Research findings show that aerobic exercise, like stationary bike workouts, can control appetite and hunger pangs.
Specifically, experts found that high-energy or intense workouts can stimulate body and hormonal reactions that make us eat less.
We all know that managing our appetite and food intake helps with weight loss.
So, what exactly are these appetite-suppressing factors linked to exercise? Most importantly, how can you stimulate them during your cycling routine?
How is Exercise Related to Appetite Control?
I’ve tried doing intense indoor cycling before and noticed that food is not the first thing that comes to mind post-workout.
Honestly, I thought maybe I was just too tired to eat. True enough, my tummy would start rumbling hours after exercise.
Researchers have better theories explaining why this happens.
1. Increased body temperature lowers the appetite.
Hot chilli peppers that increase our body temperature also act as appetite suppressors.
Researcher Szolcsányi in 2015 explained that this is because dietary capsaicin in peppers interacts with the neurons of the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that controls hunger and satiety. The study shows that capsaicin induces thermoregulatory disturbance, which, in turn, lowers the appetite.
Jae Hoon Jeong, a neuroscientist, and his team followed up on this conclusion and studied whether exercise, which also warms the body, stimulates the same appetite-suppressing effect.
Sure enough, in their 2018 study, the researchers found that increased hypothalamic temperature also happens during exercise.
In turn, this reaction signals the brain to lower the appetite, causing acute reductions in food intake.
2. Exercise affects appetite-related hormones.
Here’s another possible reason explaining why exercise, like stationary bike workouts, can control the appetite.
Various researchers agree that it has something to do with hormonal disruption.
In 2007, Martins and her team from Surrey University proved this by studying the hormone levels of 12 participants after cycling for 1 hour.
They found that the cyclists, compared with a control group, had higher levels of appetite suppressors after the workout.
These hormones were polypeptide YY (PYY), glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), and pancreatic polypeptide. They noted that the participants’ appetite returned when asked to eat at an open buffet 1 hour after the cycling workout.
Another study also had similar findings (Alajmi et al. 2016). But this time, the researchers focused on the calorie deficit differences between plain dieting and 90-minute moderate treadmill running.
To their surprise, they concluded that the treadmill group consumed fewer calories from an all-you-can-eat buffet than the diet group.
The team explained that exercise decreases levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and boosts polypeptide YY, an appetite suppressant.
The authors further noted that ghrelin is a hormone from the stomach. The circulatory disruption that happens during exercise likely affects ghrelin production.
Ouerghi and colleagues (2021) also noted that blood flow redistribution during exercise suppresses ghrelin.
3. Vigorous exercise makes you less hungry.
More recent studies also support the link between exercise and appetite control.
However, this time, the researchers noted that hunger suppression happens with increased workout intensity.
For instance, in 2022, Li and colleagues studied the appetite level of healthy young men. They asked the participants to perform three types of exercises: leisure cycling, weightlifting, and stationary bike sprinting.
From here, they found that sprinting resulted in higher production of lactate and phenylalanine or lac-phe – a metabolite that lowers the appetite. They concluded that the more intense an exercise is, the higher the lac-phe level, resulting in reduced food intake.
A more recent study in 2023 explains why this happens. Using nine participants, McCarthy and colleagues asked them to perform different activities. These include a 30-minute easy run, 1-minute intense treadmill running, 15-second all-out bike intervals, and sitting quietly.
The researchers evaluated the bloodstreams of each participant and observed increased lactate levels after an intense exercise session.
They noticed that participants with higher lactate levels also had lower acylated ghrelin concentrations – an appetite hormone. The researchers further explained that increased lactate likely blocks ghrelin during intense workouts, resulting in lower hunger sensations.
4. Doing an exercise you love makes you eat less.
Here’s a different take on the exercise-and-appetite-control relation.
One research in 2017 (Beer et al.) noted that people who can freely choose the physical activity or exercise they do tend to eat less overall. They eat less unhealthy foods at their next meal than those made to perform a particular exercise.
Other researchers (Beaulieu et al. 2020) somewhat supported this theory by studying the reaction of obese turned active individuals towards food.
After subjecting the group to a 12-week exercise intervention, the participants displayed lower wanting scores for high-fat foods and overeating.
While future studies need to explain these findings more, it’s also clear that one’s psychological or mental attitude also affects our exercise and eating habits.
How Can Stationary Bike Workouts Keep Your Appetite in Check?
Exercise is an indispensable component of any weight loss plan. Now that we know its potential in food intake regulation, its role in your fitness routine becomes all the more valuable.
How can you make your stationary bike workouts effective for appetite control if you love indoor cycling?
Based on the research findings above, there are two ways.
1. Ramp up the intensity of your cycling sessions.
An intense stationary bike workout can control your appetite by adjusting your hormone levels.
According to various studies, it lowers your hunger hormone and boosts your appetite suppressants.
Also, high-intensity cycling increases the body temperature and modifies circulation, pulling blood away from your gut.
Here are ways to intensify your indoor cycling sessions:
- Use an air assault bike. Air bikes have infinite resistance and moveable handlebars, making your workouts more challenging than other bike types. Also, these allow full-body exercises that activate more muscles, which boost your body temp and calorie burn.
- Do HIIT. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) on an exercise bike not only burns more calories. It also encourages the afterburn effect, which puts your body in exercise mode for longer.
- Try heart rate zone-based cycling. Wearing a heart rate monitor while cycling ensures every step on the pedal is within your ideal workout intensity. As a result, you burn the optimum number of calories and see timely weight loss results.
2. Stretch your cycling sessions.
While it will likely tone down your exercise intensity, a longer stationary bike workout can control appetite by delaying hunger cues.
Extending your cycling workouts is an excellent alternative for fitness beginners who have yet to build up stamina for high-intensity exercises.
Longer, moderate workouts are ideal for people with more time for exercise. It is an effective option to let your body recover from an intense workout or add exercise variety.
This previous article on exercise bike workout duration has suggestions on how you can combine short and long sessions into your weekly routine.
Bottom Line About Stationary Bike Workouts for Appetite Control
It is good to know that exercise, besides its known health benefits, has an additional role in our food intake.
It can control our appetite by increasing body heat, adjusting hormone levels, stimulating suppressants, and encouraging a healthier mindset.
These findings only mean we should start cycling longer or at higher intensities. It also helps to use a high-quality bike with the right features to support your appetite-regulating workouts!
Other Questions About Indoor Cycling
1. Is HIIT indoor cycling suitable for beginners?
HIIT workouts are challenging and require mid-level stamina and strength. So, they may be a bit too much if you’re only starting your fitness journey and have not worked out for some time. However, once you gain enough strength, HIIT beginners should start slow and choose levelled-up workouts that match their fitness level. And if you have any health conditions, consult your doctor first and ask if such intense exercise is good for you.
2. Are stationary bike workouts effective on belly fat?
Exercise bikes are excellent machines for weight loss. They are low-impact and easy to use. But no fitness equipment can specifically target the fat from your belly. The key to toning your stomach is to lose excess weight and fat through regular exercise and a healthy diet.
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