I don’t know about you, but I’ve been glued to my tv set for well over a week now. I blame all lack of productivity on the summer Olympics. It’s just such an impressive display of athletics and a good reminder of the extraordinary things the human body is capable of.
I particularly enjoy the track and field events, so I was happy to have witnessed Jessica Ennis win the heptathlon on what they’re describing as one of the greatest nights in British athletics. Definitely well deserved. After her win, the gold medalist discussed how she would celebrate her victory and was quoted saying:
I’m definitely going to relax, eat lots of rubbish foods, have a few glasses of wine and enjoy this moment for as long as possible.
In her defense, she has been following extremely strict dietary guidelines in preparation for this event, so it’s reasonable for her to want to deviate. Also, hunger might have played a part in her choice of words at the time she was quoted. After all, the heptathlon event begins at 8 am with warm-up and goes on until 9pm…for two consecutive days. A girl needs to refuel. But the issue here isn’t one of quantity, but rather of quality. It was her desire for rubbish foods that struck me.
To make sure my English wash’t off, I looked up the word rubbish, which Merriam-Webster defines as: 1) Useless waste or rejected matter , trash 2) Something that is worthless or nonsensical. So basically junk food.
For an elite athlete like Jessica Ennis, you’re probably thinking that a bit junk food won’t make a difference, that she can afford it. And from an energy-balance perspective, that’s probably right, considering the heptathlon and all. But the fact remains that for the rest of us recreational athletes, it can become a problem. Her quote reminded me of when highly-palatatable junk foods (fatty and/or sweet) are used as exercise-induced food reward, a trait of many exercisers: “I’ve had a good workout, I deserve a sundae”.
There is evidence to suggest that for some predisposed individuals, intense exercise can increase the reward-value of highly-palatable foods. This can be especially problematic for those aiming at weight loss, since the beneficial effects of exercise may be lost as a result of the post-exercise treat. What’s more, is that these reward-circuits in the brain can be modulated. This means that continuous association between exercise and reward might actually be creating and reinforcing a bad habit. So the next time you catch yourself reaching for rubbish food to reward a good workout, think it through and try making a habit of something new.
After a quick Twitter & Facebook poll it seems I’m not alone in thinking that after a bout of intense exercise, healthy foods should take it over rubbish. That’s not to say it can never happen, but most agree that training and rewarding yourself with junk shows sign of a disconnect. Food choices too should be in line with your exercise goal of building a healthier you.
Should a victory meal consist of rubbish foods? Have you been watching the Olympics? What’s your favorite event?