Eating, or not eating, your feelings

An exercise science professor recently told me about a study she did early in her career.

She recruited a group of male swimmers and a group of female swimmers and asked them each to eat a Snicker’s bar before practice. She told them she was studying the effects of the candy bar’s protein — the peanuts — on their endurance in the pool. Of course, as researchers often do, she was lying.

She was really studying how athletes replenish their calories. Swimmers expend tremendous amounts of energy during practices and they’re notorious for losing weight because of it. If they lose weight, they likely lose muscle. If they lose muscle, they don’t swim as fast. The only solution is to eat more, which can be hard.

Almost across the board, male swimmers benefited from eating the Snicker’s bar. As a supplement to their normal meals, they kept weight on and retained more muscle mass.

And almost across the board, female swimmers were harmed by eating the Snicker’s bar. Instead of using it as a supplement, they ate less for dinner, or skipped dinner entirely.

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