grams of carbohydrates compared with almost 13 in a regular beer) or low-carb beer.


The Anxious Women

Sandra’s mind was not right, she felt something had gone wrong but could not quite explain it. The actual feeling she was experiencing made no sense. It felt like something dangerous was about to happen, but there was nothing she could point to. Just a feeling of unease and low grade panic.

At first Sandra only felt this sense of impending disaster occasionally, quietly managing her unease with will power. It was not until she found herself unable to drive her car that she sought medical help.

It isn’t easy to share your feelings with a doctor. Appointments are scheduled in 15 minute increments. No matter how hard the clinician tries, it is difficult to create a trusting relationship in a rushed environment. Only when a woman feels safe will she allow herself to be vulnerable enough to open up.

Sandra explained to her physician how her symptoms had been building for a few years, she also thought it was important that symptoms were worse with her period. All this was met with a few nods. In the end she was diagnosed with anxiety. He tried to reassure her that it was normal for a woman to experience this. He did not mention the association between her anxiety and her periods, he only offered her a prescription for Xanax.

Sandra’s medical experience was typical for a woman diagnosed with anxiety, in a word: it was disappointing. The visit was brief, the prescription is highly addictive, and at no point did the clinician try to get to the bottom of Sandra’s symptoms.

When Sandra came to my office she was frustrated. I remember her telling me “Im only here because my sister-in-law said you could help”. Sandra was using Xanax daily now. She hated how she felt taking it, “I don’t feel like myself when I take it, I’m zoned out. And when I need a refill, I feel like an addict asking my dealer for more”

Sandra believed she had a personal defect, and the only way to manage it was with drugs. In fact many women feel this way. Society, and the medical industry has conditioned women to believe that it is normal for them to be more anxious then men.

Women are twice as often diagnosed with anxiety than their male counterparts. This statistic begs the question why, why do women experience anxiety in such higher levels then men. Fortunately the answer is very straightforward, and is found in the hormonal balance of a woman.

There is a rhythm in a woman’s cycle, the first two weeks of the cycle are under the influence of estrogen the second two are likewise under the influence of progesterone. The balance between these hormones provides the foundation for a woman’s health. A disruption in this balance can lead to symptoms both physical and  emotional.

In the case of Sandra, I ran labs timed for when progesterone should be at its highest. It is an often overlooked medical fact that progesterone deficiency leads to anxiety. Progesterone is converted to 5-allopregnenolone (5-Allo-P) in the brain. 5-Allo-P in turn binds to the GABA receptor. The GABA receptor is the part of the brain that regulates anxiety. Xanax, Valium, Alcohol all bind to the GABA receptor, but I would argue that the receptor is better stimulated by 5-Allo-P. While the former three have addictive qualities the latter most does not.

Sandra’s lab work showed a severe deficit in her progesterone levels. I prescribed progesterone and asked her to take it the last 10 days of her cycle. After a month I re-ran Sandra’s labs and found her levels were corrected. We sat down to review the results and her feelings. She told me her sense of panic was gone, she was no longer taking Xanax. It was like a weight had been lifted from her. She also shared with me her frustration. “Why didn’t my previous doctor run this test? Why did he just prescribe me Xanax?”

Sometimes I try to answer the question, I try to explain different levels of training, different points of view. Most times I don’t try to explain, I just listen to them and allow them a space to vent their frustration. Either way, I feel accomplished for having sought out the cause of the condition.

Taking a Different Route After Mental Challenges

Whether you are a college student who has just studied six hours straight for that big midterm or an attorney who has gone over legal brief after legal brief, sometimes the most comforting next step is sitting down with a snack or delicious meal. However, there is evidence that you should really consider exercising to give your mind a break. Read why in the article below:

Could the solution to post-study session cravings be a 15-minute jaunt on the treadmill? According to new research in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, short but strenuous workouts may curb the hunger pangs that tend to follow challenging cognitive tasks.

For anyone who’s ever ordered Domino’s after pouring over a spreadsheet, or wrapping up a complex report, the brain-fried binge is all too familiar. “Mental work utilizes the brain’s energy resources, and the brain then signals that it needs additional energy,” researcher William Neumeier, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), explained in an email to Health. “If food is available, the brain will use it to replenish energy. This could lead to overeating.”

Neumeier and his colleagues suspected that physical activity might counteract that urge to eat: “Exercise, especially high-intensity exercise, can increase available energy in the body’s bloodstream, and promote satiety in the short term,” says Dr. Neumeier. The researchers hypothesized that the brain could replenish its energy deficit from a mentally-taxing chore by utilizing byproducts of exercise—primarily glucose and lactate—and halt cravings for more food.

To test their theory, they offered 38 healthy college students pizza (to see how much they ate under normal circumstances). On another day, they had the participants do 20 minutes of math and reading comprehension problems to tire out their brains. Afterwards, one group rested for 15 minutes while another group did interval training on a treadmill. Then the researchers served a pizza lunch, and tracked how many calories the volunteers consumed.

RELATED: 11 Reasons You’re Always Hungry

The results lined up with what the researchers expected: “Mental work increased food intake by 100 calories, unless there was an intense bout of exercise in between,” study co-author Emily Dhurandar, PhD, an assistant professor in UAB’s Department of Health Behavior, said in an email. “Among those who exercised, there was no increase in food intake resulting from mental work.”

More research is needed to investigate the effects of workouts of varying types, lengths, and intensities. But the current findings might be helpful for workhorses looking to lose a few pounds. “People who find themselves hungry after completing mentally-demanding tasks should consider adding a bout of exercise to their schedule to help curb their appetite,” says Dhurandar.

So next time you finish a big item on your to-do list, try reaching for your running shoes before a bag of chips, and you may leave your cravings in the dust.


Pros and Cons of Exercising in Different Environments

Exercising is sometimes the last thing we want to spend our time doing. But if you are in the right setting it can be a little more tolerable. Some prefer only working out at a gym while others go for a run through their neighborhood every morning. There are pros and cons to both indoor and outdoor workouts that this article points out very clearly. If you haven’t been able to decide where you like to exercise most, this might help you do that.

This time of year, debating between hitting the gym and kicking it outside can be as tricky as choosing between hot or iced coffee. Here to make your life easier? Research. Check out the perks and pitfalls of both, so you can get exactly what you want from your workout.


  • Perk: More Intensity. Without natural distractions that are annoying (gah, wind) or cool (what a view!), you can laser-focus on your routine, allowing you to maintain your level of ferocity.
  • Perk: Better Results. Increased intensity brings greater physiological changes, as in more fat loss and a stronger cardiovascular system.
  • Pitfall: Are We Done Yet? There’s not much stimulation to keep you motivated on the treadmill—though endorphins, in any setting, do help. (Beat workout boredom with Women’s Health’s Ignite routine by 2015 Next Fitness Star Nikki Metzger!) 


  • Perk: Reduced Stress. Studies show people have less anxiety after exercising alfresco. Green spaces are inherently calming, giving your antsy mind a rest.
  • Perk: Stick-to-it-iveness. That soothing feeling? It’s pretty addictive. If you’re starting a new program, begin outside to lock down the habit—then take it indoors when temps plummet.
  • Pitfall: Ugh, Rain. You have to prepare yourself for unexpected variables that may cramp your game. Not ideal if you’re training for speed.