Providing Choice in Exercise Influences Food Intake at the Subsequent Meal

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16 Citations (Scopus)


The benefits of regular exercise for health are well established; however, certain behaviors following exercise, such as unhealthy or excessive food consumption, can counteract some of these benefits. PURPOSE: To investigate the effect of autonomy support (through the provision of choice) in exercise – relative to a no-choice condition with matched energy expenditure – on appetite and subsequent energy intake. METHODS: Fifty-eight men and women (body mass index: 22.9 ± 2.3 kg.m, peak oxygen consumption: 52.7 ± 6.4 completed one familiarization session and one experimental trial, in which they were randomized to either a choice or no choice exercise condition using a between-subjects yoked design. Ad libitum energy intake from a laboratory test meal was assessed after exercise, together with perceptions of mood, perceived choice, enjoyment, and value. RESULTS: Despite similar ratings of perceived appetite across conditions (P > 0.05), energy intake was significantly higher following exercise performed under the no choice condition (2456 ± 1410 kJ) compared with the choice condition (1668 ± 1215 kJ; P = 0.026; d = 0.60). In particular, the proportion of energy intake from unhealthy foods was significantly greater following exercise in the no choice condition (1412 ± 1304 kJ) compared with the choice condition (790 ± 861 kJ; P = 0.037, d = 0.56). Participants in the choice condition also reported higher perceptions of choice (P < 0.001), enjoyment (P = 0.008), and value (P = 0.009) relating to the exercise session, while there were no between-condition differences in mood (P > 0.05). CONCLUSION: A lack of choice in exercise is associated with greater energy intake from ‘unhealthy’ foods in recovery. This finding highlights the importance of facilitating an autonomy supportive environment during exercise prescription and instruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2110-2118
Number of pages9
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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