In today’s fast-paced society, many people do not engage in enough physical activity (often due to lack of time) and consume too many calories. This has resulted in a growing prevalence of individuals who are overweight and obese, which has very large implications on the health and well-being of our population. In light of this, a main focus of my research program is the effect of exercise intensity on energy balance, which is the difference between energy intake (food) and energy expenditure (physical activity and exercise).
Research to date highlights that much shorter duration but higher intensity exercise (i.e. high-intensity interval training) can provide similar if not greater benefits than traditionally promoted endurance exercise (continuous, long duration, low intensity). My lab has been extremely interested in various forms of high-intensity interval training as a time-efficient and greatly effective mode of training. Specifically related to energy balance, we are interested in exactly how exercise can alter energy intake through altering gut hormones involved in hunger and satiety (appetite regulation).
Our new paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology examines the involvement of two potential mechanisms (lactate and interleukin-6) that may explain the intensity-dependent effects of acute exercise on appetite regulation. As exercise intensity increases, both lactate and interleukin-6 accumulate in the blood, and our findings support a clear intensity-dependent paradigm for appetite regulation following exercise. This is highlighted by the change in the hunger hormone ghrelin and the suppression of appetite and energy intake after vigorous exercise (both continuous and high-intensity interval exercise). We found that as people exert more effort during exercise, they are less hungry afterwards, but we don’t know for how long or why this occurs.
While the associations between ghrelin and the suppression of appetite are only correlational, and thus not cause and effect, we are continuing our experiments into both these potential mechanisms using various methods to manipulate the concentrations of lactate and interleukin-6 in the blood and determine the subsequent effects on appetite regulation. Further, my research program is trying to understand other potential mechanisms involved to fully understand how exercise alters our appetite. There are likely more than just the two we are currently studying. My long-term goal is to use our understanding of these mechanisms to improve strategies to induce body-fat loss aiding the treatment of metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
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