Spend your day answering emails, rewriting proposals, and troubleshooting problems with your co-workers and you’re probably leaving the office with tunnel vision toward a comforting—and caloric—meal. Taxing your think tank can actually lower your resolve against overeating unhealthy food, says a new study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
When researchers offered a group of mentally exhausted people a pizza lunch, they ate 100 more calories than folks who weren’t suffering from brain drain. What’s more, you don’t even have to be fresh out of an all-day meeting to cave to cravings. Performing just 20 minutes of a mentally draining task was enough for participants to beeline it to the deep dish.
Luckily, in the same study, researchers also found a quick fix: Instead of lying down to rest after work or turning on the boob tube, hit the gym for a quick sweat sesh. After participants put their brain on full steam ahead for 20 minutes to complete a set of mental exercises, half laid down for 15 minutes while the other half hit the gym for the same amount of time. Those who worked up a sweat had an easier time saying no to the comfort food afterward. They saved an average of 125 calories compared to those who rested up, and even 25 calories more than the folks who didn’t exert any physical or mental energy.
It’s one of the simplest ways you can avoid meal misgivings. On stressful days, plan to work out over your lunch break or right after work. Try this 15-Minute Full-Body Dumbbell Workout or this 15-Minute Chest Workout.
Can’t get away to work up a sweat? Try taking a quick walk around the block before you decide what to eat.