Not eating much between meal times can help to increase exercise motivation, new research finds.
Only eating at mealtimes, along with intermittent fasting, both increase the levels of a hormone called ghrelin in the body.
Ghrelin, which increases appetite, boosts the motivation to exercise.
The extra exercise will help overweight people lose weight and keep it off.
It may be possible to use drugs that mimic the effect of ghrelin to increase exercise motivation, the researchers write.
Dr Yuji Tajiri, study co-author, said:
“Our findings suggest that hunger, which promotes ghrelin production, may also be involved in increasing motivation for voluntary exercise, when feeding is limited.
Therefore, maintaining a healthy eating routine, with regular mealtimes or fasting, could also encourage motivation for exercise in overweight people.”
The results come from a study of mice, which compared those given free access to food with those only fed twice a day.
The results showed that both groups ate the same amount of food.
However, the mice that only ate twice a day did more exercise.
Dr Tajiri said:
“These findings and previous reports are based on animal studies; so much more work is needed to confirm that this ghrelin response is also present in people.
If it can be established in clinical practice, it not only opens up new cost-effective diet and exercise strategies but may also indicate a new therapeutic application for ghrelin-mimicking drugs.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Endocrinology (Mifune et al., 2019).