Swimming makes you hungrier – new study

Running, cycling and resistance exercise have all been shown to decrease appetite.

However, a new study from Loughborough University has found that swimming has the opposite effect and makes you hungrier.

Sports scientists from the School of Sports and Exercise Health Sciences (SSEHS) recruited 17 men and 15 women – who were able to swim and cycle at a recreational level – and recorded their food intake after periods of either 60 minutes of swimming, 60 minutes of cycling or resting.

Each activity was performed on a separate day, with at least four days rest between each activity.

The study found that the people ate an average of 142kcal more during the swimming trial compared to the control (rest) trial – the equivalent of a 25g packet of crisps or two digestive biscuits.

Lead author Dr James King said: “It is not fully understood why swimming has this appetite-stimulating effect.

“One possible reason could be because of a link between body temperature loss and food intake – a process known as thermogenesis, where the body uses food to generate heat.

“Another reason could be changes in brain signals and neurotransmitters, the chemicals that carry messages between nerve cells.

“This is plausible because there are specific regions of the brain linked to appetite and reward.

“Swimming might stimulate these areas and influence appetite and eating behaviours.

“However, we would need detailed brain imaging studies to confirm whether this is the case.”

A few studies have shown that swimming might not be as effective as other types of land-based exercise modalities for weight-management.

But Dr King said that although this latest research supported that idea, more work needed to be done in order to examine more prolonged effects of swimming on appetite and energy balance.

He said: “People should not stop swimming if they are trying to lose or manage their weight.

“But it would be worth being aware that swimming could make you hungrier and people should resist the temptation to snack or eat more than usual following any swimming exercise.”

Read more about the study in the Conversation.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 20/131

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.