Do ‘Fitness’ Foods Sabotage Exercise and Weight Loss Goals?

Preparing for a killer workout takes some steps beyond just getting off of the couch: You’ve got to get into your workout gear, hydrate, and usually, eat something that’s going to give you energy. Enter fitness foods, those bars, drinks and other foods marketed to us as fitness appropriate. But what a recent study found may shock you.

According to the research, published in the recent issue of the Journal of Marketing Research, people who consumed fitness-promoting foods, actually ate more and exercised less.

In the study, half of the 162 participants received a bag of trail mix labeled simply ‘Trail mix snack,’ while the other half were given the same mix, but with a label that said ‘Fitness snack’ and showed a picture of running shoes,” reports Yahoo Health. “They were told they were taking part in a taste test, but actually, researchers were measuring how much trail mix they ate.”

According to the researchers the disparity between the two groups wasn’t huge, but for people who said they were watching their weight and even trying to consume fewer calories, the difference was noticeable. “People with the highest score on a diet restriction questionnaire ate approximately 200 more calories of the ‘Fitness snack’ trail mix than the regular kind,” reports Yahoo

“Fitness-cued foods are compatible with restrained eaters’ long-term goals,” study author Joerg Koenigstorfer, PhD, professor of sport and health management at Technische Universitat Munchen in Munich, Germany told Yahoo. “The claims reduce the conflict between eating enjoyment and weight control. This compatibility absolves restrained eaters from having to watch their weight and licenses them to pursue the eating enjoyment goal.”

The researchers say the food labels may be partly to blame when it comes to how much or how vigorously people exercise. According to the study, when asked to cycle on stationary bike “as hard as you want and feel like at the moment,” the weight conscious participants burned the fewest calories after eating a snack branded as a “fitness snack” over regular snacks. For the people though who weren’t weight conscious, they actually burned more calories after eating the fitness snack.

“One may have expected that restrained eaters would be more physically active in the presence of fitness-branded food; however, we show that the opposite is true,” Koenigstorfer tells Yahoo Health. “Eating fitness-branded food compensates for actual physical activity in restrained eaters.”

The findings mirror previous research that shows people tend to eat more calories when they believe they’re eating a healthy snack. It’s a phenomenon called the “health halo.” A study from Cornell University found that “people estimate that organic cookies and chips have fewer calories than non-organic versions,” reports Yahoo.

But the studies don’t mean you have to fall victim to poorer workouts or overeating. Mindful eating and even working with a trainer can help to keep your fitness goals.

Image: wegotkidz

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